Train travel is just for chic European destinations, right? What if I told you Florida now has its own upscale, beautiful and efficient train service too? Now I live for an epic road trip, but this is a game-changer for the way I think about traveling with my friends and family in Florida.
Brightline trains, recently acquired by Richard Branson’s Virgin company (to be Virgin Trains USA), is Florida’s newest rail route.
Where Does the Brightline Train Travel?
As of now, the Brightline stops are Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. All three cities are along the Atlantic coast. We started our journey in Palm Beach to head down to Fort Lauderdale. This was wonderful for many reasons:
- We saved a bunch of our trip funds by flying into Palm Beach via JetBlue instead of Ft. Lauderdale
- It’s a 45-minute ride, no matter the timing (rush hour, etc.)
- Both stations are downtown for easy access
- All ticketing and check-in can be done digitally
- It gave us an excuse to see more places, as we booked an extra day in Palm Beach just for fun!
What’s it Like to Take a Brightline Train?
Brightline stations and train reflect the sunny and bright disposition of Florida’s east coast. I’ve never seen a more well-kept space before, welcoming and calming for the upcoming rail adventure. This was made all the sweeter with super easy digital check-in and scanning. The staff were so friendly too – almost eerily so.
The best part? There are regular tickets as well as first-class. It’s so worth a first-class splurge, even for this short trip like we did. Staff is on hand at the station to assist, but you can simply scan your pre-bought tickets at the digital kiosks. Float up the escalator and take a right to the first-class lounge after a short security check. Inside, the whole lounge had endless floor-to-ceiling windows for a sunny space. It’s the perfect atmosphere to peruse the cheese-and-fruit offerings, paired well with bubbly, coffee or a local IPA. Everything in the lounge is self-served.
First-class passengers enjoy priority boarding. Our section had a handful of guests, so we chose seats facing each other with a small table in-between us. Staff immediately offered a hard or soft drink, along with a variety of snacks. Hummus, chips, cookies and, of course, prosecco quickly filled the table.
From there, it was a super smooth train ride in our white leather seats. The Wifi worked well to catch up on some emails too. The experience was sleek, comfortable and quiet on a sunny weekday afternoon. Had a peek in the other coaches, which looked just as clean and cozy for an easy ride. I honestly had a hard time remembering I was in Florida, and not rolling through Tuscany or head down to Paris via train – until I’d spot a palm tree or American flag from the window.
As of now, a ticket booked in advance for first class from Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale is around $30 USD one-way. Everything reviewed above is included.
Even with all this, it only added less than an hour to our trip to Fort Lauderdale, added so many perks and still saved us money overall. Not to mention, a break from driving was divine!
A Day and Night in Palm Beach, Florida
So, if you’re on the east coast to enjoy the train, definitely indulge in the slow travel lifestyle. It’s worth staying a while and savoring each stop. This is celebrated especially at places like Palm Beach, where an upscale, laid-back pace of life is embraced and celebrated. You can take a peek at designer boutiques along Worth Avenue, or simply spend the day on the white sandy beach.
Among the swaying palm trees is a wonderful institution called The Chesterfield, the perfect place for an exceptional experience before boarding Brightline onward to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami.
The Chesterfield’s British Hospitality
You’ll find most properties under the Red Carnation Hotel Collection in the UK and South Africa. However, one has found its way to Florida in the US, as owners love the breezy lifestyle of Palm Beach and wanted to introduce a little British flair.
The Chesterfield has embraced Floridian design while staying true to its roots. Warm welcomes from smartly dressed staff in the lobby continue through to the Leopard Lounge, famous in the area for its live entertainment and old-school rat-pack vibe.
Each room in unique, so no two stays are exactly the same. Ours was a beautiful white and royal blue color, from sitting area to expansive king bed. All the amenities from a luxury property are there as you’d expect, from plush robes and large bathrooms to quality toiletries and 24-hour room service.
Besides the relaxing pool environment, breakfast spread and gorgeous room, the full afternoon tea offering at the Chesterfield spoiled us. This is custom at many luxury hotels in London and the UK, so I couldn’t wait to indulge the same tradition in Florida. You can take tea in the breakfast courtyard or in their library.
Choose the classic or indulgent tea which includes champagne. All the sweets and sandwiches tasted fresh, laid out with silverware surrounded by flowers and books. It’s a welcome escape from the hot sun and a nod to British class.
The hotel was happy to arrange quick transport to the Brightline train, and we were crushed to leave such a beautiful and elegant hotel in Palm Beach.
PS: Is There an Orlando to Miami Train?
As you saw above, the Brightline train goes down to Miami from Palm Beach, which I definitely want to mention if you plan to have more time on Florida’s east coast. Some Florida veterans, and even first-timers, might be wondering if the soul train doesn’t have to stop there – can you get to Orlando too?
As of now, Brightline is working on their route from Orlando to Miami, hopefully completed within the next three years. It will take about three hours to go from Miami to Orlando, with the ability to stop at Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. The station in Orlando will be right at the airport and end downtown in Miami.
As of now, there are options for Amtrak in between these cities, but the direct routes are limited. The route takes five hours or more, depending on the time of day and the stops. There are also buses, but at that point many opt to drive, as car rentals are fairly affordable.
However, I for one am thrilled about a direct train route, which ultimately gives travelers more options for flying into various cities. I loved my time in Orlando last summer, and would have had even more fun if I started the trip celebration via train first!
Tell me: did you know you could explore Florida by train? Have you ever taken a train in the US? Have you been to Palm Beach before? Do you like afternoon tea?