There's more to Palm Springs than Palm Springs. Because outside the city of Palm Springs itself, city lies the whole Greater Palm Springs region. 

Don’t be confused by the names – Greater Palm Springs is the name given to the entire region, comprising of nine cities. The desert city of Palm Springs, known for its glamourous Hollywood history, stunning mountain views and mid-century modern architecture, forms part of this. The other eight cities include Coachella, home to the famous annual festival, Indian Wells and Palm Desert. 

So, after a few days of enjoying the attractions of Palm Springs city (read all about our trip in the March/April issue), my husband and I jumped in our hire car and headed beyond the city limits. 

We wanted to make the most of the beauty and charm of the Greater Palm Springs area. And after a few packed days of sightseeing, shopping and visiting museums, we were keen to spend time relaxing, while still enjoying the culture and cuisine of the area. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert was the perfect fit. 

A 30 minute drive out of Palm Springs city brought us to this landmark retreat, and as we made our way up the driveway we passed the first of the resort’s lakes. This one was home to a colony of pink flamingos (the collective noun for a group of flamingos is, appropriately, a ‘flamboyance’). What a welcome! 

The modern 884-bedroom resort oasis has been designed with desert-inspired elements in mind, from the spectacular views to the calming colour scheme, as well as the open space of the magnificent lobby.  

With five outdoor pools, a tennis club, luxury spa and miniature golf, there’s plenty do to within the resort’s expansive 450 acres. It features stunning mountain views, great wellness facilities, on-site shops and the delightful boat rides that regularly leave from the lobby, sail through electric doors, and take guests on a sail through the resort’s lakes and waterways. 

Then there’s the swingingly, and suitably, named Sinatra Ballroom, which hosted the very last public performance of Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, in February 1995 – he closed his set with ‘The Best is Yet to Come’. 

We were spoilt for choice when it came to dining and drinking, with numerous offerings on site, and we particularly enjoyed both the innovative Rockwood Grill and the sophisticated Mikado Japanese Steakhouse. 

With all of our needs catered to, we only left the resort to check out the designer shops of the El Paseo district. Neither of us are handy with a golf club, preferring the 19th hole to any of the others, but golfers should note that Palm Desert city is home to some of the best courses in the region, including the resort’s two championship courses at Desert Springs Golf Club. And you can take advantage of the fact that the climate is ideal for creating a thriving wine industry too, with many wineries offering tastings and tours. 

After a few days enjoying the facilities and admiring the amazing desert sunsets, we packed up our bags and headed off on a 40-minute drive to what was to be another glorious, but very different, landmark – the Joshua Tree National Park.  

Nicknamed ‘J-Park’ by locals, it currently costs $30 for a week-long car pass, or less if you’re on a motorcycle, a bicycle or on foot. You can pay at the visitor centre at the edge of the park, and while you’re there, pick up a map or view the educational displays.  

The 800,000 acre National Park, crafted over millions of years by a fierce climate and battering winds, lies at an ecological crossroads where two deserts meet – the Mojave and the Colorado. It welcomes around 3 million visitors per year and the smooth, well-laid out roads are lined with stop-off points and educational signage. 

You can camp for a few days or park for a few hours and go hiking on one of the many trails. Or you can drive straight through, as we did, stopping only to take photographs or stare in awe at the giant boulders and buttresses that litter the desert plains.  

Music fans may remember the 1987 U2 album, The Joshua Tree, and its distinctive cover photo. But there’s not just one Joshua Tree, the park is filled with them. And they aren’t actually trees at all, but a type of yucca plant that has adapted to the harsh desert environment. Each one with its own distinctive shape and texture, they were named by early Mormon settlers after the Old Testament prophet, Joshua, who believed the plant’s spiky branches resembled his outstretched arms raised up in prayer.

The land is still considered to be a spiritual place, not just because of its name, but because it is revered by several American Indian tribes. 

Driving the park route in December, as we did, is a special experience, as the winter season brings cooler temperatures, fewer cars and a quieter atmosphere. Bighorn sheep can often be seen scaling the rocky hillsides, and you may spot a bobcat lurking in the shadows. The park is also home to a variety of bird species, including roadrunners and eagles, and if you get out of your vehicle to take a closer look at the magnificent landscape, you’ll probably see a lizard scurrying across the rocks. As we drove the winding roads, we were met with an array of spectacular sights, from towering rock formations to expansive valleys filled with desert vegetation.

Over the years the park has inspired artists and musicians and its quiet beauty has become an integral part of Californian culture. With each passing mile, we were reminded of the untamed beauty of the American West. 

After leaving the park, we wanted to see a final slice of local history before we left Greater Palm Springs for home, so we stopped off for dinner at The Copper Room restaurant in Yucca Valley. This piece of Americana is located beside the tiny Yucca Valley private airport, where, as you sip a margarita or savour a steak, you might see a small light aircraft taking off or landing. Get there on a Sunday and you can also listen to some live jazz from accomplished musicians too. 

Visiting the Greater Palm Springs area offers a sense of escape and rejuvenation that is hard to find in other destinations. That’s why, after spending time in Palm Springs city, hiring a car and hitting the road is a must if you want to make the most of your trip. The region’s combination of luxury, natural beauty, and relaxation, not to mention all the fabulous history of the area, left us with a feeling of reverence and inspiration, as well as memories to last a lifetime.


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