President Kennedy's Peanut Island shelter recalls the nuclear tensions of the 1960s

Editor's note: The emergency shelter on Peanut Island is temporarily closed to tours as of late October, 2017 due to management changes. This article will be updated as soon as the site reopens to the public.

During the Kennedy Administration of the early 1960s, The Palm Beaches became home to a “Winter White House” for the president and first family. The extraordinary political climate of the time required extraordinary steps to secure the president’s safety.

The entrance of the bunker is concealed by native brush.  Photo: Peter W. Cross for

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a Naval Construction Battalion (known as the SeaBees) secretly, and very quickly, built a bunker for the President on Peanut Island -- just minutes north of Palm Beach.  Although it was intended as a temporary command center for the nation in a time of crisis, it was relatively small and intimate in design. It was constructed underground within the existing shrubland about 100 yards adjacent to the island’s U.S. Coast Guard Station. The bunker could house 30 members of the president’s staff for 30 days. While there is no record of Kennedy ever visiting the bunker, it has been noted that the presidential yacht could often be seen navigating the waters near the island.

The Kennedy Presidential Yacht "Honey-Fitz" docked at Peanut Island around 1962.

The structure fell into complete disrepair in the decades after Kennedy’s assassination, but was restored by the Palm Beach Maritime Museum over several years. Today, the same bunker can be found beneath palm trees and golden sand. The interior area has been restored to 1960s configuration, and except for a presidential seal on the floor, is very close to what Kennedy would have seen if he took shelter in the bunker.

 The long entrance into the presidental bunker.  Photo: Peter W. Cross for

Entering the bunker is thought provoking, considering this could have been the where Kennedy would have run the U.S. during the first hours of a nuclear attack. 

  The bunker is said to be accurate in most details.  Photo: Peter W. Cross for

The bunker is open to tours nearly 60 years after its creation.  A short trip on a water taxi will allow you to experience a cold-war stronghold kept secret for many years!

Passages republished courtesy of Roadtrippers

sponsored content
sponsored content

View All Posts