Published November 4, 2016 by www.travelmag.com
written by Tracy Kaler
Vero Beach affords far more than a string of lazy afternoons filled with sun and sand. At the seat of Indian River County, which includes nearby areas Fellsmere and Sebastian, the resort town rests on the Atlantic while the peaceful Indian River Lagoon runs through it. A perfect spot to relax, shop, or participate in endless outdoor activities, this town of about 15,000 people proves that good things can come in small packages. You won’t find the typical high-rise architecture that’s common in other Florida seaside hamlets, either, four story-construction is the maximum, leaving plenty of sky and sunrises for your viewing pleasure.
1. Florida Cracker Airboat
Get in touch with your adventurous side as you climb aboard this airplane-engined boat, built and operated by Vero Beach native, Captain Lawrence. You’ll be lifted out of your seat on this narrated trip as the vessel dashes across the St Johns River marshes, only to discover an untouched parcel of Indian River County. While the warm wind whisks across your face, capture photos of blooming lotus lilies and other exotic plants, and momentarily, you’ll spot alligators, ospreys, and various wildlife species. Ask questions throughout this fun-filled ride through one of Florida’s most impressive natural habitats.
2. Seagrape Trail
Shore lovers longing for a remote stretch of sand with fewer sunbathers than some other nearby beaches head to Seagrape to savor the magnificent coastline. Observe treasure-salvaging boats just feet from the coast, and be on the lookout for baby sea turtle hatchlings. A boardwalk provides easy access to this tranquil albeit unguarded seashore situated between Wabasso and North Beaches.
3. Sunset Sail
Leave all of your problems behind when you hop on the Moonraker for a spectacular evening excursion. Relax on the water and gaze at a stunning sunset while Captain Bruce Jackson takes the helm. Cruise on the “Narrows of Vero,” a popular yet peaceful section of the Indian River Lagoon where you might spot dolphins and manatees. Bring your own snacks and beverages, which the crew will serve during your sunset sail. Opt for a short post-dinner cruise, spend a full day on the lagoon, or soar clear to the Atlantic Ocean.
4. Sea Turtle Nesting Tour
If you choose to travel to Vero Beach in June or July, you might get lucky enough to watch a sea turtle nest on a dark, deserted beach in Sebastian Inlet State Park while stars shoot through the midnight blue sky. Patience will be your best friend while you allow nature to run its course as a mammoth mama turtle emerges from the sea, only to carefully prepare the nest, lay over 100 eggs resembling ping pong balls, and then camouflage those eggs in the sand before returning to the ocean. A miracle? Not quite, but certainly worth the wait.
An afternoon of kayaking on the Indian River Lagoon is a must for nature-lovers. Even if you’re a novice, step outside your comfort zone and let pro Kristen Beck take the lead. Choose from a solo kayak or tandem if you have a partner, as you coast through one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t let a dolphin sighting catch you off guard, you’ll likely run into one, or other sea creatures, as the Indian River Lagoon houses more than 3,000 animals and plant species.
6. Vero Beach Museum of Art
Located in 26-acre Riverside Park, this art museum boasts more than 880 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, and more. Browse collections from the early twentieth century to present day; take an art class, or participate in one of the museum’s humanities programs such as the International Lecture Series and the Children’s Art Festival.
7. The Crab Stop
Fresh, local fish is abundant in coastal areas like Vero Beach, and this laid-back eatery delivers. Proprietors Ellis and Brandy Buckner and their down-home hospitality attract scores of locals (always a good sign). Try the garlic, Maryland-style crabs (rumored to be the best in Vero), or order a tasting of fried shrimp and crawfish with sides like coleslaw, hush puppies, and corn fritters. For the serious seafood eater, share a combo platter of snow clusters, jumbo shrimp, potatoes, corn, and a lobster tail.
8. Oceanside Shops and Restaurants
A definite shopper’s heaven, the six-block district on Ocean Drive and Cardinal Drive between Flamevine and Conn Way is brimming with one-of-a-kind boutiques, day spas, eateries, and art galleries. Shop beach-inspired finds and artifacts at M. Maison (3403 Ocean Drive); hunt gals’ casual clothing, resort wear, and costume jewelry at Treasure Lane (966 Beachland Blvd), and stop for a bite to eat at The Tides (3103 Cardinal Dr). Spoil yourself with a massage or facial at Kimpton’s Vero Beach Hotel and Spa (355 Ocean Drive), and complete your seaside adventure with an ice cream at Kilwin’s (3001 Ocean Drive). Opt for a pleasant afternoon of buying, browsing, dining and drinking, but not before you’re caught up in a picture-perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean.