Must See Museums in Indian River County
Indian River County has a diverse and colorful history complete with tales of citrus, shipwrecks and pioneer settlers. It is also rich in contemporary art and culture. The combination of the two enables this relatively small county to have several renowned museums with uniquely different focus.
Located in downtown, the Vero Beach Citrus Museum takes you back to the 1800’s when early settlers began cultivating citrus and selling it commercially. The land along the Indian River Lagoon proved to be fertile and a prime location for growing the finest citrus in the world. Learn how citrus seeds made their way to Florida and how the early farmers established Indian River Citrus as the most distinguished fruit in the world. Enjoy the extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia from a bygone era. To continue your citrus journey, visit one of our locally owned citrus groves.
The McLarty Treasure Museum is built on the actual historic site of the 1715 Spanish Fleet Salvage camp. It was on this very beach that approximately 1500 survivors struggled to shore after their ships, laden with gold, silver, and jewels, were sunk by a ferocious hurricane. Spain salvaged the wreck sites for four years but it was later forgotten. In the 1960’s the wrecks were rediscovered and salvage efforts continue to this day. The McLarty Treasure Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the 1715 Fleet with informative videos and displays of original artifacts including gear, weapons, and treasure from the ill-fated galleons.
The Mel Fisher Treasure Museum allows you to dive into history and witness the spectacular collection of cultural artifacts and treasure recovered from the ocean depths. Opened in 1992 by legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher, the museum displays jewels, gold and silver coins and ingots and artifacts recovered from shipwrecks off the coast of Florida including the Atocha and its sister ship the Santa Margarita. You can actually feel the weight of a solid gold bar recovered from the Atocha! A visit to Mel Fisher Treasure Museum gift shop affords you the unique opportunity to own a piece of history with gold escudos or silver reales in fine jewelry settings, museum-quality reproductions and other nautical gifts.
The Sebastian Inlet Fishing Museum is devoted to the rich cultural history of Sebastian’s fishing history. The museum showcases the families who lived in Sebastian and fished the Indian River Lagoon. A step inside a replica of an original fish house and dock and enjoy the extensive collection of photos, fishing gear, nets and even a handmade boat that are on display. Sea turtle nesting tours are held in June and July and begin at the Museum.
The Gifford Historical Museum and Cultural Center has permanent collections and special exhibitions that include: local artists, such as six original Florida Highwaymen, second-generation Highwaymen, a Black History Library, a Children’s Library, African artifacts in addition to documents, photographs, and ephemera from Gifford pioneers and notables throughout Indian River County.
Vero Beach Museum of Art is the crown jewel of the Treasure Coast serving the three-county area with rotating art exhibitions, a diverse permanent collection of art, art classes, and community events. Founded in 1978 by the Alliance for the Arts as a regional center for the arts and humanities, the organization raised 2.5million from local private sources and museum, known as the Center for Arts, opened its doors to the public debt free in January 1986. It doubled its size to 54,509 square feet in 1999 and changed its name to Vero Beach Museum of Art in 2002. Since then it’s added the Jim Beckwith Sculpture Park, a covered Atrium, and a 20,000 square foot exhibition wing. It is now recognized as one of the finest art museums in the region.
The permanent collections at the Vero Beach Museum of Art include 800 works for art from early 20th century to the present in a broad range of mediums. Coupled with its rotating exhibitions in its four main galleries, the Vero Beach Museum of Art offers something for everyone’s art preference. Lectures and seminars bring the finest arts and humanities scholars to the community while the film series offers classic and obscure showings. Of course, there is a myriad of classes, gallery tours, and children’s activities throughout the year.
The Vero Beach Train Museum is housed in the historic train station on 14th Ave in downtown Vero Beach. The little wooden building was built in 1903 by Henry Flagler and served as both a terminal for passengers and for cargo, transporting the abundant citrus grown nearby. The station closed in 1968 and sat empty until 1983 when it was purchased by Florida historian Dr. Eugene Lyons for $1. The building was the first building in Indian River County to be named to the National Register of Historic Place in 1987 and is now home to the Indian River Historical Society. Visitors will get a glimpse into life in the mid-1800’s to the mid-1900’s through historical displays and artifacts. A huge model train takes up most of the room and evokes memories of bygone days.