We were at Frank and Janie’s anniversary party when my wife, Cindy, asked them what the secret was to their long-lasting marriage. The two of them laughed and told her it was hardly a secret. Each year they treated themselves to an escape in Vero Beach, Florida.
Frank said it gave them a chance to reconnect with each other. That night we started planning. Vero Beach is in Indian River County, part of Florida’s Treasure Coast. What a treasure it is. The quaint seaside town is filled with charm, sophistication, lush mangroves and 26 miles of gorgeous beaches. Vero Beach offers the kind of tranquility we never experience living in a big city.
We booked a suite with an ocean view at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa. It’s right on the water and walking distance to shopping and restaurants. Prime location. We knew we were in for something special pulling into the front drive—it sparkles from embedded sea glass. Check-in was a breeze and our suite was elegant and spacious. West Indies-style mahogany furnishings and palm frond ceiling fans made us feel like we were on an exotic island. Our private terrace beckoned us to drink in the intoxicating view of the Atlantic. And we did…over chilled champagne. Vero Beach was already working its magic, and the night had just started.
“Trust us,” Frank and Janie had said when we told them our Vero Beach plans. “It doesn’t matter if you go for the spa, cocktails or even dinner—you have to check out the Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa.” Music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan own it. We made dinner reservations at their restaurant, The Wave Kitchen and Bar. The architecture is sleek, the service impeccable. We shared ropa vieja (shredded beef cooked in a Cuban creole sauce) and pan-seared jumbo shrimp scallops. Buttery, tender scallops were paired with a maple syrup-bacon sauce that blended sweet with savory to divine standards.
The next day was sensational. Our king-size bed was so plush and comfortable Cindy had to coax me out of it, but it was worth it. The Indian River Lagoon is a must see. Its name is misleading because it’s actually a 156-mile long estuary—a shallow body of brackish water. Home to more than 4,000 kinds of plants and animals, it’s one of the most diverse estuaries in the nation. It was here we discovered a new passion: kayaking. We joined an easy-going tour and paddled along mangroves at Round Island Park. The flora and fauna, sound of birdsong and time we spent together exploring had us hooked. Cindy skimmed her hand along the water and gasped in delight as a huge manatee quietly glided right underneath us. Our guide told us sailors once believed manatees were mystical mermaids. Cindy turned toward me with a huge grin on her face and I winked back.
That afternoon, we jumped waves in the ocean and savored succulent lobster tacos at Heaton’s Reef, our hotel’s outdoor grill. Cindy asked our waiter for an insider’s suggestion on something to do that night, and he recommended the Riverside Theatre. “It’s one of the largest professional theatres in Florida,” he said. “I always tell guests to go.” What an impressive venue: three stages, 330 seats, great lighting and fantastic sound. They have a wide variety of productions, from comedy shows to dance classes, but we opted to see an off-Broadway play.
Hello Dolly! was in town, and I couldn’t resist—I’d played the role of the judge when I was in the eighth grade. I knew off-Broadway’s version would far surpass the quality of my middle school’s production, yet somehow, I was still caught happily off guard by the tremendous voices and entirely top-notch performance given at the Riverside Theatre. Their comedic timing had us bursting with laughter too! We loved every minute—from the classy entrance to the unobscured views of the show, to the feeling of being at ease once we sat down. Cindy and I left the theater completely satisfied.
The next morning, it was hard to say goodbye to our private ocean views and local enchantments. We couldn’t resist staying in the area a little bit longer. Frank and Janie had told us that the Vero Beach Museum of Art is a gem—their recommendations had been excellent so far, so we headed over.
The Vero Beach Museum of Art’s exhibits show American art, including many Florida artists. There are paintings, photography, video and glass pieces (some from Dale Chihuly), as well as a meditative sculpture garden and a museum shop. We loved the iconic Americana diners and mom and pop motels from John Baeder’s American Roadside photography exhibit, and were simply mesmerized by Jaume Plensa’s sculpture Yorkshire Soul III. The sculpture is formed from cutout steel letters from international alphabets, which are welded together to form a see-through figure of a person sitting contemplatively with knees drawn in.
When we returned back home, we fondly reminisced with Frank and Janie. We couldn’t thank them enough for recommending Vero Beach. Cindy and I not only discovered a new oasis and a love of kayaking, our visit got us back in touch with each other in a fun and luxurious way.
Find your escape in Vero Beach!