Located on Indian River County’s mid-Atlantic coast, Vero Beach is one of the state’s most popular destinations, known primarily for its breathtaking beaches, excellent sport fishing, and a variety of natural, cultural, and recreational activities.
Vero Beach’s central location makes it relatively easy for visitors to travel to other coastal towns and even many of the state’s largest state and national parks.
At the last census, Vero Beach had a population of about 17,000, part of an entire metropolitan area with a population of over 130,000.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Vero Beach, Florida.
1. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest of its kind in the country, and is home to dozens of species of birds in addition to its namesake pelican.
Pelican Island is a big draw for nature lovers and bird watchers, but many of the island’s residents only stay part of the year, so many savvy bird lovers time their visit with what they want. The people watching match.
The entrance to the sanctuary is on the Vero Beach Wildlife Trail and offers a variety of staff-led programs on a regular basis, so check their website for details.
2. Vero Beach Art Museum
With five different galleries and over 50,000 feet, the Vero Beach Art Museum is one of the premier art museums on the mid-Atlantic coast and tops the area’s list of must-see attractions for art lovers.
The museum’s focus is on outstanding state and national artists; although most of the works on display are contemporary, there are some older pieces as well.
Works include paintings, art glass and sculpture, and there is a wing dedicated to education and community outreach programs that are popular with locals.
3. Environmental Learning Center
Located on Live Oak Drive in Vero Beach, the Environmental Learning Center is spread over 60 acres and consists of indoor spaces and pristine natural habitat.
The center’s interactive exhibits include live animals, a visitor center and gift shop, as well as several areas dedicated to educational and instructional programs offered by staff.
There is also an idyllic lagoon on site, and pontoon boat tours are regularly offered.
Most guests choose to visit the center partly on their own and partly on regularly scheduled tours. Expect to spend a few hours on site.
4. McKee Botanical Gardens
The McKee Arboretum in Vero Beach isn’t the largest botanical garden in the state, but it’s rich in nature on 18 acres.
The gardens are actually several different cultivated fields with unique themes. They are all connected by well-marked and easy-to-traverse paths that include lots of patches of information so you can learn about them in addition to admiring the beauty of the flora.
The grounds feature waterfalls, ponds, and quiet seating areas, as well as some community activities.
The entrance is on Highway 1 outside the city and can get crowded during peak hours.
5. Sea Grape Trail
While Vero Beach has some developed municipal beaches that are both beautiful and convenient, there are some more remote and less touristy options for those who prefer areas that are mostly less visited by tourists.
The Seagrape Trail gives outdoorsmen access to Vero Beach’s more rugged shoreline; while there aren’t many amenities or lifeguards, for many vacationers, they’re just what the doctor ordered.
Most of the beaches along the way are between Wabasso and North Beach, many of which are turtle hatcheries. They may be restricted during certain times of the year, so check before you travel.
6. McLarty Treasure Museum
While most tourists associate Florida’s coast with warm waters and perfect surf, during a storm on the high seas, the Atlantic Ocean can turn into an epic wrecking ball, destroying boats and ships from the start.
In the early 18th century, a major storm sank a large part of Spain’s vast fleet. Along with ships and crews, countless gold and silver sank to the bottom of the sea.
The history of treasure hunters trying to find and recover these precious metals is long, tortuous, and almost surreal, and there’s no better place than the McLarty Treasure Museum.
7. Hallstrom Farmstead
Hallstrom Farmstead is a pineapple farm grown by Scandinavian immigrants in the 1890s; it is now one of the best-preserved examples of pioneer-era homes and farms in the area, giving visitors an interesting look at those who were crazy about the area Lives and careers of enthusiasts who settled in wild and dangerous times.
Managed by the Indian River County Historical Society, the farm covers approximately five acres.
Collections include furniture and household items, photographs, personal memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of the families who worked on the plot.
It’s located on Old Dixie Highway SW, and most guests spend an hour or two on site.
8. Waterfront Farmers Market
The waterfront farmers market has not been around as long as some of the other farmers markets in the state, but it has attracted a sizable loyal following in recent years. In addition to fresh and seasonal Florida produce, the vendor also sells meat and dairy products, arts and crafts, health and body products, and some prepared foods.
Like many farmers markets, it’s both a shopping opportunity and a social event, and it all happens on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.
It’s also dog-friendly, but canine companions must be kept on a leash and cleaned up, so bring a bag and hand sanitizer.
9. Oslo Riverside Reserve
The Oslo River Reserve – or ORCA – in Vero Beach consists of more than 400 acres of pristine land in southern Indian River County.
The reserve includes a variety of natural habitats such as lagoons and palm bushes. There are several trails that give visitors relatively complete access, and due to its sheer size, long empty trails are often found.
The park has multiple entrances for easy access from different areas, and park staff offer seasonal guided tours. You can also check out their other programs, such as the popular Coastal Wetlands Walk on the first Saturday of every month.
10. Riverside Theatre
Located on Riverside Park Drive, the Riverside Theatre is a local performing arts venue that seats hundreds of visitors.
Throughout the year, the theater hosts and produces many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. In addition, they offer stand-up comedy, live music and up to eight years of productions exclusively for children.
Unlike many theatres, there is a bar and restaurant on site, known for its hearty food and cold drinks. For those who prefer to learn rather than entertain, there is a popular series of guest lecturers, offered four times a year, covering a wide range of local, national and international issues.
11. Piper Aircraft Factory Tour
In the mid-30s, the venerable Piper Cub aircraft began to take shape in the minds of the founders of the Piper Aircraft Company.
In many ways, his vision was similar to Henry Ford’s in that he wanted flying machines to be affordable and accessible to a sizable portion of the population.
Since then, the Vero Beach factory has produced more than 120,000 aircraft. A tour of the facility is a fun and inexpensive way to gain insight into the region’s rich aviation and manufacturing history.
Factory tours are suitable for visitors of most ages, but must be arranged in advance, so check online before making a special tour.
12. Vero Beach Outlets
When hurricane season storms are blowing from the Atlantic, or when the sun is too hot to go outside, a little retail therapy at the Vero Beach Outlets on 94th Avenue will be a great way to kill a few afternoon elements.
The outlet center includes dozens of branded stores such as Williams-Sonoma, Bass and Nike. They usually offer deep discounts on the same items you’d find in traditional retail establishments.
If you want to get the best deals, check online for specific sales and promotions; there are also plenty of dining options nearby.
13. Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival
Sun, wine and movies are a winning combination no matter where you are; this is especially true for those who find themselves in Vero Beach in early June.
One of the region’s most popular arts and cultural attractions, the festival features wines from across the country as well as independent and mainstream films.
Local restaurants and caterers always offer an impressive variety of food, along with plenty of live entertainment.
The festival’s activities include dancing, interviews, debates, sit-down meals, a massive sunset beach bash and live concerts.
14. Sebastian Bay State Park
The problem with hanging out at Vero Beach for a while is that when it’s finally time to pack up and go home, it can be a little frustrating.
About 6 miles south of town, Sebastian Bay State Park is another easily accessible natural wonder in the area. It is full of stunning beaches and is a particularly popular destination for surf fishermen who come to tangle with bluefish, mackerel and other game fish that live in the inlet waters.
The park also houses a museum dedicated to commemorating most of the catastrophic sinking of the Spanish fleet nearby in 1715.
15. Crab Station
Seafood lovers have a dizzying array of dining options when visiting central Florida’s Atlantic coast, but many locals and tourists alike agree that Crab Stop on 14th Avenue is the perfect choice for its wide variety, reasonable prices, Cozy atmosphere.
Of course, as the name suggests, crabs are the main attraction, but they also offer fish, clams, and shrimp, and are known for their delicious—if not outright heart-healthy—things like shit and corn fritters.
Their crab cakes are said to rival those in Maryland. For those who aren’t sure what to buy, a sampler platter might be the way to go.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Vero Beach, FL (FL)
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