Florida Guide > Places to Visit
Vero Beach - A Great Day Out
In Vero Beach, among the elegant subdivisions and hotels that have arisen over the years you can still find traces of the old Florida.
Most obvious of these are the two beachfront buildings erected by Vero Beach resident Waldo Sexton. When he built the Driftwood Resort and Ocean Grill in the 1930s, he put them together with pieces of driftwood and other material that came his way. He didn't bother with architectural style or draw up any engineering plans. He just told workers what to put where as the buildings took shape. If you visit the two weathered wood buildings today you will find them decorated with dozens of bells, Tiffany lamps and other oddments that he picked up at estate auctions and flea markets. The buildings are still standing and very much in business which is a great tribute to their durability. Their strange appearance presents quite a contrast to the rest of the elegant beach area.
Vero Beach officials say one subdivision in particular, John's Island, is the third most-affluent sector in the United States after Palm Springs, Calif., and Scottsdale, Ariz. It has many palatial winter homes and plenty of upmarket residents, but Vero Beach also offers a lot for a casual day visit or short break. Its broad beach has a good choice of hotels, classy boutiques and welcoming cafes, a huge outlet mall, excellent cultural facilities and a setting of great natural beauty.
The first U.S. national monument lies to the north, across the Indian River. The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, designated a monument in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, is the nesting site for 16 species of birds, including brown pelicans, wood storks, ibises, spoonbills, egrets, herons and magnificent frigate birds. Humans are not allowed on the island, but boat tours that circle it depart from Sebastian Inlet State Park and marinas. The Centennial Trail boardwalk and observation platform, built in 2003 for the preserve's 100th anniversary, provide a viewing site.
Vero Beach's shore is also the destination for hundreds of nesting turtles. Visitors that stay up late can watch the giant animals, some of whom weigh hundreds of pounds, swim ashore at night. This happens from April to September as that’s when they lay their ping pong ball sized eggs in the sand beyond the high-water mark. I would defiantly recommend a trip down here one evening for a pleasant stroll around followed by an enjoyable meal in one of the many restaurants by the ocean. After your meal you can watch the turtles before heading home on the quite roads.
Pelicans and turtles are not the only things that you can find in the sea around this area. Somewhere below the ocean's surface lies many unfound hoards of gold, silver and precious stones carried on a fleet of Spanish galleons that sank during a hurricane in 1715. You can view some of the pieces of jewellery and ingots of silver and gold recovered from the wrecks at the McLarty and Mel Fisher treasure museums. Back on land an oasis of natural beauty has recently reopened its doors. The former McKee's Jungle Gardens, a 1950s roadside attraction, has been resurrected after lying dormant for 27 years. Now renamed as the McKee Botanical Garden, it is smaller but still retains acres of lush foliage, ponds, streams, stands of bamboo and tall cabbage palms. If you want some culture then Vero's Riverside Theatre stages concerts and plays. The Vero Beach Museum of Art, which is largest in the region, mounts permanent and travelling exhibits and also displays large works in a new sculpture garden.
However I have left till last the most unusual feature in Vero Beach, and it is simply a dirt road, the seven-mile Jungle Trail. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, it runs along the banks of Indian River Lagoon. Saving this shore from developers is one of the city's best accomplishments and you can only truly appreciate it by walking along at least a part of it.
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Page added on: 2 September 2004
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