Discover the Best Things to Do in Vero Beach, Florida

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Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Round Island Oceanside Park.
Round Island Oceanside Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Welcome to Vero Beach – the most sophisticated beachside vacation town between Palm Beach and Amelia Island on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Rather than giant condos sandwiched together, Vero Beach residents live in gated communities on this barrier island. Water views abound of either the Indian River Lagoon or the Atlantic Ocean.

While much of the so-called Treasure Coast is flip-flop and fishing country, Vero Beach residents prefer a more sophisticated approach. They dress up in Lilly Pulitzer attire purchased from fashionable shops on Ocean Drive. They dine at oceanfront restaurants where the daily catch is savored with a chilled glass of rosé.

While Vero Beach is hardly “the best kept secret,” its location in Indian River County south of Melbourne Beach and north of Fort Pierce on the east coast of Florida requires a two-plus-hour trek from airports in Orlando and West Palm Beach.  That’s fine with the people of Vero Beach. Once there for the winter, why would they want to leave?

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Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - McKee Botanical Garden.
McKee Botanical Garden. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

1. Visit a Tropical Paradise at the McKee Botanical Garden

Surprisingly, Vero Beach’s most treasured attraction was almost bulldozed for bland condos in the 1970s. Originally developed in 1932 by Waldo Sexton and Arthur McKee as a tourist attraction called the McKee Jungle Gardens, the site was closed in 1976.  Thankfully, the Indian River Trust fought long and hard to purchase the land. It’s now a  180-acre tropical wonder. The gardens are cleverly laid out with diverse plant collections including water lilies, bromeliads, cycads, and palms amidst the Royal Palm Grove, the Bamboo Pavilion, and a clever floral kaleidoscope. Stop in the gift shop or an interesting array of local crafts.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Kids or no kids, the children’s garden is a must-see stop to marvel at the cleverness of the monkey bridge, water lily fountain, music maze, fairy forest, and pirate ship.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Environmental Learning Center Touch Tank.
Environmental Learning Center Touch Tank. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

2. Launch from Wabasso Island and the Environmental Learning Center

What better place for a nature center than at Wabasso Island in the middle of the Indian River Lagoon just north of Vero Beach? Discover the area through interactive exhibits, aquariums, and outdoor trails over lush mangroves to a lookout tower, dock, and a blind perched over the river. To see manatees, sea turtles, and dolphins, charter a pontoon boat or rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard. After selecting the date of a kayak trip, there is the option to arrange for a guided kayak tour.

SheBuysTravel Tip: A kayak or canoe rental includes access to nature trails and admission to the rest of the Center’s exhibits at no additional cost.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Ocean Drive Shops.
Ocean Drive Shops. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

3. Shop with Style on Ocean Drive

The always-busy shops along Ocean Drive offer a delightful shopping escape, blending coastal charm with unique finds that are particularly geared to the female shopper. Boutiques like Lazy Daisy burst with vibrant Lilly Pulitzer prints. Patchington tempts with contemporary classics. Pick up a bottle of wine at Happy Girl Wine. Don’t miss The Beached Whale for Vero Beach souvenirs and gifts. Art galleries feature local and national artists.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If visiting on a Saturday morning, stop by the Vero Beach Farmers Market at Humiston Beach Park for fresh produce, artisan goods and horticultural products.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Boardwalk at Jaycee Park.
Boardwalk at Jaycee Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

4. Catch the Sunrise along the Boardwalk

Starting at Jaycee Park, there’s a popular half-mile boardwalk extending south toward the heart of Vero Beach. Join locals who start their day watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean or spying on surfers out in the ocean. There’s plenty of free parking at the park along with restrooms.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Other beautiful beaches with parking, restrooms, and on-site lifeguards include Humiston Beach Park and South Beach Park.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Capt. Bob’s Airboat Adventure Tour.
Capt. Bob’s Airboat Adventure Tour. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

5. Whiz on the Water with an Airboat Tour

Just west of I-95 is the headwaters of the St. Johns River, where it begins its journey north through small and large lakes for 300 miles to Jacksonville. Looking for alligators with a knowledgeable guide at a safe distance? After making sure all his passengers are wearing their life jackets, Captain Bob takes his passengers on an airboat adventure tour for a fully narrated tour of the Blue Cypress Conservation Marshland. Listen over headsets. Everyone can speak in a normal voice. He seems to know every osprey personally and their mating habits.  

He’ll spot alligators, exotic birds, plants, and turtles, allowing passengers to take photographs.  This is not a kids’ thrill ride for speed. Even in the summer, he recommends passengers bring a windbreaker or jacket because it can be chilly on the water. Dispense hats of any kind. Prepare your hair in advance!

SheBuysTravel Tip: Planning a friend trip?  Ask about private guided tours starting at $800.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Vero Beach Museum of Art.
Vero Beach Museum of Art. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

6. See New Exhibits at the Vero Beach Museum of Art

The Vero Beach Museum of Art opened its doors in early 1986 with the enhancement of a handsome neoclassical exterior amidst a sculpture garden. With a limited permanent collection on display, the museum mostly features traveling exhibits. Locals and visitors are welcome to join art classes and attend an international lecture series and music events.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Riverside Theatre lobby.
Riverside Theatre lobby. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

7. Attend Florida’s Large Professional Theater

Catch a Broadway-caliber performance at the historic Riverside Theatre, showcasing professional productions with Equity actors from New York City and beyond throughout the year. Over the years, it has grown to become one of the largest producing professional theaters in the state, with multiple additions and renovations to its facilities. In 2007, a new Riverside Theatre was opened, featuring the Stark Stage with almost 700 seats, the smaller, more versatile 250-seat Waxlax Stage and a dynamic Orchid Lobby Bar and Concessions.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The theater hosts the popular Live in the Loop event, a twice-weekly outdoor concert series featuring alfresco dining and live music.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Jackie Robinson Training Complex.
Jackie Robinson Training Complex. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

8. Play Ball (or Watch It) at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex

The Major League Baseball Jackie Robinson Training Complex was formerly known as Historic Dodgertown where the Brooklyn Dodgers/Los Angeles Dodgers came for spring training. The complex is a year-round hub for amateur baseball and softball tournaments and events. It features the 6,500-seat Holman Stadium, four full-sized baseball fields, a half-field, four softball and youth baseball fields. Its historical significance lies in its role as the first fully integrated Major League Baseball spring training site in the South, making it a Florida Heritage Landmark and an inclusion on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Centennial Walking Trail.
Centennial Walking Trail. Photo credit: R.C Staab

9. Walk the Trails at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Witness a haven for over 300 species of birds at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first national wildlife refuge. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. Created in 1903 to protect egrets and other birds from extinction, the riverside park and refuge have expanded to include two 3-mile loop trails, a butterfly garden, and a Centennial walking trail. Hike up to a 500-foot observation tower of the 500-acre refuge. Enjoy watching pelicans, herons, egrets, and shorebirds in their natural habitat along the Indian River Lagoon. Entry to the refuge is free, ample parking is available, and the area is open early for locals who often walk the trails.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Bring bug spray just in case.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Historic Jungle Trail.
Historic Jungle Trail. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

10. Hike the Historic Jungle Trail

From the Pelican Island Refuge’s north end, drive a 7.8-mile road/trail–a remnant of the barrier island’s maritime hammock. Explore the natural beauty and diverse plant life along the scenic Historic Jungle Trail which winds through gated communities and past a golf course. The trail dates back to a time when it was the original path for early settlers to reach their fishing shacks along the river.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Round Island Riverside Park.
Round Island Riverside Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

11. See Manatees at Round Island Park

There are two parks in one at Round Island, one of the best places to enjoy the ocean and the river and avoid busy Vero beaches. At Round Island Oceanside Park, visitors can enjoy a pristine beach with covered pavilions, a playground, and restrooms. Across Route A1A along the Indian River Lagoon, at Round Island Beach Park you can partake in kayaking, paddleboarding, and wildlife observation. Available in this area are a 400-foot-long boardwalk, nature trails, a fishing pier, and an observation tower for birdwatching and spotting manatees.

SheBuysTravel Tip: For those taking a long oceanside walk, grab a small plastic basket, like the ones you find at a supermarket, to pick up trash and return it to recycling containers and trash cans. A nifty idea!

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Viewing deck of McLarty Treasure Museum.
Viewing deck of McLarty Treasure Museum. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

12. See Spanish Treasures at the McLarty Treasure Museum

Long before America was born, the Spanish spent decades in Florida, using it as a stopping point between Europe and Carribean for trade. The relatively small McLarty Treasure Museum features shipwreck artifacts and pirate legends and offers an observation deck with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The museum occupies a portion of the historical site of the Survivors’ and Salvagers’ Camp of the 1715 Spanish Fleet which ran aground nearby with treasures of gold and silver. Unfortunately, the Spanish salvaged 80% of the wreckage, and others followed to scoop up the rest.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Although part of the Florida State Park system, a statewide park pass is not honored nor is it included in admission to nearby Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Fishing Pier at Sebastian Inlet State Park.
Fishing Pier at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

13. Fish off the Pier at Sebastian Inlet

One of the most popular and exhilarating views of the area is the bridge over Sebastian Inlet, one of the few waterways that connects the Indian River Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean. Fishermen, surfers, and dolphin watchers head to Sebastian Inlet State Park from all over the area, and it can be packed in the summer. The park features beaches for shell collecting, sea turtle nest observation, and fishing from the jetties. The park is also a surfer’s paradise, with renowned surf spots such  as “First Peak” and “Monster Hole.” Calmer waters in the Indian River Lagoon are ideal for kayaking and provide a large bay with calm waters for swimmers on the northern side of the inlet. Water sports are abundant.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Vero Beach Outlet Mall.
Vero Beach Outlet Mall. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

14. Discover Home Bargains at the Vero Beach Outlets

Seemingly there is an abundance of outlet malls along the main highways in Florida, offering many of the same stores. Shoppers looking to furnish a home shop head to the Vero Beach Outlets to find upscale furniture and home stores such as Design With Reach store and RH Outlet. There are about another 30 designer and brand-name stores featuring clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Consignment Gallery.
Consignment Gallery. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

15. Explore Vero’s Consignment Galleries

While shops near the ocean tend to mostly new and upscale items, in downtown Vero across the Indian River and further inland are several notable consignment stores. The Consignment Gallery has gently used brand-name home furnishings, Born Again Too Consignments has furniture, artwork, and home decor, and Interiors on Consignment claims to be The Premier Consignment Furniture Store in the area. Threads Boutique & Consignment features a curated selection of high-quality pre-owned clothing and accessories such as Chanel, Tory Burch, Gucci, and Lily Pulitzer. Elizabeth’s Fine Consignments offers women’s quality clothing and accessories.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Indian River Citrus Museum.
Indian River Citrus Museum. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

16. Learn the Area’s History at the Indian River Citrus Museum

Housed in a historic building, the Indian River Citrus Museum museum tells the story of how early Florida settlers pioneered the commercial cultivation of citrus, leading to the birth of a thriving industry. A small one-room space displays artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, and original crate labels related to the area’s citrus fruit heritage.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The suggested donation is $5 per person but feel free to take a quick look inside before deciding whether to commit time to fully explore the museum.

Sophisticated & Fun Things to Do in Vero Beach - Historic Driftwood Resort.
Historic Driftwood Resort. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Where to Stay in Vero Beach

While there are plenty of well-known brand hotels along I-95 from Titusville to Melbourne, why choose a view of the concrete when Vero Beach offers an opportunity to stay on the ocean in an upscale hotel? Among the choices are:

  • The Historic Driftwood Resort is known for its wacky history and its conglomeration of rustic beachcomber rooms spread across several buildings. There are 100 motel-like rooms with interior and ocean views and cottages assembled by Waldo Sexton, one of Vero Beach’s most colorful characters. Some of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Definitely eat at Waldo’s Restaurant and Bar, the so-called Last of the Great American Hangouts.
  • The Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa is a luxurious beachfront retreat offering 94 rooms, suites, and penthouse options. The resort offers exquisite dining, a fully equipped spa, and an oceanfront infinity pool.
  • The Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa is an oceanfront oasis, offering a beachfront sanctuary with luxurious accommodations. Hang out at the heated oceanside pool, dine at one of two restaurants, or enjoy a day at the spa.
  • The former Holiday Inn & Suites Vero Beach-Oceanside is now the Ocean Breeze Inn which provides a beachfront experience with many of the 104 rooms directly facing the beach. All rooms offer a mini-fridge. This is a pet-friendly property.
R.C. Staab is a New York-based author, playwright, musical theater writer and lyricist. His latest book, New York City Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for New York City’s Hidden Treasures, was published in Spring 2023. His first book 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before You Die was published in 2020 and is now in its second printing. In 2021, he walked the entire 139-mile coastline of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May the book, generating more than 200,000 views on social media. He frequently contributes to New Jersey Monthly magazine and online travel publications. He is long-time member of the Society of American Travel Writers having traveled to 49 of the 50 US States and more than 60 countries. He specializes in cultural tourism, adventure travel and historical sites. His off-Broadway musicals and plays have been produced in New York, San Francisco, England and the Midwest. He is a two-time nominee for England’s Best New Song competition. He lives in New York City with his wife, Valari, and his dog, Skye.
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