Vero Beach, a peaceful little town of 17,000 on Florida’s Atlantic coast, it is common to see squadrons of pelicans flying over the beach, seagulls lounging on golden sands, and beachgoers rushing back and forth to evade the waves. And you can also come across another flying bird with a beak and feathers that is famous throughout the world: Donald Duck.
Donald Duck is just one of the famous and rich people who have gathered in this quiet little town surrounded by orchards of oranges and other citrus fruits – some say that the orange juice here is the most delicious on the planet. Another world-famous character, Tribilin, can be seen, along with Donald Duck, at select breakfasts and dinners at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, a Disney Vacation Club resort, on the sands of the beach.
Other rich and famous who have frequented the area throughout its centuries-old history include Britain’s Prince Charles, who has come to play polo; comedian Phyllis Diller, who, like other renowned artists, has performed in her theaters; Julie Andrews who came to sign one of her books; and Los Angeles Dodgers star Jackie Robinson, who were doing their spring training in Vero Beach. In addition, one of the most popular singers in the world, Gloria Estefan along with her husband, Emilio Estefan, has a residence here and a boutique hotel, the Costa d ’Este, in Vero Beach.
For families who are already planning their summer vacations, it is an ideal place for a few beach days of sun, sea and cool breezes -the coronavirus cases at the top of the pandemic were around 50-. It is also ideal for a relaxing break after visiting large Florida cities such as Miami and Tampa and Orlando theme parks. Orlando is two hours by car from Vero Beach, and Miami and Tampa about three hours. Nature reigns supreme on Vero Beach’s clear beaches – early in the morning the visitor’s footprints are often the only ones on its sands.
After enjoying swimming or board sports – a sharp descent on the coast creates good waves – many visitors arm themselves with a metal detector to search for gold and silver coins from the Spanish flotilla that was shipwrecked in these waters in 1715. Most find coins, rings and other metal objects, but once in a while someone finds treasure: from fragments of fine Spanish galleon ware to doubloons. A traveling couple from Georgia found a Spanish doubloon in the sand a few years ago, just when they needed to buy another RV! They said.
The proximity of the Gulf Stream ensures good fishing and sea turtles come to its sands to lay their eggs from May to October. They can be spotted around midnight through guided excursions; and sometimes early in the morning the babies can be seen coming out of the nest and heading slowly and precariously towards the sea. Dolphins jump and play in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon year-round (this lagoon is part of the Intracoastal Waterway).
But, although its natural treasures are a magnet for lovers of the sun and sea, Vero Beach also has cultural riches: first-class museums, galleries and antique shops, theater, concerts and more.
Here are some highlights:
– The Vero Beach Museum of Art offers a free outdoor sculpture garden with a variety of exhibits. Inside the museum, all the galleries are free, except for one, with varied exhibits at a nominal price. The museum is in Riverside Park, a beautiful free park filled with ancient oak trees, recreation areas, and views of the Indian River Lagoon where birds and dolphins can be seen frequently.
– The Riverside Children’s Theater, adjacent to the Riverside Theater across the street from the Museum of Art. It presents works based on fairy tales. The Riverside Theater, along with the children’s theater, features adult musicals, comedy, drama and more at varied prices.
– The Sebastian Inlet State Park is a state park that offers opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and leisure time. The McLarty Treasure Museum is located in the state park and features doubloons, gold and silver ingots, earthenware, and artifacts from Spanish ships wrecked in the waters off Vero Beach in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is located in what was the salvage camp for the Spanish flotilla that was shipwrecked in 1715.
– The Environmental Learning Center offers samples about the flora and fauna of the area – children can touch snails and crab shells, see fish in an aquarium, etc.-. The center offers free guided walks through a mangrove forest to spot birds and other wildlife and optional ticketed activities including guided kayak tours to spot manatees, dolphins, etc., but admission to the center and some activities are free.
– The McKee Botanical Gardens feature 18 acres of beautifully flowered gardens including water lilies and a tropical jungle.
At bedtime, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort & Spa offers 112 rooms and 60 villas in nostalgic mansions by the Atlantic. It is ideal for families, with daily organized activities, a pool with a slide, a bar with pizza and snacks, the Wind & Waves restaurant, and a market with fast food next to the pool. There is a spa offering relaxing European-style treatments. The hotel features Disney character breakfasts such as Donald Duck and Tribune on Saturdays and there is a Disney character and pirate themed buffet dinner on Mondays during the summer.
Another hotel option is the Costa d’Este Beach Resort. It has 94 rooms, an infinity pool, restaurant, bar, spa, gym, and an elegant room for special events. The owners are Gloria Estefan and her husband is the producer Emilio Estefan. Its restaurant, Wave Kitchen & Bar, is the ideal place to enjoy roast suckling pig with ripe black beans.
Another restaurant to try is The Ocean Grill. It serves fresh seafood and roast duck, among other specialties with views of the sea – arrive early as tables by the windows cannot be reserved, but are given to the first arrivals.