What happens when a site takes steps to respect the environment? It becomes a place where Nature is the queen!
So it is with Vero Beacha Florida town of about 17,000 inhabitants in the county Indian River County on the Treasure Coast (Treasure Coast) on the Atlantic about an hour north of Palm Beach. Known for its oranges and other citrus fruits, it offers an even more valuable contribution to the Florida peninsula: great respect for the environment.
Among the green measures that Vero Beach has implemented are laws in the early 1970s that limit the height of buildings because residents did not want their coastline to become concrete blocks with large towers like in cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach that block the view of the sea and attract more residents who come with cars. Other ecological measures include the protection of the majestic oaks in the area (with fines for those who cut any) and the use of lamps with orange lights (instead of white) in the vicinity of the sea so as not to confuse the sea turtles that come every year to their sands to lay their nests from May to October. The result? A peaceful place – without noise or a lot of traffic – where pelicans, seagulls, cardinals, owls, woodpeckers and other birds, turtles, dolphins, manatees and countless other creatures, as well as human beings live at ease.
Vero Beach has three areas: Old Downtown where pioneer homes and businesses are located, the newer commercial area west of downtown to I-95, and the barrier island, Orchid Island, connected to the mainland by Tres Puentes, with beaches, hotels, luxurious residential apartments and a shopping center with restaurants and boutiques. This area has attracted rich and famous visitors like King Charles of England who came to play polo when he was Prince of Wales, and residents like Gloria and Emilio Estefan who have a home in the exclusive Windsor neighborhood and a boutique hotel, Costa d ‘East on the barrier island. Vero Beach also caught the attention of Disney who established a resort, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, on the island as well.
From the sands of the beach, which stretches for 26 miles, pelicans can be seen flying in a “V” formation, coming and going from the nearby Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, an ecological reserve, and there are often more birds than people on the beach. And people in the beach, neighborhoods and businesses look and act calmer with less rush and stress than people in big cities: when you try to drive out of a parking lot, you are let through and when you try to walk across a street without a traffic light on the island they slow down or stop for one to cross.
In the sands of the beach, large sea turtles come to lay their nests from May to October. Scientists from Epcot’s “The Living Seas” pavilion patrol the beach sands each morning and mark nests with orange cones to protect them. Guided walks are offered at night to see a mother turtle laying her eggs. We took one and watched a turtle lay 203 eggs the size of ping pong balls, then meticulously cover the nest before returning to the sea. A popular annual event is the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Disney Conservation Team Wildlife Tour De Turtles at Disney’s Vero Beach Resortthrough which 26 injured sea turtles have been rehabilitated since 2008, fitted with transmitters to study their movements, and returned to the sea.
Dolphins are frequently seen in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon (part of the Intracoastal Waterway) where boating and canoeing is popular. Manatee spotting is also a fun past time at Round Island Riverside Park and another good place to see dolphins and manatees is Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary.
Other natural attractions include the Environmental Learning Centera 64-acre island in the Indian River Lagoon featuring an aquarium, tank to touch starfish and other creatures, nature trails and dolphin-watching boat tours.
In addition to sites dedicated to nature, Vero Beach also has cultural attractions. These include the Riverside Theater, a theater in the pretty park shaded by oak trees. Offers plays, comedy, talk series, and music. Adjacent is the Riverside Children’s Theater which presents plays and special events for children.
A few steps away, also in Riverside Park, is the museum Vero Beach Museum of Artwith an extensive permanent collection, Florida Artists Hall, special exhibitions and sculpture garden.
Other cultural attractions include the McKee Botanical Gardens, an 18-acre garden with festivals several times a year. History lovers have the McClarty Treasure Museumsouth of Sebastian Inlet State Park. This small museum tells the story of the flotilla of 11 Spanish galleons loaded with gold and silver that sank in these waters during a cyclone in 1715.
If you go…
Accommodation: Costa d’Este is Gloria Estefan’s hotel with 94 rooms and suites by the sea. It has a nice beach, pool, spa, yoga by the sea, and a restaurant. Another option is Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, with 112 rooms and 60 villas along the Atlantic, pool with slide, spa, restaurants, supervised activities for children, and optional walks to see turtles. Disney characters pose for holiday photos. Other seaside options include Kimpton’s Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, a property with 111 rooms and 23 suites. Pets are welcome and offers a free guided stargazing tour.
Restaurants: Costa d’Este’s Wave Kitchen & Bar serves roast suckling pig with rice, beans and fried plantains and other Cuban and Spanish specialties including delicious ham croquettes and paellas. There are also poolside tables and live music on the weekends. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort’s Wind & Wave Grill offers American cuisine with specials including steaks and catch of the day. The resort’s Market has the famous “Dole Whip” ice cream as well as sandwiches, salads and specials. Another good option is Ocean Grill with an emphasis on seafood.