15 Best Things to Do in Vero Beach (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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On the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach is a city that means a lot to me. I could go on and on about the many unique things you can get up to.

A good place to start is the Indian River Lagoon, with a degree of biodiversity unrivaled in North America. 

Put bluntly, you need to experience this environment however you can, whether on eco-tours, kayaking trips, or boardwalks at the many parks and preserves along the lagoon’s shores.

Then there’s the Atlantic shore, with its sublime white sandy beaches. These can be full of life and amenities, or a little more remote, depending on your preference.

I’m almost out of space to talk about Vero Beach as a cultural hotbed. There are big institutions here like the Vero Beach Museum of Art and Riverside Theatre. 

As well as being destinations in their own right, they contribute to the vitality of the city with a load of public events. 

1. The Vero Beach Museum of Art

Vero Beach Museum Of ArtSource: Vero Beach Museum of Art / Facebook
Vero Beach Museum Of Art

In Vero Beach you can visit the Treasure Coast’s premier art museum. Sitting among exquisite sculpture gardens, these galleries kept me smitten for a couple of hours at least.

As well as having an extensive permanent collection, the Vero Beach Museum of Art hosts major traveling exhibitions. 

To give you an idea of the standard, when I was here there was an exhibition for the famed Dutch printmaker M.C. Escher. Recent shows have touched on Art Deco industrial design, and artists like Jack Towrkov and Doris Lee.

The museum has a wealth of public programs, from lectures to live performance, gallery tours and a hands-on Art Zone for kids. This institution is also behind a lot of big events in Vero Beach, like the Concerts in the Park series and Fashion Meets Art in February.

2. The Environmental Learning Center

Environmental Learning CenterSource: Environmental Learning Center / Facebook
Environmental Learning Center

Out on the Indian River Lagoon, this non-profit organization encourages people to become active stewards of this awesome biodiversity. 

The Environmental Learning Center is on a 64-acre island, brimming with wildlife, but also perfectly placed for eco-tours on the lagoon.

The visitor center has a variety of exhibits, with aquariums, a touch tank, and a functioning bee hive. 

Outside there’s a butterfly garden, and boardwalks through mangroves. Even if you’re doing a self-guided tour, the approachable, roaming docents are always ready to answer questions. 

What I love most about the ELC are the guided experiences, from pontoon boat tours to paddling adventures.

3. McKee Botanical Garden

McKee Botanical GardenSource: Norm Lane / shutterstock
McKee Botanical Garden

On 18 acres, this sublime botanical garden harks back to an early tourist attraction. Opened in 1932, McKee Jungle Gardens was in business for more than 40 years before closing in the 1970s.

A new chapter began in the 1990s, and the McKee Botanical Garden is now a tropical wonderland. There are more than 10,000 plants growing here, including Florida’s largest collection of water lilies.  

Elements from the original Jungle Gardens remain, including the restored Spanish Kitchen and Hall of Giants, resting among creeks, ponds and waterfalls. My two tips are to bring big spray, and bathing suits for kids as there’s a great splash pad here.

4. Main Street Vero Beach

For several blocks around the intersection of 20th Street and 14th Avenue, Vero Beach has a stylish and creative downtown. To illustrate, I counted five independent art galleries when I was here.

Be here on the first Friday of the month for the first Friday Gallery Stroll. Along 14th Avenue, a lineup of galleries and other local businesses open up to the public with exciting new artwork.

Then on the last Friday of the month, Downtown Friday is a joyous street party, with food vendors, outdoor concerts, and live demonstrations. 

Vero Beach’s artsy side is also reflected by a new and growing mural trail, while there’s a wide choice of places to shop and dine. On the menu are tacos, sushi, bagels, New York-style pizza, burgers, exotic teas, and much more than I can list here.

5. Round Island Beach Park

Something that really appeals to me about Vero Beach is the amount of natural shoreline. Up and down the coast are beaches with little more than dunes and mangroves behind.

In that vein, one of the easiest spots to get to is Round Island. This spot is interesting because it has a beach park (Oceanside) on the Atlantic shore and a sprawling Riverside Park on the Indian River Lagoon.

At the beach, there’s almost 400 feet of guarded area, with pristine white sands, an ADA crossover, a playground, restrooms, showers and picnic tables.

Across the road, the Round Island Riverside Park is yet another wonderful spot to launch a boat or kayak/canoe on the lagoon. My favorite part here is the 400-foot boardwalk, with manatees and dolphins often coming into view.

6. Seagrape Trail Beach Access

Seagrape TrailSource: Joni Hanebutt / shutterstock
Seagrape Trail Beach Access

While Vero Beach has plenty of developed municipal beaches, there are several more remote and less-visited options too. These are ideal for those who prefer a bit more seclusion and nature.

In the true spirit of the Treasure Coast, Seagrape Trail Beach has long been the haunt of treasure hunters. Among other items, silver coins from the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet have been discovered on this beach. 

Like other beaches nearby this is a vital sea turtle hatchery April through October. A boardwalk takes you across the dune habitat to the unguarded beach. On many days you’ll be sharing this beach with very few people.

7. McLarty Treasure Museum

McLarty Treasure MuseumSource: romarti / shutterstock
McLarty Treasure Museum

In 1715, the event that gave the Treasure Coast its name took place, when a fleet of 11 Spanish ships laden with treasure was lost in a storm. 

The McLarty Treasure Museum is on part of the site where the survivors gathered after the disaster. Later this camp became the base for salvage efforts.

In these display cases you can see some of the many items recovered from local beaches. There are silver coins, bottles, pottery fragments, ships tools, medals, weapons, and much more.

I was captivated by the Asian items, illustrating how widespread maritime trade was more than 300 years ago. There are also interesting details about archaeological processes, and you can survey the coastline from an observation deck.

8. South Beach Park

For some unfussy beachtime, I don’t think you can do better than South Beach Park at the east end of 17th Street. 

Cherished by locals and tourists alike, South Beach Park stands out for being ADA accessible. On the other side of the low dunes here is a welcoming spread of spotless sand.

Lifeguards are on duty every day, and among the many amenities are showers, covered pavilions, restrooms, and plentiful paved parking.

If you want to catch the sunrise, this is an easy, centrally located place to do it.

9. The Hallstrom Farmstead

Hallstrom FarmsteadSource: SebasTorrente / Wikimedia
Hallstrom Farmstead

The Indian River County Historical Society maintains this historic pineapple plantation, worked by Scandinavian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.

The Hallstrom Farmstead is one of the area’s best-preserved examples of a pioneer-era home and farm. Looking around this intimate living history museum, I was fascinated by the many insights into a now alien way of life.

The farmstead has a large collection comprising furniture, housewares, photographs, personal memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of the family who worked the plot.

When I visited, Indian River County had just purchased another 100 acres around the property, and a conservation area was about to be opened to the public.

10. Vero Beach Farmers’ Market

Farmers Market OceansideSource: Farmers Market Oceanside Vero Beach / Facebook
Vero Beach Farmers’ Market

When I browsed this lively farmers’ market it had just been ranked 11th in the nation for green markets. The Vero Beach Farmers’ Market started in 2007, and takes place on Saturdays, 08:00 am to Noon. 

In addition to fresh and seasonal Florida produce, vendors sell meat and dairy products, arts, crafts, and health and body products, as well as a number of prepared food items. 

When I took a look, there was kombucha, gourmet popcorn, artisanal bread, nut butters, custom woodworking, grass-fed meat, and even all-natural mosquito repellent. 

Like many farmers markets, this is as much a social event as it is a shopping opportunity, and it’s dog-friendly too.

11. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican Island National Wildlife RefugeSource: Sharon Avila / Facebook
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

In 1903, an executive order by Theodore Roosevelt designated this small island in the Indian River Lagoon as the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge.

At that time plume hunting was decimating birdlife, and the refuge was created to protect egrets and other birds. 

Naturally these include pelicans, but also a variety of herons, egrets, anhingas, cormorants, and ibises. You can see them from a handful of trails on the neighboring barrier island, weaving through mangroves and salt marsh.

If you have limited time, my pick would be the light ¾-mile Centennial Trail. This has a 500-foot ADA-accessible boardwalk and an accessible observation tower, with views to the protected island.

12. Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area

Oslo Riverfront Conservation AreaSource: Phillip Sunkel IV / shutterstock
Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area

I can’t get enough of the natural splendor on the Indian River Lagoon. So I’m naturally drawn to this undeveloped waterfront property with a kayak launch in the south of Vero Beach. 

The conservation area includes habitats like estuarine wetlands, mature coastal hammock, and scrubby flatwoods. 

There are several trails that give visitors relatively complete access, and due to its sheer size, it’s common to find long stretches of empty trail.

The best part for me is the coastal hammock, with magnificent live oaks that have been growing for centuries. This environment is teeming with wildlife from songbirds to hawks, squirrels, and occasional opossums and armadillos.

13. Riverside Theatre

Riverside TheatreSource: Riverside Theatre / Facebook
Riverside Theatre

At Riverside Park by the Vero Beach Museum of Art, is the area’s only professional, not-for-profit theater. 

With three stages, this ever-expanding center hosts as many as 300 performances a year, to more than 100,000 patrons 

Head here for musicals, comedies, and dramas, as well as live comedy, lectures, concerts, and up to eight yearly productions specifically for children. 

The core of the Riverside Theatre is the Mainstage, seating 633 and opened in 1973. This has since been accompanied by an intimate second stage, and the 300-seat Anne Morton Theatre. The latter hosts all of the Children’s Theatre productions. 

If you’re wondering what to do on a weekend evening, I’d recommend the Live in the Loop, outdoor concert series, with free shows on Fridays and Saturdays.

14. Piper Aircraft Factory Tour

Piper Aircraft Factory TourSource: Piper Aircraft, Inc. / Facebook
Piper Aircraft Factory Tour

Vero Beach is home to the largest private employer in Indian River County. This is Piper Aircraft, based at Vero Beach Regional Airport.

Manufacturing general aviation aircraft, the company dates back to 1927, and moved to the city in the 1950s. 

Since then, the factory in Vero Beach has produced more than 120,000 planes, while the company was purchased by the Government of Brunei in 2009. 

Complimentary factory tours take place Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. These last for an hour, and require a release form to be filled out in advance. 

On my tour, I was intrigued by the story of the Henry Ford-esque founder, William T. Piper (1881-1970), and got to see a range of M-Class aircraft being built.

15. Vero Beach Outlets

Vero Beach OutletsSource: Vero Beach Outlets / Facebook
Vero Beach Outlets

For a change of scene from the beaches and Indian River Lagoon, I’d point you towards this outlet mall. Out in the very west Vero Beach Outlets has close to 40 stores, mostly for premium brands. 

On my last visit a few of these included Polo Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Columbia, and Tommy Hilfiger. 

My pro tip is to check online for specific sales and promotions if you’d like to get the best deals. Unusually for an outlet mall, there are no dining options here, but you will find plenty of restaurant chains further east along SR 60.

15 Best Things to Do in Vero Beach (FL):

  • The Vero Beach Museum of Art
  • The Environmental Learning Center
  • McKee Botanical Garden
  • Main Street Vero Beach
  • Round Island Beach Park
  • Seagrape Trail Beach Access
  • McLarty Treasure Museum
  • South Beach Park
  • The Hallstrom Farmstead
  • Vero Beach Farmers' Market
  • Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area
  • Riverside Theatre
  • Piper Aircraft Factory Tour
  • Vero Beach Outlets