Located along the central Atlantic coast in Indian River County, Vero Beach is one of the state’s most popular destinations and is primarily known for its breathtaking beaches, excellent sport fishing, and wide variety of natural, cultural, and recreational activities.
Vero Beach’s central location gives visitors relatively easy access to other coastal towns, and even many of the state’s largest state and national parks.
Vero Beach had a population of about 17,000 at the time of the last census and is part of an overall metropolitan area with a population of more than 130,000.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Vero Beach, Florida.
1. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest refuges of its kind in the country, and is home to dozens of varieties of birds in addition to its namesake pelicans.
Pelican Island is a big attraction for nature lovers and bird watchers, but many of the island’s inhabitants are only around for parts of the year, so many savvy bird lovers time their visits to coincide with that of the ones they’d like to see.
The refuge’s entrance is on Wildlife Way in Vero Beach, and a variety of staff-led programs are offered periodically, so check their website for specifics.
2. The Vero Beach Museum of Art
Featuring five distinct galleries spread over more than 50,000 feet of floor space, the Vero Beach Museum of Art is one of the central Atlantic coast’s premier art museums and ranks high on the list of must-see attractions for art aficionados who find themselves in the area.
The museum’s focus is on prominent state and national artists; though much of what’s on display is contemporary, there are a number of older pieces as well.
Works include paintings, art glass, and sculpture, and there’s a wing that’s dedicated to educational and community outreach programs that are big hits with locals.
3. The Environmental Learning Center
Located on Live Oak Drive in Vero Beach, the Environmental Learning Center is set on a 60-plus acre site that’s comprised of both indoor space and pristine natural habitats.
The center’s interactive exhibits include live animals, a visitor’s center and gift shop, and several areas dedicated to the educational and instructional courses offered by the staff.
There’s an idyllic lagoon on-site as well, and pontoon boat tours are available regularly.
Most guests choose to see the center partly on their own and partly by joining a regularly scheduled tour. Expect to spend a few hours on site.
4. McKee Botanical Garden
Vero Beach’s McKee Botanical Garden isn’t the state’s largest, but it packs a lot of natural punch into its 18 acres.
The garden is really several distinct cultivated areas with unique themes. They’re each connected by well-marked and easily traversed paths that include plenty of informative plaques, so in addition to appreciating the flora’s beauty, you’ll be able to learn about them as well.
The grounds feature waterfalls, ponds, and quiet seating areas, and offer some community enrichment programs as well.
The entrance is located on Highway 1 just outside of town and can get crowded during peak times.
5. Seagrape Trail
Though Vero Beach has some developed municipal beaches that are both beautiful and convenient, for those who prefer those areas less traveled by most tourists, there are several more remote and less-visited options too.
The Seagrape Trail gives outdoorsy types access to Vero Beach’s more rugged stretches of shoreline; though there aren’t many amenities or lifeguards, for many vacationers, they’re just what the doctor ordered.
Most of the beaches along the trail lie between Wabasso and North Beach, and many of them are turtle hatcheries. They may be restricted during certain times of the year, so check in advance of your trip.
6. McLarty Treasure Museum
Though most visitors associate Florida’s coast with warm water and perfect waves, during storms in the open sea, the Atlantic can turn into an epic wrecking ball that’s been devastating boats and ships since the beginning of time.
In the early 18th century, a large storm sank a significant portion of Spain’s massive fleet. Along with ships and crewmen, untold amounts of gold and silver went to the bottom too.
The history that goes along with the treasure hunters trying to find and recover those precious metals is long, twisted, and almost surreal, and there’s no better place to take it all in than the McLarty Treasure Museum.
7. The Hallstrom Farmstead
The Hallstrom Farmstead was a pineapple farm that was cultivated by Scandinavian immigrants in the 1890s; it’s now one of the area’s most well-preserved examples of a pioneer-era home and farm, giving visitors interesting insights into the lives and occupations of those hearty folks who settled the area when it was wild and dangerous.
The farmstead is managed by the Indian River County Historical Society and covers about five acres.
The collection includes furniture and housewares, photographs, personal memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of the family who worked the plot.
It’s located on Old Dixie Highway SW, and most guests spend between an hour and two on-site.
8. The Farmers Market Oceanside
The Farmers Market Oceanside hasn’t been around as long as some of the state’s other farmers markets, but it has attracted quite a loyal following in recent years. 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.
Like many farmers markets, it’s as much a social event as it is a shopping opportunity, and it all takes place on Saturdays from 8 AM until noon.
It’s dog-friendly too, but canine companions must be leashed and cleaned up after, so bring baggies and hand sanitizer.
9. Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area
Vero Beach’s Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area – or ORCA – is comprised of more than 400 pristine acres in the southern portion of Indian River County.
The conservation area includes a variety of natural habitats like lagoons and Palmetto scrub. 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.
With multiple entrances that are convenient to reach from different areas, the park’s staff offer seasonal, guided tours. You can also check out their other programs, like the ever-popular Coastal Wetlands Walk which is held the first Saturday of the month.
10. Riverside Theatre
Located on Riverside Park Drive, Riverside Theatre is a local performing arts venue that’s capable of seating hundreds of visitors.
Throughout the year, the theater hosts and produces many Broadway and off-Broadway shows. In addition, they offer standup comedy, live music, and up to eight yearly productions specifically for children.
Unlike many theaters, there’s a bar and restaurant on-site that’s known for its hearty fare and cold drinks. For those who prefer learning to entertainment, there’s a popular guest lecturer series that’s offered four times yearly and covers a wide range of local, national, and international issues.
11. Piper Aircraft Factory Tour
In the mid-‘30s, the venerable Piper Cub airplane began to take shape in the mind of the Piper Aircraft Company’s founder.
In many ways, his vision was similar to that of Henry Ford’s, in that he wanted flying machines to be reasonably inexpensive and available to significant segments of the population.
Since then, the factory in Vero Beach has produced more than 120,000 aircraft. Touring the facility is a fun and inexpensive way to delve into the area’s rich aviation and manufacturing histories.
Factory tours are appropriate for visitors of most ages but must be arranged in advance, so check online before making a special trip.
12. Vero Beach Outlets
When storms blow in from the Atlantic during hurricane season, or when the sun is just too hot to be outside, indulging in a little retail therapy at the Vero Beach Outlets on 94th Drive would be a great way to spend a few afternoon hours out of the elements.
The outlet center includes dozens of brand name stores, like Williams-Sonoma, Bass, and Nike. They’re usually offering significant discounts on the same items you may find just down the road in traditional retail facilities.
Check online for specific sales and promotions if you’d like to get the best deals; there are many dining options nearby too.
13. Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival
Sun, wine, and movies make for a winning combination wherever you are; that’s especially true for those who find themselves in Vero Beach at the beginning of June.
The festival is one of the region’s most popular art and cultural attractions, featuring wines from all over the country, as well as both indie and mainstream movies.
There’s always an impressive variety of food on-hand from local restaurants and caterers, and plenty of live entertainment as well.
The festival’s activities include dances, interviews, debates, sit-down meals, and a big sunset beach bash and live concert to top it all off.
14. Sebastian Inlet State Park
The problem with hanging out in Vero Beach for any length of time is that when it’s finally time to pack up and head home, it can be a bit depressing.
Sebastian Inlet State Park is about six miles south of town and is another of the area’s easily accessible natural wonders. Full of fantastic beaches, it is a particularly popular destination for surf fishermen, who come to tangle with bluefish, mackerel, and other game fish that live in the inlet’s waters.
The park also features a museum dedicated to the disastrous sinking of much of the Spanish Fleet that took place nearby in 1715.
15. Crab Stop
Seafood lovers have a dizzying array of dining options when visiting Florida’s central Atlantic coast, but many locals and tourists agree that Crab Stop on 14th Avenue is a perfect choice for its variety, reasonable prices, and comfy atmosphere.
Of course, as the name implies, crabs are the main attraction, but they offer fish, clams, and shrimp too, and are known for their tasty – if not altogether heart-friendly – sides like hush-puppies and corn fritters.
They supposedly have crab cakes to rival those found in Maryland; for those not sure what to get, a sampler platter may be the way to go.