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Florida: Vero Beach, Family Vacation Ideas – Kayaking Indian River, Surfing, and Looking for Buried Treasures. In addition to miles of world-class beaches, easy flowing estuaries, woodland pathways, moonlight paddles, turtle quests, surfing, kayaking and golden artifacts from sunken Spanish galleons, the area also has plenty of unique shopping places, entertaining theater, and awesome art. The communities within Indian River County include Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmer. We have made a list of the fun stuff to make your own family vacation memories.
Discover Pelican Island. Protected by Indian River Lagoon, tiny Pelican Island is a national treasure and an awesome discovery for birders. The Jungle Trail observation area provides rewarding natural encounters. From the Inlet Marina, State Park Rangers conduct boat tours to Pelican Island on Inlet Explorer. Kayak excursions provide a chance to glide by fragile island refuge allowing participants to paddle up to the boundary markers for a close look at the nesting wildlife. Bonus points: Kayaks Etc. conducts a kayak excursion within Indian River Lagoon that includes a glide by of fragile Pelican Island enabling participants to see the birds and get great photographs. Just off the “Jungle Trail” is an impressive observation boardwalk with a viewing platform now open for use. (Kayaks Etc. They are open year-round and do scheduled and private excursions almost daily. Children and adults of all ages are welcome. We have taken out as young as 6 months and as old as 90. (2626 US Hwy 1, Vero Beach, 32960. Go to www.kayaksetc.com
) (Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, 32960-3559. (772) 562-3909 ext.173 or http://pelicanisland.fws.gov)
Try birding 101 or kayak by moonlight. At The Environmental Learning Center eco experiences frame each day. The bottom line, these guys get it; therefore the facility oozes with fun ways to learn. From “Birding 101” to guided kayaking under a full moon, this is the good stuff. Even without a guide, a visit to the dry lab onsite could take hours. Artifacts in the lab, each one meant to be touched, include skulls and shells, stones and fossils. A unique station allows visitors of all ages to review x-ray films from wildlife hospitals. Bonus points: One corner of the dry lab is devoted to children less than 5 years of age. It is a cozy friendly place filled with tactile items guaranteed to entertain. Discovery: They have a “Turtle Talk/Beach Walk” that starts with an indoor presentation on sea turtles and ends at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. (Environmental Learning Center. They are nested at 255 Live Oak Drive, Vero Beach, 32963. (561) 589-5050 or www.elcweb.org)
Catch a wave. It is all about location and Sebastian Inlet State Park has the perfect seaside location situated on the tips of two barrier islands where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian River. It is the number one surfing destination in Florida, hosting several national surfing tournaments each year. The dramatically beautiful location is also one of the best fishing spots in the state and provides access to three miles of ocean beach for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Discovery: Each summer surf camps are conducted from the beach. Central Florida Surf School provides lessons and coaching to make the surfing thing a reality. They offer summer camps, including girls only, family sessions and one-on-one lessons throughout the year. (Lew Maresca's Central Florida Surf School. 1085 Morningside Dr. Vero Beach, 32963. (772) 231-1044, 1-877-366-7873 or www.surfschoolcamp.com) (Sebastian Inlet State Park. Seaside ranger led walks are conducted evenings during June and July. This activity is best suited for children of more than 10 years of age. Take insect repellent. (321) 984-4852)
Hear fish house tales. At The Sebastian Fishing Museum located within Sebastian Inlet State Park, fish stories abound. Devoted to educating the public on the rich cultural history of Sebastian's fishing industry, it has charm. The story is told through the lives of three of the first Sebastian families to operate fish houses. A replica of a typical fish house portrays the heart of the community and its delicate connection to the sea. There is a homemade fishing boat along with nets and fishing gear framed with photos of fishing in the area. Bonus points: A 24-minute video further explains the history and the richness of wildlife within the estuary. (The Sebastian Fishing Museum. Campsite reservations toll-free 1-800-326-3581, park location (321) 984-4852. Museum entry is free. (561) 589-9659)
Go for the art. Named as one of the premier art towns of America, Vero Beach is without a doubt an artist's haven. Galleries abound, each offering one-of-kind works of art. The Vero Beach Museum of Art anchoring Riverside Park validates the importance of art to the community. The dramatically beautiful facility showcases nationally and internationally recognized exhibitions, provides studio art classes, humanities-based programs, concerts, workshops, cinema, and special events. Admission to general exhibitions and education wing exhibitions is free. Members and young people 17 years of age or younger may attend all exhibitions free of charge. Bonus points: Each year the Museum conducts a Summer Art Camp offering hands-on studio art activities to children ages 3 to 15. The one and two-week camp sessions (comprised of half-day classes) are scheduled Monday through Friday from May through August. Details may be viewed at the website. Good to Know: For more information on Summer Art Camp contact our Assistant Curator of Education, Ellyn Giordano, at (772) 231-0707 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org (The Vero Beach Museum of Art. 3001 Riverside Park Dr. Vero Beach, FL 32963. (772) 231-0707 or www.vbmuseum.org)
Stay for the applause. The 630-seat Riverside Theater, the Treasure Coast's signature professional theater offers a rich variety of options including shows at a separate Riverside Children’s Theater. Productions 2006/07 scheduled for include “Heidi”, “Mere Mortals” “Pocahontas” “Fools” by Neil Simon, “The Chinese Cinderella”, “The Pied Piper”, Missoula Children’s Theatre “101 Dalmatians” and in May the annual RCT Fiesta. In addition the parent theater will be offering professional theater selections including “Forever Plaid”. Season details are available at the website. (Riverside Children's Theater. 3280 Riverside Park Dr, Vero Beach, FL Box Office at (772) 231-6990 or toll-free 1-800-445-6745, (772) 234-8052 or www.riversidetheatre.com
Try a turtle quest. Located under the flight path of Pelican Island residents, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge stretches for almost twenty miles along the Atlantic Coast and provides safe sanctuary for nesting sea turtles and creating remarkable experiences for humans. It is recognized as the largest sea turtle nesting area in North America. From April through September the ancient night nesting rituals occur when loggerheads, leatherbacks and an occasional green return to the beach to deposit eggs. Bonus points: Several organizations conduct guided night time turtle quests which provide a front row observation point to witness the turtles during nesting. This activity is not-to-be-missed if you have children eight years of age or older. It is a field trip extraordinaire. (Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, 32960-3559. (772) 562-3909 x258 or http://archiecarr.fws.gov and Friends of Archie Carr, Melbourne, (407) 676-1701)
See sunken treasure. McLarty Museum, just north of Archie Carr NWR, offers yet another glimpse into the treasure of the coast. Called the “Treasure Coast” by many, this museum explains why it is so. At the site of the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet Salvaging Camp, this small museum is filled with human drama. When the fleet, heading for Spain loaded with treasure, sank more than 1500 survivors were stranded on this section of desolate beach. Their story is told in a convincing manner through visuals, dialog and artifacts. Artifacts and treasures from the Atocha, one of the ships discovered in 1975, are on display within the museum. Discovery: This museum is part of the Florida State Park system and is a treasure itself. (McLarty Treasure Museum. On the coastal road north of Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge this fascinating museum provides perspective to the area. Admission is $1.00 and there is no charge for children younger than six. (561) 589-2147 www.atocha1622.com)
Take in a ballgame. Dodgertown is open all summer long providing baseball Florida style. During the summer months the Dodgers Rookie Team, the Gulf Coast Dodgers, also play ball in Vero Beach at 6,500-seat Holman Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training. Nightly themes are designed to add fun to the already energized stadium atmosphere. Tuesdays will feature the crowd favorite Baseball Bingo. Bonus points: New on Sunday afternoons, the Vero Beach Dodgers invite fans onto the field to play catch in the outfield after the game. (Dogertown. 4101 26th Street, Vero Beach, 32960. (561) 569-4929, 569-4900 or www.vbdodgers.com)
Rent bikes and ride away. The Bike Depot in Sebastian provides families with vacation wheels. Not only do they rent bikes for a day, they have a super deal for weekly rentals. Specializing in the needs of families, they have bikes with extra seats, three wheelers, mountain bikes, bikes for kids, bike trailers, and bikes with training wheels. Bonus points: An insider tip for biking in the area, try the Jungle Trail on the barrier island, they have the directions. (The Bike Depot. 9402 US #1 Sebastian, (561) 589-7234)
Visit the king of treasure hunters. Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum showcases the stuff of dreams. You will see the bounty from Spanish galleons and learn how they were salvaged. A video story is provided so visitors will understand the background and magnitude of the findings. The gift shop has an impressive assortment of sea treasures and gold for sale. It is helpful but not essential to visit the McLarty Museum first. Bonus points: Among the display cases is a rubbing stand to engage young visitors in the hunt. At one side of the museum area there is a window to the conservation lab. At times it is possible to see new discoveries being treated. (Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum. The coral colored building is located on US #1 at the heart of Sebastian. (772) 589-9874 or www.melfisher.com)
Make plans to have fun. Indian River County on Florida’s Central East Coast is loaded with delightfully affordable family vacation ideas. The area includes Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmer. (772) 567-3491, ext.110 or go to www.indianriverchamber.com
Additional Planning Details
The Pelican Island Preservation Society. Box 1903, Sebastian, Florida 32978-1903. (772) 663-9750 or www.nbbd.com/npr/pips
Sea Turtle Survival League.Toll-free 1-800-678-7853 or www.cccturtle.org
Sea Turtle Preservation Society. Seaside night walks start the end of May and run through the first week in August. This activity is best suited for children of more than 10 years of age. Reservations are essential. (321) 676-1701.
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Content and images provided Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor FTF based on site visit. Updated copyright 2009.