One of the strangest complaints I’ve read about Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is “there’s not enough to do if you’re not into the beach.” Are there four theme parks and two water parks right there so you can go, go, go for at least 12 hours a day? No. Is there an “entertainment “district? No. Are there dozens of restaurants suiting pretty much every taste imaginable? No. But let me ask you this: Is there an ocean at Walt Disney World? Um, that would be a big “No.” And the Atlantic Ocean is responsible for so much more than the beach in this part of Florida.
Here is a list of what I did yesterday:
- I drove to Sebastian Inlet State Park and watched people fish in the inlet and off a jetty into the ocean. Anglers catch snook, pompano, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon, trout and others in the Indian River and the Atlantic beaches of the state park.. They rent equipment in a bait and tackle shop next to the jetty, if you don’t have equipment with you. Admission to the State Park is $8/car for a 24 hour pass.
- I stood on the jetty and watched surfers riding the waves. The Treasure Coast is home to some of the best surfing on the East Coast and several competitions are held here. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort hold “Surf School” or you can take lessons through Lou Maresca’s Surf School in nearby Ft. Pierce.
- I learned about sea turtles and conservation at the Barrier Island Education Center. Sea turtles have to face seemingly impossible odds just to survive to adulthood. The Education Center is very informative about local ecology and conservation and puts on imaginative programming, especially for kids. Admission is by donation.
- I visited the McLarty Treasure Museum and learned all about why this part of Florida is called “the Treasure Coast.” I can see why local treasure hunters catch “treasure fever.” In an interesting (but a little long) video, one treasure hunter described seeing the ocean floor “blanketed with gold” from the 1715 Plate Fleet. There is still millions of dollars worth of gold and jewels that have not been recovered. The possibility is very exciting! And this is not just professional dive crews finding treasure from the wreck. One of the park rangers had a “piece of eight” that he found beachcombing after a hurricane. In the city of Sebastian, you can find Mel Fisher ‘s Treasure Museum. Fisher has found vast treasures from shipwrecks all over the coast of Florida. (Admission to the McLarty Treasure Museum is $2/person.)
- I hiked a couple of trails in Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first national wildlife refuge. There, I observed brown pelicans, wood storks, plovers, butterflies, and – cover your ears, Bill- I saw a rather long snake that I didn’t get too close to.
The Centennial Trail is a 3/4 mile paved trail that is completely wheelchair accessible. It ends at a viewing platform overlooking Pelican Island. Pelican Island is a roosting site for a number of birds.
Pelican Island is only accessible by boat, but there are telescopes at the viewing platform. I saw the snake on a different, more primitive trail, the Bird’s Impoundment Trail, which is a well-defined 2.5 mile loop. I only walked 1/2 mile in and 1/2 mile out, and probably shouldn’t have done that, because it was very late afternoon, I was by myself, and there was not a single car in the trail parking lot when I got there. If I was traveling with a hiking buddy, I would start out earlier and hike every trail of the wildlife refuge. It’s beautiful land and is very well-maintained. It’s also free.
I should note that I did everything I listed above in a six hour stretch. Afterward, I feasted on a positively enormous seafood boil at Shutter’s, one of two sit-down restaurants at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The seafood boil is almost like a clambake in a pot, except that instead of baking the ingredients on the beach, it’s boiled in Yuengling Lager, butter and Old Bay. It includes crab legs, mussels, clams, peel and eat shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. When it was all over, I was covered with butter and flakes of crab, but there was not a single piece of seafood left in that pan. Lots of potatoes and a couple of pieces of sausage, but nothing else. I’m almost embarrassed by the zeal with which I devoured that meal. The service was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner.