While Florida is known for its stunning coastline, a few cities always seem to steal the spotlight. There are secret hidden spots in Florida that only the locals know about. Places with pristine beaches, world-class restaurants, thriving arts and culture, and, of course, all the joys of beachside living. So where are we talking about?
Welcome to Vero Beach, a casually sophisticated enclave along Florida’s scenic Atlantic Treasure Coast. The hidden gem destination offers an impressive art museum and theater scene, elegant boutiques, restaurants serving up fresh, local seafood and festivals nearly every month. The next time you head to the Sunshine State, skip the major cities in favor of a relaxing getaway to Vero Beach.
Small Town, Big City Culture
Art aficionados will be surprised to learn that the Vero Beach Museum of Art is the nation’s largest art museum created by private funds, featuring more than 880 works of art in a variety of mediums. Priceless glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, and etches and prints by Bearden, de Kooning and Dali are only a few of the famous artists featured in expertly crafted exhibitions. When the fall season opens on September 26, tap into your inner artist at the Museum Art School for a studio class of drawing, painting, photography, ceramics and jewelry making.
Across the street from the Museum of Art is Riverside Theatre, a non-profit professional theater producing works from Broadway, off-Broadway and regional theaters. In addition to award-winning musicals and plays like Chicago and Ring of Fire, it features a distinguished lecturer series, stand-up comedy, outdoor concerts and an adjoining children’s theater.
If celebrating arts and culture while soaking in the sun is more your style, Vero Beach hosts an outdoor festival nearly every month of the year. Standouts include the Sebastian Riverfront Fine Art & Music Festival in January, the Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival in June and the Annual Sebastian Clambake in November.
Fit for Foodies
With all the charm of a seaside village, it’s no surprise that Vero Beach caters to seafood lovers. Each day brings the freshest catch to a variety of restaurants around town, serving up delicacies from the sea in new and innovative ways. Dine overlooking the Atlantic on the patio at Cobalt, starting with oysters on the half shell or a tangy, local white tuna ceviche, followed by grilled mahi mahi in a coconut run beurre blanc sauce. At Wave Kitchen & Bar, transport your taste buds to the Costa del Sol in Spain with seafood paella a la costa for two, made with clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, chicken and Spanish chorizo.
Not a seafood fan? Vero Beach offers exquisite Italian cuisine and some of the best steakhouses this side of Texas. At the intimate Almafi Grille, tuck into a plate of cavatelli bolognese, with homemade ricotta cavatelli, veal and pork and beef ragu. At Vero Prime, splurge on the prime dry-aged New York Strip, served with any number of sides like cheddar hash browns au-gratin or Brussels sprouts with bacon.
Wash it all down, or enjoy a pre-dinner drink, at Orchid Island Brewery, Vero’s only microbrewery. The family-run pub offers delicious home-brewed IPA’s infused with Indian River County citrus and custom barrel-aged sours.
Although water sports like kayaking, paddle-boarding, snorkeling and diving are expected, what’s hidden under the radar are the ecological wonders of the area. One fourth of the world’s sea turtles nest in Vero Beach, and visitors can follow a ranger on a guided late-night tour of Sebastian Inlet to witness nesting loggerhead sea turtles during June and July.
The Indian River Lagoon is also the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in North America with more than 3,000 species of plants and animals. Try a guided airboat tour to explore this unique area, or work up a sweat on a kayak tour with the Florida Outdoor Center.
Where to stay: After discovering the hidden secrets of Vero Beach, return to unwind at the tranquil Vero Beach Hotel & Spa. Lounge by an oceanside heated pool, perfect for any time of the year, or soothe tired muscles with a hot stone massage at the hotel’s world-class White Orchid Spa.