Along the south Atlantic side between Orlando and Miami sits an unplucked gem known as The Treasure Coast. Soaked rich in history, this sunshine vacation destination includes Indian River County, which is breathtaking and sure to suit many vacation checklists.
With a cool, catchy and captivating tagline, “Sunrises, not high-rises", Indian River County is loaded with arts & culture, nature, events and of course, plenty to do on/by the water, seeing as they have 26 miles of beautiful, award-winning beaches.
I was kept company by the incredibly hospitable Allison McNeal, the Director of Tourism, and it’s remarkable how much we fit in over the course of a few days! I definitely appreciated the small-town charm in this gateway to the tropics that’s truly a hidden gem.
Florida Airboat Excursions
In the Blue Cypress Conservation Area in Vero Beach, you’ll find Florida Airboat Excursions who, with the leadership of Captian John, took me on an exhilarating one hour ride where I saw plenty of alligators, birds and postcard worthy nature images.
Armed with a headset and microphone to ask questions (that 600 horsepower motor, massive fan and fast and fun wind speed make face to face conversations a slight challenge), I was whisked by Captain John through the area as he shared his extensive knowledge of our surroundings. Informative and exciting, I’ll certainly be heading back.
Captain Hiram’s Restaurant
With plenty of seating inside and out, this waterfront restaurant serves up mouth-watering fresh seafood via friendly staff as you relax and bask in the serene atmosphere. Looking to kick up your heels after you eat? There’s a great outdoor stage that hosts live music. Sales manager Robin Miller has done a terrific job in providing all guests a memorable experience that keeps them coming back often.
McLarty Treasure Museum
Home to some of the beautiful artifacts of the famed 1715 Spanish Treasure fleet which crashed during a hurricane while trying to return to Spain. Complete with an observation deck that that peers into the Atlantic Ocean, experience a piece of history during your visit to Indian River County.
Sunset cruise on the Moonraker
Being on a sailboat has always made me happy. Experiencing it at sunset in Vero Beach on the Indian River Lagoon has raised the bar to near unsurpassable levels. Captain Bruce Jackson, with more experience than I have had birthdays, brought me aboard his luxurious private charter for a beautiful evening where I balanced my time between the hammock at the rear and laying on forward netting, watching the water pass beneath me while the 40 foot catamaran glided through the waters as the sun dissolved into the horizon. This will be the absolute first thing I do when I go back. And no, I didn’t replicate the “I’m the king of the world” scene from Titanic. But did I ever want to.
This bustling waterfront restaurant that’s been around since the 40s has been family run since 1965 and offers a great variety of food. And yes, they do seafood quite well! With a view that’ll fill up your smartphone’s memory, you’ll want to come here if you enjoy great food, a welcoming environment and a great night out. Check out the gift shop attached at the front to take a bit of your experience home with you! Oh, and say hi to the wax figure man on your way in.
Mulligans Beach House
Vero Beach is home to one of six Mulligan locations in Florida, all with water views. As you must sense by now, I’ve become a huge fan of eating by water based on my recent travels. With a good spread of breakfast staples, friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere, put this place on your radar when you visit.
Vero Beach Museum of Art
As an artsy fellow, I simply had to pop into the Vero Beach Museum of Art to be given a tour by the knowledgeable Sophie Bentham-Wood. She showed me art classes in progress, several exhibits, the elegant grounds and the consistent community support they’ve received, which allows them to continue to share the arts and culture world with visitors and locals alike.
Costa d’Este Beach Resort and Spa
The last stop on my memorable and wonderful adventure was Costa d'Este Beach Resort and spa, where I ended up spending about four hours enjoying the great service, beautiful beach and amazing overall atmosphere!
Interestingly, I only sat down for about 40 minutes to get a quick bite to eat (the food and customer service is top notch, by the way!) and the rest of the time I walked the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean with another Canadian travel journalist, sharing life stories and our strong affection for the Treasure Coast and Vero Beach, its beauty that evokes the feel of Florida from yesteryear, and its brimming with small town charm.
Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Vero Beach
Now in case you're thinking, "Jay, you did all these great things and experienced so much...did you sleep at all? And yes, it's a valid question. And yes, I certainly did sleep. The Hampton Inn & Suites in Downtown Vero Beach, led by the charismatic and charming Queen of Customer Service, Jacquie Thatcher, was where I lay my head to rest my bones.
When I arrived, there was a beautifully wrapped gift bag with tourism books, stationery, a hand written note from Jacquie welcoming me to the Hampton and just an overall warm and welcoming atmosphere. She was full of information about the area, what to do, what to see, tidbits of cool info that only a local would know, and she answered all my questions (because as you know, I love talking and asking questions)!
The room was spotless and the King size bed was quite comfortable. Some say "a hotel is a hotel is a hotel" and to a degree, that's true. But it's the service you receive at a hotel that sets it apart. The service levels that Jacquie and her team provided stand out thoroughly and when I go back, count on me staying here again. Oh, and when you go, tell Jacquie I said hi!
My few days in Indian River County accounted for a ton of pictures, great memories and new friendships. Allison and her team have done a stellar job of making first time visitors feel at home and will no doubt turn them into return visitors. Will I be back? Absolutely. When will I be back? Not soon enough.
For more information, head over to http://visitindianrivercounty.com/
They've got a great Twitter account!
And their Instagram account is spectacular!
Don't forget about good ol' Facebook
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