- By Clara Bosonetto For the AJC
Weekend in Vero Beach, Fla., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip Tips: Vero Beach on Florida’s Treasure Coast is a small and remote town made for visitors seeking a relaxing weekend or for water sport enthusiasts. The public South Beach Park has restroom facilities, free parking, an on-duty lifeguard and a wooden walkway from the parking area to the lovely beach. Meet the locals while strolling along Ocean Drive’s shops and art galleries. Rise early for the Saturday Farmers Market at 2901 Ocean Drive (until noon). Shop for local products to live music. Trip planning at VeroBeach.com, http://www.verobeach.com.
Getting there: Round-trip rates on nonstop Delta service to Melbourne (36 miles) start from $196; from $180 to West Palm Beach (77 miles); based on 21-day advance purchase.
Stay: Find Old Florida charm at the Sea Turtle Inn, located in the heart of the central beach area and a short walk to pubs, shops and parks. Through Dec. 14, choose from 10 efficiencies from $99 a night, or one- and two-bedroom poolside apartments from $145-$175. A local gourmet market and restaurant offers delivery and room service during business hours. 835 Azalea Lane, 772-234-0788, https://www.seaturtleinn.net.
Eat: Start the day with a Bloody Mary and breakfast ($5.95-$11.95) at Mulligans Beach House Bar, a seafood grill and family restaurant with oceanfront dining. 1025 Beachland Blvd., 772-205-3342, https://www.mulligansbeachhouse.com/vero-beach.
Experience: The tropical McKee Garden supports a dense and diverse botanical collection as well as several restored architectural treasures. Over 100 varieties of water lilies grow in the garden each year. A new exhibit, “It’s a Jungle Out There!” opens Nov. 4 with 24 handcrafted sculptures created by The Ark Collection in Nairobi, Kenya. Through Oct. 31, $10 adults, $8 ages 3-12; November-April, $12 adults, $5 children. 350 U.S. 1, 772-794-0601, http://www.mckeegarden.org.
Stay: Vero Beach is home to a Disney-owned oceanfront resort that is modeled after a coastal New England hotel. Traditional rooms (from $198) feature kitchenettes, balconies or patios, plus ocean or garden views. Studios start from $232. The one-bedroom (from $321 for up to five adults) or two-bedroom villas (sleeps up to nine adults, from $418) add full kitchens, washer/dryers, whirlpool tubs, and living rooms with pull-out sofas. A casual restaurant has character-themed meals, or choose to dine at the high-end steakhouse. On-site is a spa, fitness center, a Mickey Mouse-shaped pool with a waterslide, plus campfires, mini golf and an arcade. Kids ages 4-12 can join in a 3-hour supervised evening program with games, movies, dinner, and arts and crafts in the Disney Discovery Club. 9250 Island Grove Terrace, 772-234-2000, https://verobeach.disney.go.com.
Eat: The Ocean Grill was built directly on the shores of the Atlantic between 1938 and 1941 as an officers club. Order seafood to steaks with full ocean views. Starters $5-$14; entrees from $24. It’s stone crab season until mid-May. Try them chilled with mustard sauce. 1050 Beachland Blvd., 772-231-5409, https://www.ocean-grill.com.
Experience: The Blue Cypress Recreation Area is a 30-minute ride inland and adjacent to the one-stoplight town of Fellsmere. This is undeveloped backcountry waters that rival the Everglades. Blue Cypress Lake covers 6,555 acres and is home to the largest osprey nesting site in Florida. A 30-minute airboat tour is $25 per person (11 a.m. daily). State Road 60, 772-766-2629, http://www.gatorbaitairboatadventures.com. Fellsmere plays host to the annual Frog Festival, Jan. 18-21 (it’s the largest frog leg festival in the world), https://www.froglegfestival.com.
Stay: The upscale Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, owned by singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, is within walking distance of the shops, restaurants and bars of Vero Beach. Onsite is a Cuban-inspired restaurant, an infinity pool with a poolside bar, a fitness center and spa. A special package takes guests on a 2-hour guided kayak and snorkel tour of the shipwreck S.S. Breconshire, located just offshore at a depth of 15 feet. The ship still contains gold and treasures. Also included is a welcome drink, Wi-Fi, daily newspaper, Zumba and sunrise yoga, two beachfront lounge chairs, and use of bicycles. Accommodations are chic with teak furnishings, twin shower heads and balconies. Some rooms have private beachfront gardens and others have ocean views. Rates from $229. 3244 Ocean Drive, 772-562-9919, http://www.costadeste.com.
Eat: Bistro Fourchette serves classic French dishes such as Escargot Flambé with Cognac ($10), Beef Bourguignon ($22) and Filet Au Poivre ($38). Watch for new menu items when the bistro reopens for season on Oct. 17. 1309 19th Place, 772-770-2071, https://www.bistrofourchette.com.
Experience: Take a seaplane ride along the coastline toward Sebastian Inet. This low-level flight transitions over the Indian River Lagoon en route to the untouched Blue Cypress Lake for a water landing. Step out onto the plane’s floats to experience the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere. The 1-hour, 15-minute Treasure Coast Seaplane tour is $450 for up to five passengers. Other air tours of 30, 50 and 60 minutes from $240. 2640 Airport North Drive, 772-500-2359, https://www.flytcs.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.