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Warm-up in Vero Beach
By: James Richardson

Vero Beach in Indian River County, Florida is an all round good place to visit, especially in the spring. Where else in Florida would you go to see the Los Angeles Dodgers play spring baseball? Plus there are all the other attractions that make Vero Beach unique. A city of firsts and bests – one of America’s 100 Best Small Art Towns, home of America’s first sea turtle refuge, home of the country’s first wildlife refuge, and one of Florida’s best surfing areas – Vero Beach keeps gaining popularity with its unique attributes. There is literally something for everyone’s tastes in this east central Florida coastal town. Whether your taste is for something cultural, nature-related, watery, or sporty, there will be an activity to keep you busy for hours.

There are plenty of accommodations that would place the traveler within easy drive to all that area’s attractions and anything within a few hours drive. That would include Titusville (Space Coast) and Kennedy Space Center within one hour, and Cypress Gardens, Sea World, and Disneyworld within two hours.

During the months of February through April the Los Angeles Dodgers major league baseball team come to Vero Beach for spring training. The partnership has lasted over fifty years between the Dodgers and Dodgertown at Vero Beach’s Holman Stadium. Back in 1948 the Dodgers brought their spring training to Vero Beach and Holman Stadium (Dodgertown) was built in 1952-1953. In 1980 the Dodgers moved their Single A team to Holman Stadium, which began summer ball. Further expansion of the Dodger experience added the Dodger Adult Baseball “Fantasy Camp”. Here adults can live like a baseball player for a week and learn more of some of the Dodger stars. Visit their website for the spring training schedule (http://www.vbdodgers.com/index.cfm?method=SpringTraining.show).

Exploring the natural attractions of Vero Beach and Florida’s east coast can be very enlightening and refreshing. Barrier islands protect much of Florida’s coastline against rough seas. The islands also give sanctuary to wildlife and opportunities for excellent wildlife watching. Between Wabasso in Indian River County and Melbourne Beach in Brevard, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the first sea turtle preserve in the U. S., was established in 1989. It offers hope for saving one of the most important nesting sites in the world for the sea turtle.

Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge was the first refuge founded and designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. It celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2003. The island is situated in the shallow Indian River Lagoon near Sebastian. It was specifically designated for a habitat for the brown pelican. During that time period these pelicans were hunted for sport and the feathers were used for pen quills and hat feathers. Today, Pelican Island is home to several endangered species – the wood stork, the West Indian manatee, the green sea turtle, the loggerhead turtle, and the indigo snake.

Besides the natural beaches for swimming and sunbathing along the ocean, there are other water-related activities visitors can enjoy. Fishing is a very popular pastime for both freshwater and saltwater species. For saltwater fishing there are the deeper waters offshore and there is Sebastian Inlet with its shallow waters. Boaters can cruise the inlet or anchor for grouper, snapper and king mackerel. For those without boats, there are two jetties reaching out into the Atlantic at Sebastian Inlet Park. This affords fishermen excellent surf fishing along the two miles of shoreline.

For fresh water fishing the Sebastian River and inland lakes produce large mouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, and other game fish. The Florida Game Fish Commission reports one of the best locations as being Blue Cypress Lake in western Indian River County. Blue Cypress Lake covers about 6554 acres and is located about twenty-five miles from Vero Beach along Route 60. Another good location for fresh water anglers is Stick Marsh, a 6500 reservoir in the northwestern part of the county.

Boat charters are available for fishing and cruising. The miles of calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean afforded by the barrier islands provide water-lovers with many types of boating and fishing for the many different species. Canoe and kayak rentals and airboating are available from various places in the area.

Great diving sites extend from the Sebastian Inlet to Round Island, including coral reefs and artificial reefs and the site of the 1715 wreck of the Spanish galleon just south of Vero Beach. There are four artificial reefs along the beaches of Indian River County, about 200-300 feet off shore. A coral reef (Verobeach Reef) is a unique habitat for many types of marine life. The reef begins near the Sebastian Inlet and extends about one-half mile.

Surfers can try their luck at finding the "perfect" wave in the Sebastian Inlet. From October through April because of the cold fronts and low-pressure systems, surfers crowd the inlet looking for that wave. This area provides one of the best surfing locales in Florida.

The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute would be an interesting and educational side trip while visiting Indian County. The HBOI is a leading oceanographic research organization dedicated to exploring the earth's oceans, estuaries and coastal regions. It is located along the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce, just south of Vero Beach. It houses some of the world's leading oceanographic laboratories and employs 250 scientists and technicians. The institute offers programs and lectures, as well as ninety-minute tours for the public. Occasionally, the institute offers trips to locations like the Galapagos Islands. These trips fill quickly so check their website.

On the cultural side there are several museums that range from displays of shipwrecked Spanish treasure ships to fishing museums to fine arts. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is a renovated 55,000 square foot facility featuring five galleries and sculpture gardens. This Center for the Arts has the largest school associated with a museum in the State of Florida; the 615-seat professional Riverside Theatre; the Anne Morton Theatre, which houses the Riverside Children's Theatre; the 51-acre Environmental Learning Center; the 18-acre McKee Botanical Garden, the 312-seat community Vero Beach Theatre Guild.

With all these activities available in Vero Beach and Indian River County, would you not say it is an all round good place to visit, especially in the spring?

For More Information:

Vero Beach Web Sites
http://www.verobeach.com
http://vero-beach.fl.us/

Vero Beach Dodgertown
Spring Training site for the Los Angeles Dodgers
http://www.vbdodgers.com/

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
5600 US Highway 1 North
Fort Pierce, FL 34946
http://www.hboi.edu/