The spring of my senior year of college, my mom told me that she and my dad were going to a conference for his work in Orlando. They ended up having some time to go check out an island called Vero Beach, about an hour and a half south of Orlando.
Well, turns out that my mom had already arranged an appointment with a realtor (she’s always the schemer ????) and they ended up walking out of their visit with a townhouse in a community in Vero Beach. It was love at first sight.
I was already familiar with Vero Beach because I had visited a few times before with my boyfriend, whose family also has a home there. Of course I immediately loved it as well (my taste isn’t far from my mom’s ????). I was SO thrilled when I found out that we would be spending more and more of our time there!
We’ve since had our roots down there for three years. Sold our townhouse and moved into a house (the commitment is real! Also, I promise to share a house tour soon– here’s the backyard in the meantime), and my parents have been spending more and more of their time in the winter there. It’s quickly become our favorite sunny spot and is safe to say that we are officially “snow birds”… and my sister and I visit every chance that we have!
Vero Beach Travel Guide
There’s a special, relaxed feeling about Vero Beach, that makes it kind of a utopian place to live and visit. It’s about an hour and a half from both Orlando and Palm Beach. And is a small barrier island with the Indian River Lagoon on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It’s composed of a little town and then a bunch of club communities that run alongside the A1A highway. It’s Jake Owen’s hometown and I would say his music encapsulates it well– laidback, friendly, and fun!
We’ve definitely spent enough time exploring to have our favorite spots and recommendations. Some of which I shared two years ago when I wrote this post on the “3 Things I love About Vero Beach.” But, the list has of course grown so I’m sharing them all in one place for you here. Please let me know if you have any others that I should add. And I’ll keep updating this post as I discover new spots that are worth visiting! xx
Where to Stay
I recently did the Lisi Lerch spring shoot at the Costa d’Este hotel property and therefore really got to see the whole resort. And it was beautiful. My grandparents have also stayed there and loved it as well! It’s owned by the singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, and is located literally right in town. The décor is sleek and modern (though still coastal). Their pool/hot tub is steps from the beach and absolutely gorgeous! I’d recommend staying there, eating at their restaurant The Wave, and enjoying a cocktail from their Cabana Bar in their hot tub. If you’re doing a trip with adults, then I’d probably recommend staying at Costa d’Este. But if you’re traveling with kids then I’d recommend the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa…
This is a Kimpton property that is also located steps from town. We’ve had a number of family members and friends stay here while visiting Vero Beach, and everyone has loved their experience. They also have a beautiful, swanky restaurant, called Cobalt, which I’ve been to for dinner and really enjoyed. It’s right on the ocean and has the most serene, romantic atmosphere! Their spa, the White Orchid Spa, is spectacular as well (it recently underwent a few renovations and is even more beautiful now). I’ve received both massages and facials there before that I have raved about. In sum, you honestly cannot go wrong with the Vero Beach Hotel or Costa d’Este!
Where to Eat
This restaurant reminds me of the bar in Sweet Home Alabama (if you know you know ????), and has the BEST chicken fingers and honey mustard (#priorities). Mm-hmm. It’s the perfect spot if you want to watch a game or have a very casual beer + a burger!
Another very casual spot (it’s outside with picnic tables!) that has the most delicious burgers. It’s the ideal place to grab lunch when you’re spending the day on the beach or bike riding through town.
This is actually located in Sebastian (about 20 minutes from Vero Beach), but I had to include it because it’s such a quirky and can’t-miss-it type of place. It’s a beach bar, literally in the sand, set alongside the river and underneath tall coconut palms. It’s kind of haphazardly put together with colorful wood and a tiki bar. And seems like a place you’d find in the Bahamas or the Virgin Islands (which must be why I’m so drawn to it!). Speaking of, they have a phenomenal pain killer (which is my favorite tropical cocktail). So make sure to order that if you visit! They often have live music as well. It’s a great post-dinner spot to get a drink if you’re on a date or out with friends.
This is an adorable little restaurant that’s located in the Village Shops that’s owned and branded by the McLaughlin family (of J. McLaughlin). I would recommend going for Sunday brunch and getting the popovers, trust!
Located right on the ocean on the edge of town, this is one of my absolute favorite spots. It has the most delicious elevated American and seafood options. Get the black truffle butter fries and truffled taglierini pasta (#truffleaddict over here).
Countryside Citrus is a family owned and operated orange and grapefruit grower/harvester in South Florida. They have a retail location right in town that sells their fresh fruit and citrus soft serve ice cream (that’s beyond refreshing & delicious!). ALSO, they recently expanded and opened up a taqueria in the same location! Make sure to get the street corn, chips, queso, and guac are out-of-this-world good. Also, make sure to get the citrus soft serve from the Countryside Citrus side of the restaurant!
Coffee and wine… my two favorite beverages make up this adorable cafe right off of Ocean Avenue in town! They have delicious flatbreads, pastries, coffees, craft cocktails, and wine. There is often live music at night, which makes for the most relaxing atmosphere on a warm evening.
We’re big ice cream people over here. Johnny’s family introduced this spot to us and it’s our favorite for hard ice cream! It’s a family owned establishment but there are locations all over the country. So it may be familiar to you as well! My favorite flavors of theirs are toasted coconut and double peanut butter pie. ????
Go for the breakfast sandwiches and omelets. It’s an adorable little cafe that has the most delicious casual breakfasts and brunches! It’s located next to a few cute shops that you can pop in to if there’s a wait. (Peep into Veranda Jewelry and try on some jewels!)
As I was putting together this post, I asked Johnny what I should definitely be including and he said “tell them to get the grouper rueben sandwich from the Red Onion”. So this is me doing just that! This is a super casual spot in town (you can come off the beach and pop right in!), that has really good finger food options for the whole family. It’s an ideal takeout spot as well!
This was another one of Johnny’s recommendations.. It was one of the first restaurants he took me to when I first started visiting Vero Beach with his family. It’s located off the island in Downtown Vero Beach and I would say that they have the best tacos in the area.
Quite possibly our family’s favorite restaurant of all time. That is a BIG statement and we fully stand by it. ????This is probably the nicest restaurant we frequent and we try to go at least once every time we’re all together there. Listen up: ORDER THE OATMEAL CAKE. I know that sounds odd and not like something that would be delicious at all. But I’m telling you– I could literally write a whole blog post on it. It’s that damn good. People actually order it to be shipped to them from all over the country. It’s low key famous and high key the best dessert you will ever try.
If you end up going and trying it, please please let me know so I can be jealous and live through you!! We also love the flash fried calamari, the grilled pear salad, the arugula salad, and the herb crusted chicken. Omg my mouth is watering I have to move on to my next rec…
We love eating Italian (my sister has a strong addiction to bolognese), and recently tried this spot that we really liked! You absolutely cannot go wrong with almost any of their pasta dishes and Italian wines! Although I did get their gorgonzola gnocchi and it was a bit too gorgonzola-y for my liking, if that makes any sense ????.
Another awesome spot in Downtown Vero Beach— we went here for Christmas Eve dinner this past year and really enjoyed their steak tartare and lasagna bolognese (see. bolognese is a reoccurring order in our family)!
What to Do
Ok, first things first! There is some of the BEST boutique shopping here that we’ve ever seen (and believe me when I say that we’ve done our fair share of boutique shopping in many places ????). We’ve come to find and love a few shops that are located on the beachside area on Ocean Drive and in Downtown Vero Beach, which is the town located right off the island.
Shopping on Ocean Drive: Sassy’s Boutique (for the trendiest styles that carry so many of my favorite elevated brands!), Veranda Jewelry (my mom recently got an absolutely stunning ring there– the ladies inside are the sweetest!), Sara Campbell, Kemp’s Shoe Salon, Very Fitting (they have the most beautiful bedding), Hutchinson’s Floral Artistry (we love their arrangements!), Lazy Daisy (the Lilly Pulitzer signature store), Treasure Lane, Tusk/The Gazebo, Vernon Scott
Hit the beach
You can easily spend a morning or afternoon walking or lounging on the gorgeous white fluffy sand beaches that line the barrier island. You can find easy beach access from both Costa d’Este and the Vero Beach Hotel, the various communities/clubs on the island, and the public beaches. I’d recommend packing a lunch and a game like spikeball and spending the hottest day of your stay on the beach!
Kayak and manatee watch
We have rented kayaks from the Orchid Island Bikes and Kayaks before and they have shown us where to go for the best kayaking and manatee scouting spots! You can either go with a guide on tour or on your own, and it’s definitely the best way to spot the gentle and endangered sea creature.
We play a lot of pickleball in the community where we live (it’s called John’s Island) and on the public courts at Pocahontas Park (in a public program that’s literally called “Pickleball University.” It’s currently our family’s favorite sport and is such a wildly fun game that people of all ages can play. It’s such a good workout too, omg!
You can rent bikes for the time that you’re visiting and bike all up and down the A1A highway (it’s completely flat and has wide sidewalks that are ideal for biking!) or the Jungle Trail, which is a historic 8-mile long sandy trail that runs through the jungle of the island.
Get a massage at a spa
To be honest I’m not the biggest massage or facial person (I really should go more– it only does wonders for my stress and skin), but I have indulged in the White Orchid Spa a few times, because I’m often in the vacation mindset when I’m there and therefore more likely to go to a spa. It’s part of the Vero Beach Hotel, but you don’t have to be staying there to enjoy the spa. All you have to do is book a service through them and then you can enjoy that and their therapeutic facilities, like their salt room and sauna!
Get a round of golf in
When my boyfriend is in Vero Beach he probably plays golf every other day, at the very minimum. Sandridge Golf Club is a great local public course that he recommends! 90% of the time it’s the perfect golfing temperature and weather in Vero Beach, so there’s little excuse not to go out for a round.
Vero Beach is so worth visiting for a long weekend getaway with your significant other or a family trip. You may have also picked up on the fact that we think it’s the perfect place to retire. ????
To us, it’s sunsets and shopping and sandy beaches and oatmeal cakes… kind of a dream scenario right there. It’s been such a dream to get to explore and know, and I’m so happy to share our favorite spots and recommendations with you in this post! Enjoy them and let me know what you end up checking out and loving just as much as we do. xx