VERO BEACH, FLORIDA

Updated October 26, 2020

Vero Beach, Florida is about 8 miles east of I-95 on State Road 60. It's about an hour and a half north of West Palm Beach.  

Vintage Postcard Vero Beach Oceanfront with Old CarsVintage Postcard Vero Beach Oceanfront with Old Cars

Most people think the name came from Sarah Gifford, the wife of an early pioneer settler, Henry T. Gifford.  She suggested the new town be named Vero from the Latin word for "to speak the truth."

Vero Beach was founded in 1919 and its slogan back then was "Where The Tropics Begin."  It's not officially true, but the vegetation certainly looks different here than it does in the towns just to the north.

Atlantic Ocean at Vero Beach FloridaAtlantic Ocean at Vero Beach, Florida

The motto today is "Sunrises, Not High Rises", a sentiment that reflects the zoning laws and community attitudes against the mega oceanfront development so typical of much of the rest of Florida.

Village Spires, the last of its kindVillage Spires, the first and last of its kind in Vero Beach

The only high rise on the ocean I know of in Vero Beach is the Village Spires.  It was built in 1973 against the protests of much of the Vero Beach population.  They passed ordinances to limit the height of future buildings.

Although the project was extremely unpopular with Vero Beach residents back when it was built, today it is a well maintained complex of upscale condominiums. 

The town is at the intersection of US-1 and State Road 60.   This area is almost like a separate town.  And beach side Vero - another separate neighborhood - is at the intersection of State Highway A1A and State Road 60.

Although there are several ways to get there, you will enjoy your visit to Vero Beach no matter which route you take.

Historic Vero Beach Train DepotHistoric Vero Beach Train Depot

Vero Beach has an interesting history going back to its first post office in 1891, including how the name Vero came about.  You can read a Brief History of Vero Beach, Florida at the bottom of this page.

Mural in Downtown Vero BeachMural in Downtown Vero Beach

VERO BEACH FLORIDA:  THREE NEIGHBORHOODS

The city has three distinct areas:

  • Beach Side Vero on the oceanfront barrier island

  • Old Downtown Vero on the west side of the Indian River Lagoon

  • West of Downtown all the way out to I-95.

The beach side area of Vero Beach looks subtropical, with abundant lush vegetation and fine Florida mansions. The central beach area has its own little shopping district in the area where State Road 60 meets the ocean.

Vero Beach has wonderful beaches. The main beach is accessible from the Central Beach Business District. Many nice restaurants are in this district, along with a couple of motels and quite a few condos.

You will find the beach area of Vero Beach to be more laid back and not as touristy or junky as many other Florida beach side towns.

The Narrows on the Indian River at Vero BeachThe Narrows on the Indian River at Vero Beach

Downtown Vero Beach, on the mainland, is more typical of small Florida towns with the old railroad station and a lot of small retail businesses and antique shops.

The area west of Vero Beach straddling State Road 60 has a large regional mall and an outlet mall and many new sprawling subdivisions.

Modern Vero Beach is home to some of the most exclusive golf and marina oriented residential developments in Florida including Johns Island, The Moorings and Grand Harbor.

Vero Beach Florida Apartment BuildingPocahontas Apartments Vero Beach, Florida

Vero Beach is reportedly home to more retired Fortune 500 CEO's than any other location in the world and has the fourth highest concentration of wealthy households in the U.S. Most of these residents live on the exclusive barrier island that is divided from the mainland by the Indian River Lagoon.

Many of them refer to Vero Beach as "The Village". This designation as "Villagers" does not please some of the old time Vero Beach natives.

These wealthy transplants have helped to finance and create many cultural opportunities in Vero Beach.

Vero Beach Florida Antique StoreYesterdays Antiques, Vero Beach, Florida

The Vero Beach Theatre Guild started in 1958. The Vero Beach Concert Association began presenting concerts in 1966. Riverside Theatre opened in 1974, and the Center for the Arts in 1986.

Vero also has several entries in the National Register of Historic Places including the Vero Railroad Station, Driftwood Inn, McKee Jungle Gardens and the Old Palmetto Hotel.

Piper Aircraft Inc. has been building Piper airplanes in Vero Beach since 1957 in a plant at the municipal airport. Piper is the largest private employer in Indian River County.

Most business activity other than Piper is tourism or citrus based. Vero Beach's busiest tourist season is from December through April.

OUR FAVORITE VERO BEACH RESTAURANTS

  • Italian Grill, 2180 58th Avenue, Vero Beach FL 32966. 772-567-6640. Out west between downtown and I-95 near the big regional mall. Great pasta and other Italian dishes, fine Italian dining, good wine selection, nice ambience. I love their grilled chicken and sausage. Pizza appetizers are good too.

  • Ocean Grill, 1050 Sexton Plaza, Vero Beach Florida 32963. 772-231-5409. This restaurant has beautiful views of the ocean and the food is better than average but not quite great. I have eaten there for 40 years and never had a bad meal. It is a must place to visit in beachside Vero.

SOME VERO BEACH ATTRACTIONS

  • McKee Botanical Garden, 350 US Highway 1, Vero Beach FL 32962. 772-794-0601. This place is famous for its 18 acre subtropical jungle hammock. This dense and diverse botanical garden also includes several restored architectural treasures. The garden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a historic Florida landmark.
  • Vero Beach Museum of Art, 3001 Riverside Park Drive, Vero Beach FL 32963. 772-231-0707. This museum is the main visual arts venue in the entire Indian River region. Its neoclassical structure is located in beautiful Riverside Park on the Indian River Lagoon. It has numerous exhibitions, collections, gallery tours, studio and classroom art and humanities education for youth and adults, cinema, community events, lectures, seminars, concerts, dramatic performances and cultural celebrations.
Vero Beach Florida Museum of ArtVero Beach Museum of Art

OUR FAVORITE VERO BEACH HOTELS

The area round the I-95 interchange at State Road 60 has several decent chain motels, including Country Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express, and Howard Johnson Express.

These motels are 8 miles away from downtown Vero Beach, however, and I prefer the places below closer to town.  We have included a link to Tripadvisor at the end of this page, but we also have a couple of favorites we recommend.

The two places I recommend below are both in beach side Vero.

  • The Caribbean Court, 1601 S. Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32963. 772-231-7211. This 18 room place has beach access and a heated pool. It is located in the choice beach area of Vero Beach. Antique furnishings, hand-painted tiles and original artwork give the room a Caribbean feel. Enjoy live music, tapas and spirits at Havana Nights Piano Bar and the extraordinary cuisine of Maison Martinique Restaurant. 
Vero Beach Florida Caribbean CourtCaribbean Court, Vero Beach, Florida
  • The Driftwood Inn, 3150 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32963. 772-231-0550. This is a time share resort with rooms available to rent. It is built entirely from ocean-washed timbers and planks, housing some of the world's most beautiful art objects, antiques, and artifacts. Its located in the central beach district, directly on the Atlantic Ocean. The Driftwood offers casual dining either inside or poolside at Waldo's Open Air Deck, named after Waldo Sexton, the unique pioneer responsible for building and furnishing the place.
Driftwood Inn, Vero Beach, FloridaDriftwood Inn, Vero Beach, Florida

BRIEF HISTORY OF VERO BEACH, FLORIDA

The modern history of Vero Beach, Florida begins with its establishment as a citrus shipping point.  

Henry T. Gifford started the first post office in the area in 1891 and used the name Vero.  Most historians think he named it after his wife, Vero.  The Beach was added to her name in later years.

There are other theories about how Vero got it's name, but this is the one we like because how many women do you know named Vero? 

Liberty Park Downtown Vero Beach in 1925Liberty Park Downtown Vero Beach in 1925

The city straddles the Indian River Lagoon, home of the famous Indian River citrus.  Early transportation and commerce relied on the Indian River steamboat system.  Citrus was packed in Vero Beach and shipped via the Indian River to Jacksonville and from there to northern ports.

The portion of the Indian River in Vero Beach, between the mainland and the barrier island to the east on the ocean, is known as "The Narrows".

The history of Vero Beach changed dramatically when Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad made it to Vero in 1893 on its push down the east coast and began the modern era of Vero Beach.

Vintage Postcard Sleepy Eye Lodge Vero BeachVintage Postcard Sleepy Eye Lodge Vero Beach

Shortly after the railroad came, developers began to drain the marshy land west of town and created thousands of acres of citrus groves.

Early Vero Beach Families

Foremost among these developers was Herman Zeuch (prounounced Zigh as in sigh), originally from Iowa. Sometime about 1911 he purchased 48,000 acres for citrus operations. In 1912 he formed the Indian River Farms Company, and hired William Kimball, a civil engineer, and his assistant, Colonel R. D. Carter to design the improvements.

Rose Garden,  Later Known as Marvin Gardens, now goneRose Garden, Later Known as Marvin Gardens, now gone

The Zeuch, Kimball and Carter families are still represented today in Vero Beach Florida.

These early pioneers foresaw the growth of their little village, and laid it out with wide streets that are now lined with beautiful coconut, royal and date palms. They changed the name from Vero to Vero Beach Florida.

Vintage Postcard Driftwood Inn Vero BeachVintage Postcard Driftwood Inn Vero Beach

Waldo Sexton

No history of Vero Beach would be complete without mentioning Waldo Sexton (1885-1967), a local character who was a successful citrus grower and real estate developer.   He came to Vero Beach in 1914 and purchased land, planted groves and prospered.

He was also a collector of unusual artifacts and a beachcomber, and built the Driftwood Inn out of driftwood and other material he picked up off the beach.

His inn and promotional efforts went a long way in gaining Vero Beach a national reputation as a tourist destination.

Wikipedia says this about Waldo Sexton:

One journalist described the businessman and artist who created such unusual attractions: “Sexton was a man who was not afraid to render an opinion and who never hesitated to embroider a story. He loved martinis and women, bells and things from the sea, and he possessed a compelling urge to create. Some people called him an irresponsible screwball, an untruth he shrewdly did not deny, knowing that the world loves an eccentric.

The Driftwood Inn still stands today on the ocean in Vero Beach. It is now a popular tourist destination known as The Driftwood Resort with a good bar and restaurant and plenty of charming time share rooms.

The inn is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Vero Man - The Ancient Skeleton

In 1916 early skeletal remains were found along Van Valkenberg's Creek which were believed to be prehistoric and named "Vero Man".The discovery created an international controversy over whether it provided the first evidence that human beings had inhabited the 'new world' prior to the end of the Wisconsin glaciation around 10,000 BC.

Experts could never reach an agreement and the remains were eventually lost just prior to the invention of Carbon-14 dating in 1947. We may never know who lost the bones and how old they were.

McKee Jungle Gardens Vero BeachMcKee Jungle Gardens Vero Beach

McKee Jungle Gardens

In 1931, Ohio industrialist Arthur McKee, who loved the study of tropical plants, opened McKee Jungle Gardens with Waldo Sexton as his business partner.

He and Sexton had been friends for many years, and Waldo had an active role in designing and managing the attraction.This became a very popular tourist attraction until recent years when part of it was sold for a residential development.

Cabin on Jungle Trail near Johns Island, Vero BeachCabin on Jungle Trail near Johns Island, Vero Beach

Johns Island

In 1969 a developer named E. Llwyd Ecclestone, Sr. changed Vero Beach forever when he began development of Johns Island.  This private community on A1A north of Vero Beach attracted hundreds of wealthy northern businessmen who brought signficant money and corporate presence into the area.Many of those early Johns Island residents referred to nearby Vero Beach as "The Village" and its citizens as "villagers".

Vero Beach Dodgertown BillboardVero Beach Dodgertown Billboard

Dodgertown

Vero Beach was also famous as the location of Dodgertown, where the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team held their spring training camp from 1948 until 2008.It was a sad day for Vero Beach and surrounding towns when the Dodgers moved to a new facility in Glendale, Arizona. The stadium was also the home to the minor league Vero Beach Devil Rays.

More bad news came to Vero Beach in August 2008 when the Rays franchise was sold to the Ripken Baseball Group and it was learned the team would not return to Vero Beach for the 2009 season.

Vintage Postcard Vero Beach AirportVintage Postcard Vero Beach Airport

Piper Aircraft

Piper Aircraft Inc. has been building Piper airplanes in Vero Beach since 1957 in a plant at the Vero Beach Municipal Airport. Piper was one time the largest private employer in Indian River County and is prominent in the history of Vero Beach.The company has had problems in recent years and is now owned by the Government of Brunei.

Disney's Vero Beach ResortDisney's Vero Beach Resort

Disney's Vero Beach Resort

North of Vero Beach on the barrier island near Wabasso is Disney's Vero Beach Resort.  It is directly on the ocean and offers Disney's guests visiting Florida an authentic beach experience.  It opened in 1995 and has been successful from its earliest days.

Some other local history is at these links:   

The Old Wabasso Bridge is now at Walt Disney World

Winter Beach:  A Boom Time Town Lost to History



LOOKING FOR SOMETHING HOMIER AND MORE PRIVATE THAN A HOTEL OR MOTEL? TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE VACATION HOMES AVAILABLE FOR RENT IN THE AREA

VRBO

INTERACTIVE MAP OF VERO BEACH, FLORIDA


YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE



Our Facebook page has more than 101,638 followers who love off the beaten path Florida: towns, tourist attractions, maps, lodging, food, festivals, scenic road trips, day trips, history, culture, nostalgia, and more.

Take a look. If you enjoy what you see, please give us a like.

OUR FACEBOOK PAGE



Subscribe to our Free Ezine, Florida Heritage Travel


Mike Miller of FloridaBackroadsTravel.com has written 25 books on Florida.  

Click on the cover display to see his Amazon author page.

20191220-73-154-GI16.4/20200506-56-113-10.5/20200506-39-59-3.0 history of vero beach

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Florida Towns
  4.  ›
  5. Vero Beach