Writing & photos by Sherry Nist*
“Welcome to Paradise” is an oft repeated greeting in Vero Beach. My conversations with Vero’s residents frequently include the word “paradise”. I like to ask residents I meet: “how (or why) did you decide to live in Vero Beach”? Responses almost always include: “why wouldn’t we live here, Vero is paradise”. Visitors I encounter are just as enamored with Vero and inevitably say “wow” when they learn I live in Vero. My response: “welcome to paradise”!
How many beaches does Vero have? How many have you been to? Many of us who live in and/or visit Indian River County may be surprised by the actual number of public beach access points and the beautiful beaches their pathways reveal.
Starting a beach discovery journey on Indian River County’s northern border with Brevard County and wandering all the way down A1A to the St. Lucie County line, one can dig their toes into the sand and inhale the salty air at a total of fifteen beaches.
Put on your sunscreen, grab your boards, a good book, some beach chairs and head out to one (or even ALL) of the idyllic beaches Indian River County and Vero Beach have to offer.
Our most northerly beach can be found at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Well known to surfers, anglers and treacherous to boaters, the Inlet offers camping and is the largest of our beaches. Three miles of beaches provide for swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, shelling or just chilling.
Sebastian Inlet has an interesting history as well. In 1872, Captain David P. Gibson spearheaded an effort to dig the inlet. In 1901, the first of six unsuccessful attempts to open the inlet took place. Immediately sand washed into the excavated inlet.
Today’s inlet owes its success to Roy OCouch. Roy successfully raised funds, formed the Sebastian Inlet Association and furiously lobbie the Florida legislature & Army Cos of Engineers for a permit to dredge the inlet. It took until 1924 to complete the dredging process and build several small jetties at the inlet. Over the years the forces of the Atlantic Ocean, Nor’easters & Hurricanes have waged war on the inlet and dredging has been a continual process.
Amber Sands Beach Access is located on North A1A (about six miles North of Route 510 & the Wabasso Bridge) within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
Continuing South on A1A, we find the Treasure Shores Beach Park. This beach has ADA (Americans With Disability Act) access, meaning it is handicap-accessible. Treasure Shores is about 3 miles North of 510 & the Wabasso Bridge.
Golden Sands Beach Park (North of the Wabasso Bridge) is handicap-accessible & also staffed by lifeguards.
If you drive due East from the Wabasso Bridge and cross A1A, you will discover Wabasso Beach Park. Wabasso Beach is handicap-accessible, staffed by lifeguards and even has a boardwalk. Wabasso Beach is a well known surfer hangout. There is also a great beach sundries & sub shop (think Penny Hill subs) just before the beach where you can shop for lunch and a beach bucket.
Sea Grape Trail Beach Access is a more rustic and quiet beach that lies about half-a-mile South of 510 & the Wabasso Bridge. Farther South on A1A Turtle Trail Beach Access has paved parking with boardwalk beach access but NO lifeguards. Rounding out the Indian River County beaches on the North side of Vero, is Tracking Station Beach Park. This beach is just to the East of the CVS and 7-11 in Indian River Shores and is guarded daily.
Jaycee Beach Park in Vero Beach is a popular beach for sunbathing, skimming, people watching and happens to be one of my favorite starting points for a beach stroll. Conn Beach Boardwalk runs along Jaycee Beach. Lifeguards staff the Jaycee Beach from 9:20am to 4:40pm daily. Just a short stroll to the South is Vero’s only pier, where many mornings you may find anglers casting their lines in the surf in pursuit of the “big one”.
Sexton Plaza Beach is not officially a city of Vero Beach nor Indian River County monitored beach but an article about beaches would be remiss without a mention. In some ways, Sexton Plaza Beach, the sand & surf (bordering Mulligan’s & Ocean Grill) is one of the most viewed, photographed and popular beaches on the Treasure Coast. On any given day, high school skimmers & their friends share the sand with snowbirds, tourists & local
Humiston Beach is connected to Humiston Park where families will find a fabulous, shaded playground, sheltered picnic tables & relaxing park benches for day dreaming. The Vero Beach Lifeguard Association (VBLA) has a small command center at Humiston Beach with plans for a new, state-of-the-art structure when the funds have been raised. Humiston is staffed with guards daily, has bathroom facilities & a popular concrete boardwalk that includes benches and a roofed pavilion for respite from the sun.
Another “unofficial” beach in Vero is RioMar Beach. Just a few blocks South of Humiston Beach & on the North side of the RioMar Beach Club (private) is a small parking lot leading to one of the most historical slices of beach on the Treasure Coast. If you walk South from RioMar, your toes will touch the very same sand where treasures and survivors of the Spanish wrecks of 1715 washed ashore. RioMar is also a very popular surf fishing spot.
I spend most of my beach time at South Beach getting a healthy dose of vitamin sea, chatting with surf casters, collecting treasures, capturing the sun’s rise and/or starting my day with Qi Gong. A favorite perch to great the sun or moon rise is on the deck of the VBLA’s guard tower. South Beach has two large parking lots, bathrooms, beach volleyball nets and dedicated areas for surfing, fishing & sunbathing.
Round Island Oceanside Park is one half of Round Island Park, one of Vero’s true outdoor gems, encompasses eighty-some acres once slated to become a resort in the 1920s. In 1925, the Kansas City Colony (a consortium from Kansas City, Missouri) acquired the property hoping to capitalize on the allure and entice fellow snowbirds to the Vero area. Somehow, their dream never got off the ground.
During World War II, the US Naval Amphibious Training Base out of Fort Pierce trained on Round Island’s beaches. Locals often referred to Round Island as “Normandy Beach” as many soldiers who trained here, stormed the beaches and fought at Normandy during one of World War II’s most famous battles.
Along Round Island’s beach and just offshore, Seabee Units placed obstacles to dissuade enemy landings. These obstacles included pyramid-shaped horned scullies (a Type III Horned Scully weighs 8 to 10 tons & a Type IV weighs in around 14 to 16 tons) and concrete spears. Rail fields and tank mines were placed on the beach as well.
Indian River County’s 1963 attempt to obtain Round Island (as well as Wabasso Island) from the Florida State Internal Improvement Fund (IIF) ran in to a Federal roadblock. At the time, the US Government claimed ownership of Round Island and it was two years before the IIF agreed to sell the land to the county for Park development.
In January 1965, a purchase offer was submitted to the Board of County Commissioners for 450 feet of beachfront across the street from Round Island in the Indian River Lagoon. For $108,000 Indian River County bought the “two islands” (Oceanside & Lagoonside) and the land extending from river to ocean. The purchase agreement stipulated that the county maintain the Park for “public convenience”.
Round Island Oceanside Park’s first section opened in April 1966. The park is at Indian River County’s border with St. Lucie County, 7.5 miles South of 17th Street and A1A. Round Island has ADA beach access, lifeguards and a launch area for catamarans (with lifeguard approval). While the beach is attraction enough, the local World War II history is reason enough to take a ride down A1A.
World War II History
Sebastian Inlet State Park (State of Florida)
Amber Sands Beach Access (IRC)
Treasure Shores Beach Park (IRC)
Golden Sands Beach Park (IRC)
Wabasso Beach Park (IRC)
Sea Grape Trail Beach Access (IRC)
Turtle Trail Beach Access (IRC)
Tracking Station Beach Park (IRC)
Jaycee Beach Park (VB)
Conn Beach (VB)
Humiston Beach Park (VB)
South Beach Park (VB)
Round Island Oceanside Park (IRC)
City of Vero Beach Ocean Parks
Vero Beach Lifeguard Association (VBLA)
By Sherry Nist, Vero Beach
- In 2011 Sherry founded eMedia Connections, a social media marketing & public relations consultancy while living in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is a “serial” entrepreneur who grew up outside Washington, DC, surrounded by technology and mainframe punch cards as the daughter of an IBM Systems Engineer.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, Sherry lived in Mexico City for two of her elementary school years. This experience was responsible for her love for language, culture, Spanish and the adventures of living abroad.
Sherry graduated with a BA from the University of South Carolina Honors College in Columbia, South Carolina with a double-major in Economics & International Studies. After graduation, her wanderlust took her to Steamboat, CO; San Francisco, CA; Beijing, China; Washington, DC; Nyack, NY and both Fredericksburg & Charlottesville, VA for the last 15 years. She moved to Vero Beach to stick her toes, permanently in the sand in early 2014.
- Sherry Nist is Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Vero Communiqué.
Vero Communiqué is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) not for profit online organization.