One of the best ways to get out into unspoiled nature on the East Coast of Florida, is to explore one of the many islands in the Indian River Lagoon. Many islands in the lagoon require you to paddle to them. However, two of these great islands you can access with your car! Located along state road A1A, which sits between the river and the beach; Round Island and Jack Island are excellent places to visit.
Both are fairly easy to get to, and often not crowded during the week. We found a Friday open in our schedule and decided to make another trip down to visit. Explore by bike or on foot at Jack Island, which has a few miles of trails. At Round Island, explore the island by foot, or cruise around in on a boat or kayak.
Jack Island State Park is great for biking and hiking – it has a few miles of trails. Fortunately, it costs only $2 to head out to the island (there is a self pay station just before the bridge). The main trail on the island is a long loop that runs about 2 miles around the perimeter. We took bikes, but hiking and running would also be suitable along this path. There is also a shorter path that leads to views of the river from a tower (currently under construction as of January 2022).
As you cruise around the island, you will find views of the river and many different smaller canals. Keep an eye out and you might see some wildlife, such as commodore birds and alligators. We didn’t happen to catch any gators while we were there. We took the kids down the path to the tower and then around the outer loop on our bikes. The entire trip took about an hour and we rode just under 3 miles.
After riding Jack Island and recovering for snacks and lunch, we headed just up the road to Round Island Park. Also located on the river, it’s a five minute drive north of Jack Island. Round Island has a river access and a beachfront park. both are completely free.
The river park is an excelled spot for a picnic lunch. Pictured above is a large dock that wraps from the boat ramp. Great spot to set yourself up fishing or watching the sunset. At the park, you will also find a boat ramp, playground, bathroom, and a kayak launch area. I highly recommend launching a kayak here. There are usually manatees, and this is the ONLY place in Florida we were have had manatees actually approach our kayak. My husband and daughter a few years ago were able to pet the manatees. They came up, rolled over, and wanted their bellies to be rubbed like a dog!
If you don’t have a kayak or a boat, there is a footbridge that heads over to the island to walk – see picture above. The path on this island is much different front Jack Island. Gone are the grassy paths and the mangroves and scrub brush. On Round Island, it’s a wooded area. There are tall trees and fallen pine needle path. The are a few access points to view the water here as well, including a dock, which is a straight shot from the footbridge (5 min walk).
Slightly to the left, you will find a huge, 4 story viewing tower. This is one of my favorite spots to view the lagoon. We took our kids to view the water from the top of the tower here as well before heading home.
That about sums up our day trip to Jack Island and Round Island. Thanks for reading! Discover more things to do in this area on our page about Vero Beach!
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