Vero Beach and Sebastian sit on what’s called Florida’s “Treasure Coast!” This area, located right in the middle of the east coast, gained its name due to an amazing diver named Mel Fisher. Fisher discovered many beautiful many treasures in the reefs off the east coast of Florida, many of which are on display in the area at the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum.
This coastal area contains some small towns: Sebastian, Fellsmere, Winter Beach, Gifford, and the larger city of Vero Beach. Here are the top picks of free things to do in the area. Don’t forget to check out the map at the bottom for locations.
The Sebastian inlet is a favorite among fisherman, surfers, tourists, locals, and beachgoers. It has much to offer. There is an $8 entry fee per car – $4 if you are a single car rider- but if you plan on being there for the day, it is worth it. The inlet has two entrances. The main entrance will take you to the tidal pool, fishing area, or beach for surfing. The secondary entrance takes you to the campground and boat ramp. You can launch a kayak or boat there ($4 fee for the boat ramp).
At the main entrance, the beach section has excellent surf during the winter and spring seasons – just park in the paved parking lot and walk past the restaurant to the beach access. On the other side of the main entrance, in the gravel parking lot, is the tidal pool area – great for kids as it’s usually fairly shallow when the tide is out. The tidal pool is known to often have manatees and dolphins swimming in it!
View our 360 video tour of the tidal pool area. The beach by the tidal pool has plenty of room to set up a tent or picnic on the beach. On the far side of the beach is a string of rocks to stand on and fish. These rocks separate the tidal pool from the rest of the inlet. During the weekends, the inlet is PACKED so get there early or visit during the week. They are open 24 hours.
This has got to be one of the cleanest and well kept suburban farms I’ve seen. Located down a tiny dirt road, is a family owned farm by Laura LaPorte. It is a donation based place to visit. The farm has birds, goats, chickens, bunnies, ponies, monkeys and a zebra! Feed is available for $1. Pony rides $5. The staff is so sweet there and the animals so friendly. Sometimes if you catch them at the right time you can hold a bunny or a baby chick. Check their website for annual events as well during Christmas, Fall, and Back to School. Read more in my blog post here
3. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and Historic Jungle Trail – FREE
This is by far one of the most natural places left in this area of Florida. Historic Jungle trail is a dirt road that has been kept in place and preserved for years. You can walk, bike, run or even drive down the road and see views of the river and shaded parts of Florida tropical woods. At the beginning of jungle trail is Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (pictured above – free also). Here you can walk a trail, launch a kayak, or birdwatch. There is a boardwalk to a tower where you can see over the river.
A small museum, but very rich in history and artifacts. This museum displays all of the treasures from Mel Fishers dives and a lot about the man himself. Even my young ones enjoyed this experience. There is a coupon listed on their website as well for $5 off admission.
During the summer months, the aquatic center opens. It has a zero entry pool with a small waterslide for the littles, and a bigger double water slide for the older kids and adults. They also have lane swimming and diving boards. Get there early on the weekends to grab a table!
Right on the river in Sebastian is a quaint park with a playground and a splash pad. There are docks you can walk or fish from across the street. During many weekends in the fall and spring there are various events at this park, including art festivals, shrimp festival, and the famous Sebastian clam bake.
When you venture down past Sebastian to the southern area of the county you will find round Island. You can access it from State road a1a (see map). This has long been one of my favorite spots to drop a kayak. We have often seen manatees hanging around the island that let you get up close. There is also a boat ramp and a trail you can walk on the island to a big tower. Playground and restrooms too. Usually it is not too crowded here and parking is easily found.
Also down in Vero Beach you can find a bunch of free and beautiful spots to park for the beach. My personal favorite is JC Park and Boardwalk. There is a playground, restroom, long boardwalk to walk, and an ice cream shop across the street for the kids. You can also drive farther south to find other public parking places.
This is a nature center right off the Indian River. They offer an indoor small museum and touch tank (see websites for times), 2 miles of boardwalks, beautiful garden areas to walk through, and lots of local information about wildlife and mangroves. This is an excellent educational spot for yourself or your children.
The admission price is also reduced for those in need. They offer free admission once a month (check their calendar). In addition, the center has an ELC/Earth day every March where they open the whole place for free and have vendors and games. Read more about the ELC on my blog post here.