Vero Beach

For two weeks this past summer we went to beautiful Vero Beach, Florida.  We rented a home on the beach right on the border of Vero Beach and Fort Pierce.  Most days it felt like we had the entire beach to ourselves, we were in a location that was far enough away from all of the hotels and condominiums that we really only saw a handful of people out walking each day.  Our days were filled with relaxing, eating, swimming, building sandcastles, kayaking, fishing, diving, exercising, eating, swimming, relaxing…you get the idea.

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Most of our meals were home cooked so that we didn’t have to leave the beach and get 5 kids ready to go sit at a restaurant.  However, we did try a few good ones…a couple more than once, I’ve “reviewed” them below.
The first morning that we were there I tried to run on the beach and found that it was too lumpy and soft and running was hard on my knees, so I found Riverside Park, and I would go there most days for a long run.  It is a beautiful park with lots of trees, and has a fitness circuit which was shaded under big trees, there were always a lot of people walking, playing tennis, etc… and it is right on the bay so it was a beautiful run.  I’d be lying if I said the weather was perfect for running…it was hot and humid most days, and the biggest and most annoying thing about Vero beach is the no-see-ums, which basically prevent you from going outside early in the morning or anytime at or after sunset.  These little tiny gnat sized bugs, will literally eat you alive.  They are so annoying and the bites are so painful that you just can’t be outside when they are swarming!  So that meant no early sunrise runs.  Adjacent to Riverside park is the Veteran Memorial Island Sanctuary, it contains memorials to the men and women of Indian River County who died in combat while fighting for our country.  It is really peaceful and beautiful.  I enjoyed walking through there after my run.

Next to the park is Vero Tackle and Marina http://verotackle.com/.   I rented fishing poles and bought bait from them, the staff was very friendly and informative….however, we didn’t catch much of anything other then nasty Catfish….we discovered are overpopulated and have a venomous  sail tip, great to know since I’m always the one taking anything anyone catches off the line.

IMG_7578I was able to get bait and two poles for several days and they were nice enough to give me a couple days at no extra charge.  They offer fishing charters, which I wish we had done, I would definitely recommend them.

I really wanted to go Scuba diving since it has been a couple of years since we’ve gone to a beach that actually had diving.  Although there aren’t any dive locations in Vero Beach, just a short drive north to Jupiter or North Palm Beach you will find some great dives.  I went with Jupiter Dive Center.  I’d like to say it was the best dive I’ve ever been on, however there was quite a currant and the second dive got a little scary.  The staff was friendly, and informative about the dive sites and what to expect.  They definitely expect you to be a very confident and trained diver, because they don’t do very much guiding when you are on the actual dive.  We did two drift dives, on the first dive my rental equipment didn’t work correctly and I had to get back on the boat and switch it out, which meant the group I was supposed to go down with, went without me.  Luckily for me two guys came back up because they needed more weight, one of them is a professional photographer for the dive company and he was nice enough to let me tag along with them.  Which for me ended up being quite lucky, we had a great dive and saw several very large loggerhead sea turtles which is absolutely my favorite animal, so I was in awe.  When we came up from the dive we heard the other group never found the reef and spent their dive looking at white sand…which was a little odd since they were with the guide.  On the second dive there was a fierce currant and I spent the entire dive fighting it, at one point it was pulling me so far off the reef I had to come.  I ended up really far from the boat and was pretty scared knowing that it was difficult for them to see or hear me, eventually my bubble watching husband finally watched for some bubbles and spotted me.  I’m not sure I really want to do a another drift dive!  It was a beautiful dive, lots to see, and we enjoyed the long boat ride to the reef and back.

We had three kayaks at the house we were staying at, so a couple of times when the water was calm enough we took them out.  It was great exercise and we saw dolphins, sea turtles, jelly fish, flying fish, etc…my youngest daughter came with me one time and thought it was so cool.  The problem is in Vero beach the waves get pretty big sometimes, which was fun for boogie boarding, not so much for kayaking.

On a whim we rented a boat….and had quite an adventure.   my husband was the only man in Vero beach that day with us so it was five kids, my 84 year old grandmother, my mom, sister, husband and myself.  When we rented the boat the man working at the marina gave us a boater guide with channels that maybe a professional could read, it was pretty intimidating, and he didn’t offer much help.  We probably should have decided this wasn’t a great plan, but we have experience boating in the ocean so we decided we’d be okay, and off we went.  About an hour into the rental we were flying along at probably 40 mph  and came to an abrupt stop, luckily no one was hurt…but we were stuck!  And I mean really stuck!  My sister and I along with my husband tried to push, pull, rock the boat loose from the sand bar we had wedged our self onto, and of course I was driving so I’ll not be living this down anytime soon.  We had gotten out of the channel by maybe 10 feet and it went from being 20 feet deep to 1 foot deep.  We called the marina we rented from and they said they’d send someone to help us.  We kept trying to get the boat loose, but could not budge it at all.  We waited for over an hour and with no sign help was coming, we finally decided to try getting everyone off the boat including the kids.  My granny stayed with the 3 year old but other than that we all got in an pushed.  Somehow we managed to move it deep enough to back out….what a relief!  As we headed back to the marina we passed the boat that was finally heading to help us.  The whole reason I am even telling this lengthy embarrassing story is the owners of the marina that we rented from were so unbelievably rude and hateful to us that I’d never want anyone to rent from them again.  We had five little kids and an 84 year old woman on board, and they were yelling at us when we got back, they didn’t care to come help us and left us sitting out there for two hours before sending a boat to try and help.  So if you’re in Vero Beach…don’t rent a boat if you are not super comfortable with following a boater map or rent a boat with great nautical equipment.  And definitely don’t rent from this company: http://www.florida-boat-rentals.net/boat-rental.php

Vero Beach Restaurants:

Cobalt Restaurant
Cobalt Restaurant and Lounge is located within the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa. The restaurant and patio sit right on the sand with ocean views from every table. We sat inside near a window, and had a pretty big group of thirteen. We enjoyed walking outside on the patio overlooking the ocean for some great sunset pictures. I started my dinner with the Toasted Farro Salad with avocado puree, quinoa, basil, tomato escabeche. I obviously chose this for the sheer fact that it had quinoa. It was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. My grandmother and a few other people had the Lobster Bisque which I tried and it was very good, but extremely rich as you’d expect from any good bisque. For my entree I chose the Pan Seared Snapper, which was delicious. My niece who is adventurous wanted the Swordfish which she really liked as well. Other entrees ordered at the table were Braised Short Ribs, Ribeye, and Sous Vide Chicken Breast. If I ever have the chance to visit again I’ll try the Scallops, they looked delicious. The dinner was very good, my only disappointment was that I had to leave early to take home some tired kids so I missed the desserts, however I heard they were decadent and not one bite was left over. The staff was very friendly, the food was very good, the view was amazing, I’d definitely recommend this restaurant if your looking for an upscale fine dining restaurant with amazing ocean views, this is the place.

For Something far more casual, we enjoyed the Original Tiki Bar in Fort Pierce.
The Tiki Bar
The Original Tiki Bar has been serving up great food and drinks in a tropical setting overlooking the Indian River since 1990. Don’t let the word bar fool you into thinking you’ll be eating bar food….the menu is diverse and everything we had was amazing, so much so that we went back three times. The third time we went there was a Jimmy Buffett Cover band playing and he was really good!
For Appetizers our favorite choices were the Buffalo wings which you can order mild, medium, hot or barbeque style, and we loved the bahemian Conch Fritters and the Fried Calamari. Yes I realize this all sounds like bar food, but wait…
For Sandwiches our table enjoyed the Lobster Salad Roll very much, the fresh blackened Fish Tacos and the Cuban Sandwich were also big hits.
My favorite meal the entire time we were on vacation was at this restaurant. I had the Fresh Catch of the Day, blackened with mango salsa, carribean rice, and sauteed spinach. If you choose to try the catch of the day you can order it blackened, grilled, fried or pan seared. You also can choose to add a sauce/topping of either citrus herb butter, mango salsa or florentine, and then you get to pick two sides. The catch of the day was a whole hogfish, which I had never had before, it was delicious!IMG_7638

If You are in our around Fort Pierce or Vero Beach, go to the Original Tiki Bar, it won’t disappoint!

The Ocean Grill

Another great restaurant we tried is the Historical Ocean Grill, which was built nearly 70 years ago and has a very interesting historical background.  You can read about it here: http://www.ocean-grill.com/Our-Story.html

The restaurant sits right onthe beach, and we had a very good dinner, with way too much food at a large round table right in the middle of the restaurant.  We were excited to have our entire family back for one last dinner before we we headed home, as some of them had left for a few days to return to the real world.  We were pleasantly surprised to be seated at such a nice table since we made a last minute reservation.

We started our dinner with several appetizers for the table, we were very hungry!  We had the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, bubbling crab dip, Baked Brie, and a Mountain of Homemade Onion Rings.  The Shrimp Cocktail was like most you would expect…the shrimp were large and perfectly cooked.  The crab dip was good, a little on the heavy side, but I think that’s the point.  The Baked Brie was also very good served in a pastry shell with a chili drizzle.  We ordered the largest possible order of Onion Rings and almost devoured the entire plate, they were great big onion rings cooked perfectly in a light flaky batter.  The appetizers were accompanied by fresh homemade bread and crackers.  After all that bread and appetizers by the time our entrees arrived we were all pretty stuffed, but it didn’t stop us from over indulging.

There were 12 of us at dinner and I think we tried twelve different entrees!  Obviously, I won’t comment on all or even most of them.  I had the red snapper special which was very good, but not as good as my fish at the Tiki Bar.  The chef at Ocean Grill often prepares three fresh fish specials to choose from each night.  With all entrees you can choose from two sides or for an additional cost they offer even more sides such as fresh broccoli, asparagus or a side wedge or hearts of palm salad.  I had the southern pecan rice which was quite good, and the grilled broccoli.  There are so many choices to choose from on the menu: steaks, seafood of every kinds, pork chops, chicken duck, pasta and even a Kobe burger,  so it wasn’t hard to find something for everyone.  My granny who was sitting next to me at the table ordered the Pesto Primavera which has lots of vegetables over multi-grain angel hair pasta with a pesto sauce, it might have been the best thing I tasted.  My husband chose the Fisherman’s Catch which is designed for the person who can’t decide which fish they want to try and also the person who likes everything fried (which describes my husband perfectly), it includes a platter of deep fried scallops, shrimp, fish fingers, plus a jumbo lump crab cake.  He said it was really good, but way too much food!  This might be something you share, especially if you have all the appetizers and bread that we did.

I’m embarrassed to say that after all that food we also ordered dessert!!  Mostly because our kids sat through a long dinner and it didn’t seem fair to skip their favorite course, plus their desserts sounded amazing and with the exception of the lava cake they are all homemade!  The table shared Key Lime Pie, Brownie Supreme, and Birthday Cake.  I didn’t try any of them because I was just way to full, however I can tell you if they tasted as amazing as they looked then you should save some room!

Overall, we really enjoyed the Ocean Grill and highly recommend it on your next visit to Vero Beach.

Blue Water Beach Grill

The Blue Water Beach Grill is owned by the same people that own the Tiki Bar, so we had high hopes and also liked the location because it’s right near the beach.  This place is a dive for sure and disappointingly their patio doesn’t look out at the ocean, but rather a small street and parking lot, and is also quite small.  We doused ourselves in off and sat out on the tiny patio table overlooking the street.  We enjoyed the food, but I would definitely say they don’t compare at all to the Tiki Bar.

They do have some interesting menu items, such as their surf dogs, which you can order plain, taco style, philly cheese stake style or with slaw.  They also have several taco options such as fish, shrimp, ground beef, chicken, pork and even ahi tuna.

We started dinner with a few appetizers, imagine that!  We had the bluewater fritters which were a big hit with roasted corn, jalapenos and pineapple in a sweet batter served with powdered sugar and honey, yum!  We also had the Conch Fritters, which were similar to the ones we had at the Tiki Bar.  We tried the onion rings which were on the small side, the chips and salsa, which were average, and the hot crab and queso dip, which everyone seemed to really like.  We also ordered their mild buffalo chicken wings which came with a really good sauce.  I realize we order a lot of food, but we are also a big family : )

My sister tried the Shrimp and Grits, which was so rich, she really couldn’t even enjoy it.  I guess if you were looking for something very heavy this would be a good option.  A few people tried their burgers which come with several different topping choices.  They had some really delicious looking sandwiches, however I once again wanted fresh fish.  So for the special I tried the catch of the day which was a red fish, blackened.  Kinda boring I guess!

If I were to return to this restaurant, I think I’d stick with what they seem to be really good at, and that is fried baskets, fried sandwiches, and delicious appetizers.  Overall, we enjoyed the dinner, and finished with their churros which were quite good!

Other than these few restaurants, we cooked amazing dinners at home and enjoyed just being together.  Often ending our dinners with performances put on by our creative kiddos and a competitive game of cards.

On the last morning we were in Vero Beach, I braved the no-see-ums, getting eaten alive so that I could capture a few pictures of the beautiful sunrise.  It was frustrating because my lens was fogged over and was taking forever to clear, but the sunrise was just too pretty to not capture.

Sunrise 4

sunrise 1

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The Beach

The Beach 2

We truly enjoyed our family time in Vero Beach.  It is a great central location in Florida and the beach is beautiful, the water is warm, the restaurants we tried were all good, and there is plenty to do.  We actually started our vacation at Disney and Universal because it was a quick hour and a half drive from Orlando to Vero Beach.  I’m not sure we will go back soon, but that is only because we’ve been to so many other places we also loved!

Definitely worth the visit and relaxation!

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