Less than two hours from Orlando on Florida’s east coast, Vero Beach is a great family friendly place to visit. In my opinion it’s one of the best beaches close to Walt Disney World, perfect for a day trip from Orlando, or a wonderful stop to make on an east coast Florida road trip. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Vero Beach with kids.
Go to the beach
The best thing about Vero Beach is definitely the beaches! While some of the beaches can get a bit busier, especially in the summer, we’ve found most of them to be pretty quiet most of the year.
There are plenty of places for public beach access along the Florida A1A, which is the road that runs through beachfront Vero. If you need somewhere with amenities, look for designated beach parks: Jaycee Park has public bathrooms, lifeguards on the beach, and a play area with picnic tables if you need some time off the sand.
The beach parks do get a little bit busy though, so look out for all of the other parking lots along the A1A for more quiet areas to park and access the beach. We typically stay towards Wabasso, which is the northern end of Vero Beach; these beaches are typically very empty as they’re more geared towards the locals. Just make sure you bring things like beach umbrellas and chairs with you as there won’t be anything like that available in those areas.
My main piece of advice for visiting the beach in Vero Beach is to bring plenty of bug spray. Especially in the morning and evening, biting midges (or no-see-ums) are absolutely everywhere and if you don’t have a good quality bug spray, you’re going to come away covered in bites.
Hunt for sea turtles
Last summer I got to cross something off my bucket list when we saw baby sea turtles hatch in Vero Beach, and it’s something I’d definitely recommend trying to see if you’re there during hatching season!
In early summer (May and June), if you hit the beach early you’ll see turtle tracks where sea turtles have come up onto the beaches during the night to lay their eggs. You’ll also see areas marked as nesting sites where local experts have determined there are sea turtle nests (make sure not to go too close to these!)
But if you visit in the late summer (typically July and August), you might be lucky enough to see those baby sea turtles hatching! Some hotels (including Disney’s Vero Beach resort) have programs where they’ll take guests down to the beach when they think a nest is about the hatch, so if you’re staying in Vero Beach then check to see if your hotel offers this.
If not, it’s pretty much just luck. We happened to be on the beach very early one morning (about 6.30am) and came across a nest hatching. Watching those little babies crawl out of their nest and head down the beach into the ocean was one of the best experiences of my life!
If you have very young kids, just remember to keep an eye on them. The hatchlings are tiny and can be literally all over the beach; I was scared to move my feet in case I stepped on one, and ended up picking my son up because I was worried he’d do the same!
Visit Sebastian Inlet State Park
One of my favorite state parks in all of Florida is Sebastian Inlet State Park, which is about a 30 minute drive from Vero Beach. The park has a campground if you want to stay over, but it’s also a great place for a day trip from Vero Beach and there is plenty to do.
We love the park because it has a tide pool that’s perfect for kids. While it does get deep in the middle, all around the edges the water is shallow, warm, and calm, so kids can play without worrying about big waves.
This is also a great place to snorkel, especially for a child just starting out. The water is calm enough that it’s easy to just float along, but there are plenty of fish to see so there’s always something to look at. We’ve even seen manatees and a sea turtle while snorkeling!
If you happen to be in the park in the evening, look for dolphins in the tide pool as well! The pool leads right out to the ocean so it’s not uncommon to see them swimming around the pool at night once most of the crowds have cleared out, and you can go right in and swim with them!
Aside from the tide pool, the park has beautiful beaches (including some of the best places to find starfish and hermit crabs), a restaurant, public bathrooms, and plenty of hiking trails. My kids love it and ask to visit every time we’re in Vero Beach.
Look for manatees at Round Island Beach and Riverside Park
Round Island Park is a park that straddles both sides of Florida A1A; on one side is a beautiful sandy beach and on the other is a stretch of water that is the perfect place to spot manatees.
Make sure you park on the correct side for where you want to be: if you want to go to the beach, you want Round Island Beach Park and if you want the riverside, park in Round Island Riverside Park. It is possible to cross the street to go back and forth but the road can be busy.
Round Island Riverside Park has a parking lot with a small kids playground, a place to bring kayaks, and a couple of boardwalks where you’re most likely to see manatees. We found our first large male manatee within about five minutes of being there, and other people we saw had seen a mother and her calf as well.
The park also has a couple of trails and a really cool lookout that has amazing views over the water. While the trails are mostly shaded, they do get hot in the middle of the day and I’d definitely recommend bringing bug spray.
Watch the sunset from Riverside Park
Not to be confused with Round Island Riverside Park is Riverside Park (sometimes known as Riverside Park South). This is a large park with a playground, a walking/running track, and a docks where you can fish. All of that is great, but the reason we always go is to watch the sunset.
The sunset from Riverside Park is one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen anywhere in my life. As you look south over the water you see the Merril P Barber bridge with the sun setting behind it and it’s absolutely spectacular. Every time I’ve seen it the sunset is amazing, but I’ve found the on days that have been a bit wet, the sunset is even more impressive.
Once again, this is somewhere you want to bring bug spray. The docks can also get crowded so if you know you want to get a good picture, make sure you time your arrival well before sunset; we usually arrive about 45 minutes before to get a good spot.
Family friendly restaurants in Vero Beach
Vero Beach has quite a few upscale restaurants in South Beach, which is the main downtown beach area, but not all of them particularly cater to families. There are some that I love taking the kids to, however, and we all really enjoy the food.
Red Onion Eatery is a great sandwich shop that uses lots of local ingredients. Their lobster roll is one of the best, and they have a great breakfast menu as well.
The Lemon Café is a small, casual restaurant with a great menu and really reasonable prices. They have seasonal menus and their fish sandwiches are so good!
Casey’s Place is another casual restaurant featuring outdoor seating not far from the beach. They don’t take reservations and you place your order at the counter before sitting down, so be prepared to be a little bit patient during the busy lunch rush. Their menu features salads, sandwiches, and burgers, and the staff are all really friendly.
Smiley Riley’s make amazing sundaes and milkshakes, and the portions are huge! I’d definitely recommend trying the salted caramel ice cream, it’s some of the best I’ve ever tried!
Where to stay in Vero Beach
While we usually stay in a house when we go to Vero Beach, my number one recommendation for where to stay in Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. This is one of my favorite Florida family beach resorts, and a great option for families.
With rooms ranging from fairly standard hotel rooms to 2-bedroom villas for those who need a bit more space, the resort is perfect for families of all sizes. The resort is right on the beach (literally steps away from the sand) and since it’s actually technically in Wabasso Beach, the beach is rarely crowded. There is also a pool complete with a water slide.
Being a Disney resort, there are plenty of activities to keep families occupied during the day, including complimentary pool and beach toys, volleyball, a pirate themed mini golf course, poolside activities, and a community hall with arts and crafts.
The hotel also features their own bars and restaurants as well as a store selling everything from beach accessories to grocery items in case you want to cook in your villa.
This resort is one of my favorites, and a great add on to a Walt Disney World vacation if you need a few days to decompress at the end of a busy week at the parks!