Vero Beach, Florida:
Fun for Even the Old and Unhip
Ok, ok, there are those who love Miami's hipness. That cool South Florida feeling, those many Cubanos, and that sizzling nightlife. Contrast that with 'Zero Beach,' as some locals jokingly referred to the city of 21,000. Here the lights go out at 10 pm, and there's more emphasis on outdoor activities like kayaking or early morning beach strolling.
Our day began on a hot Vero afternoon, driving the long and straight Highway 60 from Orlando, past endless traffic lights til we reached a big bridge. We looked down and followed sailboats lazily navigating the calm waters below.
With his partner Elizabeth Kennedy, Boris has created a cozy boutique hotel called The Caribbean Court, which stands out for its cool decor and updated ambience.
One of the first things we did upon arrival was sit for some strong Cuban coffee and meet Boris, who was born in Havana and educated and raised in Spain and later the U.S. Elizabeth also runs a busy catering company in Vero.
This dynamic pair has created a big buzz on the sleepy island with their Havana Nights piano bar, a compact little bar with mojitos on the menu and a hip clientele.
It's packed on the weekends. Elizabeth told us that Vero is called by some 'the Hamptons of Miami,' where big-city folk come to relax and unwind. Vero is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up the East coast, but really a world away, she said.
As a result almost every beachfront building is new. The people who lived through it still talk about how ferocious the winds and the water were that fall day.
Built Dade County Strong
The upside to all of the required rebuilding was that the structures are now built to comply with the so-called "Dade County" regulations, which requires substantially tougher construction, steel reinforcements, and a host of other good ways to keep nature from destroying what man builds near the sea.
One high-rise condo sits eerily still, appearing to be in fine shape -- but inside the walls and wiring are wrecked and the building is condemned.
It was a great way to get to see the town and the fisherman who ply the waters under the bridge over the Intercoastal waterway. Rentals are $20 per day or $47 per week, and well worth it if you want to see the best parts of the island.
Up to Capt Hirams
Across the street is a quieter option, the Inn at Captain Hirams, a simple hotel right near the ocean.
Boaters flock to Hirams and tie up right out at the docks. It's fun to have a drink and watch the activities on the water, with vessels large and small passing by on the Intracoastal waterway.
The woman to call is Kristen Beck of Kayaks Etc, a former member of the US Whitewater paddling team and an excellent guide for any level paddler. She knows these waterways and the Indian River well and can take you to see birds, manatees and the quiet of nature right outside of Vero.
After we returned from our trip I was asked by a recently separated mother of two girls about suggestions for a family vacation.
"Vero Beach," I answered quickly, since it's easy to reach, relatively inexpensive, and has beautiful free beaches and plenty of good accommodations.
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