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Easy Beaches: Six Hassle-Free Florida Escapes

Vero Beach

Visualize a spot about halfway between Cape Canaveral and West Palm Beach. That’s Vero. The main part of the town is west of the Indian River Lagoon while the beaches, which stretch from Wabasso in the north to Fort Pierce Inlet in the south, are on the barrier island that fronts the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida’s Atlantic beaches are tan, not white, the sand is more coarse and the waves a bit rougher — in other words, real ocean beaches.

Ground zero is Beach Boulevard, which crosses the lagoon and heads due east, ending in Sexton Plaza, a parking area that overlooks the Atlantic. Radiating out from the plaza are restaurants and small shops that offer beach supplies, casual clothing and decor, along with more restaurants.

The beach in front of the plaza is very good, but can get crowded. Don’t worry; there’s plenty of room to spread out. Florida does not allow private property owners to acquire title to the beach itself. Even the strands that pass behind mega-million-dollar mansions are open to everyone.

At the north end of the barrier island, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was the first federal wildlife sanctuary in the U.S., established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. It adjoins Treasure Beach State Park, which has ample parking and undeveloped beachfront.

The park is well-named: remains of the first Spanish treasure fleet found in modern times are scattered along the coast of the barrier island and one, the “Cabin Wreck” was just off this beach. Just last year, hunters found 48 coins in the surf 100 feet from shore. You can see some of the treasure at the McLarty Museum.

Wabasso Beach also has ample parking and spacious sands. The beachfront south of there is lined with homes and resorts, but again, it’s all fair game for the sun seeker.

In addition to beachfront and off-beach hotels, there are condos and cottages for rent throughout the area. For the maximum in convenience, pay a little extra and get something on the beachside within walking distance of some sand. You may choose to drive a few miles north or south for a different view, but if you get lazy one day, you can just stroll down to the sea.

Average daily temperatures for February: Low – 54º F, high – 70º F
Average daily temperatures for July: Low – 74º F, high – 89º F

Airports: Melbourne International Airport (MLB), 35 miles away.

Florida beach travel tips

There’s a mid-peninsula climatological divide that defines the state’s two opposing high seasons. North of the Tampa Bay-Cape Canaveral line high season is summer while winter is the low season. South of that line, it’s the opposite, with hotels and beaches filling up with snowbirds during the winter while the crowds die down a bit in the summer. This also means there are off-season discounts available nearly year round, so if you’re looking for a deal on getting away from gray skies and sunny-and-60 sounds good, you can save a lot of cash and avoid the crowds by choosing a destination in Central or North Florida during the winter. Conversely, if you think a terrarium has the ideal climate and you’re okay with mid-90s and humid, you can get deals in South Florida at the height of the summer. In addition to checking the wholesalers (Expedia, Orbitz et al), check the hotels own websites; many are making a concerted effort to take back control of their inventory by offering best price guarantees and discounts for booking direct.

The airlines practice both seasonal and demand pricing, so you may find the fares lower in summer and higher in winter or vice versa depending on your destination. Your choice of airport matters a lot. The large airports (Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville) have the most flights and, usually, the lowest fares especially from the major northern hubs. However, discount carriers such as Allegiant now fly to some smaller airports including Punta Gorda (Venice) and Orlando-Sanford (New Smyrna Beach) with low fares from second-tier cities.