Roseate spoonbills! We've seen several feeding in the shallows of the mudflats along this trail, but these are the first in a tree. Nesting, perhaps? Stepping away quietly from the birds so as not to disturb them, we continue back to the trailhead in the early morning mist.
Set aside in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge in America, Pelican Island NWR offers outstanding birding along Pete's and Bird's Impoundment Trails. A quick walk or accessible roll up the Centennial Trail brings you to a shaded perch with a telescope for spotting brown pelicans nesting on their namesake island. Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area has secluded birding spots and an observation deck along its mangrove-lined trails. If you haven’t seen a Florida scrub-jay, you’ll find them in the scrub at Indiro Savannahs Preserve.
At the Manatee Viewing Area near the 17th Street Bridge, manatees glide through Vero Beach all year long. Alligators abound at Stick Marsh, a popular bass fishing and birding location. At Archie Carr NWR, take a guided walk to see sea turtles nesting and hatching. Pick up a starfish from the touch tank at the Environmental Learning Center. Step inside the butterfly house at Orchid Island Botanicals to be among the winged beauties.
Slip your kayak into the Indian River Lagoon for a paddle between the mangrove islands and mud flats. Launching from Middleton’s Fish Camp, Blue Cypress Lake offers broad waters with awe-inspiring ancient cypresses, while the St. Sebastian River is a proven favorite for manatee sightings.
Play like you’re in the jungle at McKee Botanical Gardens, where tropical plants create cool corridors for walking. Along the interpretive boardwalks at the Environmental Learning Center, you'll see lots of lizards and you might even catch a glimpse of an otter. Bromeliads dangle like chandeliers in the oaks at Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, where uplands trails are lined with wild coffee. At the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, you can roam or ride more than 50 miles of trails.
Make a Splash
Cool off with 26 miles of beachfront fun. It’s a slice of paradise at Round Island Beach, where interactive displays tell the story of U-boats along Florida’s coast. Splash along the steep slopes at Wabasso Beach, or grab a sub for lunch and picnic at Humiston Park in the heart of Vero Beach before a dip in the sea.
From a gentle meander through the tropical wonders of McKee Botanical Garden to a paddle through the open waters of Blue Cypress Lake, Indian River County is Nature's Playground, a place for you and your family to explore and learn together.
This article was brought to you by the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce. To plan your trip to Indian River County, visit www.indianriverchamber.com.