Covering 500 square miles of Florida's eastern coastline, just about halfway between Cocoa Beach and Miami on the famed Treasure Coast, Indian River County is the sleepy side of the Sunshine State. Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian are the major towns within the county, and the area boasts 100,000 acres of conservation land and 26 miles of pristine beach, making the area prime for guests who seek both sunshine and adventure.
There always seems to be a festival of some sort going on in Indian River. Art lovers, foodies, film buffs, oenophlles and ecotravelers will all find a festival or event they'll love in 2018 and will want to keep them coming back year after year. Here's some of the best of the fests:
For nature lovers
Because Indian River County is home to only just over 100,000 residents, there's plenty of wide-open spaces full of birds, wildlife and Florida's natural splendor. At the McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, June 16 marks the Waterlily Celebration, when the blush blossoms flower. The lilies are a signature of the gardens, and with more than 500 flowers, it's the largest collection in the state.
Bird-watchers should take flight to the Indian River County Birding Festival. The event, held in October, is a collaboration between the Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge in Vero Beach, and the Environmental Learning Center. The event hosts birding tours, so bring your binoculars, as well as talks with naturalists, night tours and bird-themed art.
For food and wine lovers
The Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival takes the stage June 7 to 10. Noted film critic Jeffrey Lyons is the emcee for the event, which the Huffington Post called the "new summer Sundance." Wineries, wines and winemakers from around the world descend on Indian River County during this time and set up shop in the area's swankiest locales. Florida's filmmakers show off their latest productions, and oenophiles swill sauvignon blanc and other vintages from around the globe.
New Englanders will feel right at home during the Sebastian Clambake, organized to benefit local nonprofit organizations. Past events have raised more than $600,000, and the money remains in the community. The clambake includes musical acts, historical re-enactments, a kids' play zone and live music in addition to all the corn, potatoes and butter-drenched bivalves you can eat.
Much of Florida is still considered the South, and there's no better time to taste real "Florida cracker" cooking than at the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival. This is some real local color, and kids will love going back to their friends to tell them what they ate on vacation. The festival is 25 years old, and both locals and visitors alike love the homespun Florida fun. Also on the menu: gator. Lots of it.
For art lovers
Eighty thousand visitors will descend on Indian River County's favorite gathering place, Riverside Park, to take part in the area's premier juried art show, Under the Oaks. More than 200 vendors will display there, including painters, jewelers and sculptors as well as glass, pottery and ceramics artists. Florida Magazine rated the festival the best arts and crafts festival in the state, and it was rated No. 2 in the 25th edition of Sunshine Artist's "100 Best Fine Arts and Design Shows in America."
All dressed up for the Hibiscus Festival in Vero Beach.
The downtown historical district of Vero Beach has been long seen as the area's arts district and is the backdrop for the Hibiscus Festival in early summer, this year from May 4 to 8. Exhibits include ceramics, metalwork, oil and acrylic paintings, sculpture, watercolors and woodworking.