Vero Beach, Florida
Laid Back Vero Beach, Florida Beckons with its Miles of White Sand, Colorful Shops, Peaceful Neighborhoods and Somewhat Reasonably Priced Housing
Cost of Living: Below the National Average
Tucked along southeastern Florida's "Treasure Coast," Vero Beach (population 17,000) started out in the late-1800s. The railroad, the land boom of the 1920s and a navy base during WWII brought growth and prosperity. Today, this laid back seaside hamlet, with its gentle trade winds and lush tropical vegetation, exudes a quiet, gentle ambiance.
Thanks to strict zoning laws, high rise condominiums and commercial centers are few, and the miles of clean white sand beaches sparkle in the year-round sun. The town has a mix of middle class folks and some very wealthy residents, including some celebrities. It is popular with "snowbirds" and has some four-star resorts, including a Disney resort, but it does not attract the hordes of younger tourists often found in other coastal towns.
The demographic is mature, with 55% of the population age 45 or better. Most people lean to the right politically, and 32% of them hold at least a four year college degree. Racial diversity is minimal. The crime rate meets the national average. The city has grown by 2% in the last decade, and the cost of living is 3% below the national average.
The median home price is $240,000. Homes for sale include traditional ranch ramblers, Mediterranean ranch ramblers, manufactured homes, town homes and more in leafy, quiet neighbhorhoods (mainland Vero Beach neighborhoods to the north are not as nice as neighborhoods to the south). Vero Beach South, essentially a suburb south and west of Vero Beach and a bit more expensive, is peppered with master-planned subdivisions and gated developments.
The most expensive homes are on Orchid Island, also known as "beachside," the barrier island that is on the other side of the Indian River Lagoon. Most residences here are large, elegant and run into the millions of dollars.
However, Vista del Mar, also on Orchid Island, is an oceanfront 55+ condominium community with prices from the mid-$100,000s. Three bridges link the mainland to Orchid Island.
Florida is a friendly place when it comes to taxes and retirement. The state has no income tax, so no retirement income is taxed. All real estate is taxed at 100% of its assessed value, but homeowners who make their property their permanent residence are eligible for a homestead exemption of up to $50,000. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The second $25,000 applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes. The annual taxes on a $240,000 Vero Beach home are approximately $2,400.
Vero Beach, Florida
The economic underpinnings are citrus production, Piper Aircraft (the largest employer in the county) and tourism. Not a lot goes on here (some people call Vero Beach "Zero Beach"), but the Riverside Theatre is a professional regional theater, and the Vero Beach Museum of Art boasts a state-wide reputation for excellence. McKee Botanical Garden is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. The Indian River is popular for boating and fishing. Nightlife, though, is essentially non-existent.
Vero Beach has 12 named beaches, and they are the reason why many people live here. South Beach, long and often busy with volleyball games, is a great spot for collecting shells. Conn Beach has a boardwalk, and Humiston Beach is popular with fishermen. Treasure Shores is known for its amazing sand dunes.
The beaches, particularly Golden Shores, are also nesting ground for sea turtles. In fact, more than a quarter of the world's sea turtles nest in this area. Round Island Oceanside Park is perfect for spotting manatees, and to the north, Sebastian Inlet is the place for surfing.
The beach business district, awash in pastels and palm trees, has cute restaurants with menus that include Italian dishes, Asian feasts and fish such as pompano, cobia, unicorn filefish, tripletail, snook and more. The delightful Village Shops on Route A1A and the "Miracle Mile" on Ocean Drive both have colorful high-end shops and restaurants.
The historic downtown has a theater, shops and more. Its numeroous events, including a car show, the Hibiscus Festival, a vintage market and the First Friday Gallery Stroll, bring out locals throughout the year. The farmers' market, one of Florida's best, happens every Saturday. Indian River Mall is enclosed and has Dillard's, Macy's and Sears. There is also an outlet mall.
Indian River Medical Center has 335 beds and is accredited by the Joint Commission. It is also a Stroke Care Center and is award-winning for excellence in patient safety, general surgery and joint replacement. Medicare patents are accepted.
Senior services are primarily provided by the Senior Resource Association (SRA). This group operates one Vero Beach senior center, which has planned activities, congregate noon meals, classes (tax preparation, mature driving, etc.) and various kinds of assistance (legal, medication, etc.). Case workers are also available to make home visits as needed.
SRA operates the Community Coach, a door to door transportation service, and GoLine Transit provides fairly extensive fixed route bus service. All buses are wheelchair accessible, and fees are minimal. Veterans Service provides daily transportation to the Veterans Hospital in West Palm Beach, 75 miles away.
The Indian River County Library System's main facility is in Vero Beach. In addition to books, it offers dance classes, a guest lecture series, a writers club, a genealogy deparment and public computers with Internet access. Indian River State College has classes for all ages.
Vero Beach sits along the line that splits Florida into a subtropical climate and a tropical climate. As a result, Vero Beach weather brings summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. Winter temperatures are in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Rainfall reaches 50 inches per year on average. The sun shines 235 days of the year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Vero Beach is well below the national average.
For all of its mellow charm, Vero Beach has a drawback. In 2004, Hurricane Frances struck and caused moderate damage. Hurricane Jeanne, also in 2004, came close to town. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma landed 45 miles to the south. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused power outages, flooding and significant beach erosion. In 2017, Irma caused some damage. It is likely that the future will bring more hurricanes.
Yet, despite the hurricane threat, Vero Beach beckons. Its quiet neighborhoods, miles of clean beaches and lack of young vacationers make it a rarity in Florida: an uncrowded beach town with a reasonable price tag. It is no wonder that the retirees who live here seem to love it.
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