By Jeff Burns
If you’re looking for a quiet sun-and-beach-filled vacation, you should consider Florida’s east coast. If you can tear yourself away from the beaches, there’s lots of interesting history to enjoy as well.
We stayed in an RV park in Fort Pierce, putting us in close proximity to a number of great sites in the St. Lucie County and Indian River County area. It’s a quick drive to towns like Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Sebastian, and Melbourne, and not too far from Orlando and central Florida. One morning of our week was overcast and stormy, so we decided to check out some museums.
Vero Beach is home to the Indian River Citrus Museum, a small but interesting exhibit about the famous citrus agribusiness that began in the area in the 1880s and continues to be important today. In addition to the tools and photos that present the evolution of the industry, there are great colorful labels on display used by the various packers and growers.
Just down the street is the Indian River County Historical Society , located in the historic railroad depot. There is another small collection of artifacts here, and an informative model train setup which takes the visitors through area history.
The Vero Beach Art Museum was quite a surprise. Located on a beautiful campus, it is well worth a visit. Enter the museum, and you are greeted by a couple of Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns paintings on your way to the galleries. Apparently, the museum’s permanent collection is kind of small, so they focus on temporary exhibitions. On our visit, we were treated to an exhibit of Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculptures in various media. Larry Kagan is an artist who combines sculpted metal pieces with objects projected on the wall to make a unique 3D sculpture, and several of his pieces were on display in a show called Object/Shadow. My favorite exhibition though was The View Out His Window (and in his mind’s eye) Photographs by Jeffery Becton, an almost surreal collection of photos of interiors. (No Butterfield and Kagan pics because of restrictions)
Just north in Sebastian is the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum. Fisher and his company became famous in the 1980s for discovering and salvaging millions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver, and emeralds from shipwrecked Spanish ships off the Florida coast. You can see a small portion of that treasure and other interesting artifacts here.
Back in Fort Pierce, a must-see is the National Navy SEAL and UDT Museum. Turns out, Fort Pierce was the base on which the original underwater demolition teams of World War II were trained. This was the genesis of the Navy SEAL program. The museum is very interactive and thorough, detailing the story of the SEALs in very conflict since WWII and continuing in the war against terrorism. Military buffs will be enthralled. Even non-military buffs will find something to interest them. As a bonus, many of the docents on hand to answer questions are former SEALS or UDT members themselves.
The St.Lucie County Regional History Center in Fort Pierce tells the story of the area from the earliest inhabitants, Ais Indians to the early 1900s.
There’s still lots of wealth to discover on the Treasure Coast!