1. Indian River County - Vero Beach, the jewel of the Treasure Coast
Treasure Coast Indian River County is called the Treasure Coast for a reason. Gold. Lots of gold, plus sparkling jewels and other riches salvaged from the Spanish galleons that shipwrecked off its shores during the 17th and 18th centuries. Treasure is still available in Indian River Countyonce in a while in the form of money and jewels, but every day in golden citrus and sparkling waters in an unspoiled environment that supports likely the most varied bird population in the country. Located halfway between Jacksonville and Miami, Vero Beach is the county seat of Indian River County, citrus capital of the world. Often lauded a prime residential retirement location, Vero Beach and the surrounding communities of Sebastian, Fellsmere, Wabasso and Indian River Shores are even more. These charming small towns and villages provide a rather extraordinary mix of activities and opportunities that attract new residents and visitors of all ages. In fact, many long-time residents migrated to the community decades ago and decided that they couldn't wait for retirement to enjoy its laid-back lifestyle. Young or old, new or established, people appreciate what they find here and strive to keep what is best about it, especially the treasured natural environment. One of America's Best Small Towns Vero Beach is recognized in the top 100 towns in America in the book THE GREAT TOWNS OF AMERICA. "A small town with a cozy atmosphere and big-city amenities is how the Realtors Association of Indian River County describes Vero Beach. There are homes for every buyer's taste and budget--apartments in a retirement condominium, a typical three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-car garage home for just over $200,000, a five-acre mini-estate with horse barn and stocked fishpond starting in the $300,000 range, an island home from the $400,000s or an oceanfront estate, typically above $2,000,000 in a gated community. Over 2,000 single-family houses are listed in the Multiple Listing System (MLS). The average sales price is around $180,000. This figure is heavily affected by the sale of homes on the barrier island (the strip of land between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean). One-third of all listings and one-fifth of all sales come from the barrier island, where the sale prices range from the upper $300's to multi-millions. Most condominiums are located on the barrier island. They constitute about half of the market here. Average pricing is about $300,000 in a range that runs from $80,000 on the mainland for a small efficiency unit to over $1 million for a spacious, three-bedroom condominium home located on the ocean. Vital Statstics (Statistics are for Indian River County) Population: 141,000 Median age: 48New citizens: about 2,000 annually New job creation: about 200 annually Per capita income: $59,419 (2007 Census) The Weather The tropics begin in Indian River County, and the average annual temperature, 75 degrees Fahrenheit, translates to year round outdoor enjoyment. In winter the average temperature is 66 degrees; in summer it is 83. In January the average temperature is 53.3; in July it's 81.6. Annual rainfall is 58 inches, but nearly half of those inches fall between June and October, which is the tropical rainy season. Afternoon rain and a pleasant breeze off the Atlantic Ocean moderate the summer heat. Most of the year, sunny skies and pleasant temperatures prevail. Job Market Major economic engines include agriculture/citrus, tourism and light industry. Several of the top 15 employers in the county are involved in the citrus industry, but some agricultural and citrus industry jobs are seasonal. The world-famous citrus crop notwithstanding, more than 30 percent of the county's workers provide services; another 23 percent work in retail occupations. The biggest employers include: Indian River County School Board, county government, Indian River Memorial Hospital, Sebastian River Medical Center, Sun Agriculture Inc., Publix Corporation, City of Vero Beach, Dodgertown Complex, The New Piper Aircraft Corp., Johns Island (resort), Sebastian River Medical Center, Wal-Mart and CVS also employ numerous workers. School DaysExtensive information about the schools in this area is online at the state's Department of Education www.firn.edu There you'll discover everything you'll need to know about Florida schools. Use links from the DOE home page for general information about entrance requirements, immunizations and so forth. For the details, click on the logo for the "Florida School Indicators Report." Florida schools are improving based on recent rankings up to 14th in the nation. Transportation The Vero Beach Municipal Airport may be small, but it's special. It beat out more than 80 other Florida aviation facilities to be named the General Aviation Airport of the Year for 1995. Approximately 250 planes, including a fleet of 100 used for pilot training, are based here. (Sebastian maintains a smaller municipal airport restricted to use by light private aircraft.) A commuter plane charters flights toKey West and other popular Florida destinations. International airports are about an hour-and-a-half away in various directions: Orlandoto the northwest, Palm Beach to the south. Closer, the Melbourne International Airport in southern Brevard County is only 30 minutes north via I-95. No deep-water ports exist in the county but are available in St. Lucie County, 14 miles south, or in Port Canaveral, about 65 miles north in neighboring Brevard County. Freight comes and goes by truck or by Florida East Coast Railway. Interstate 95 runs north and south through the county. State Road 60 links Vero Beach to I-95. Route 512 travels through pasture lands and citrus groves on its way from I-95 into Sebastian in north Indian River County. Along the coast, U.S. Highway 1 runs north and south between the cities. The Florida Turnpike, which moves toll-paying traffic efficiently from Interstate-75 in mid-Florida through Orlando and on to Miami, is also accessible not far to the west of Vero Beach. Public transportation is provided by The Community Coach, which offers an excellent route with many stops between shopping hubs and other key locations in both the south and north areas of the county. Residents mostly rely on their automobiles to get around the area.Great Outdoors Much of Indian River County's high quality of life is traceable to its 26 miles of beautiful beaches, plentiful parks and wildlife areas. The Atlantic Ocean, Indian River lagoon and the Sebastian River meet in Sebastian Inlet State Park, a 738-acre gem at the north end of the county. Famous for its surfing, the Sebastian Inlet Park features fishing, swimming, boating, diving and water sports in abundance. Hiking, camping and picnicking activities are also encouraged. Yet the park is part of the larger Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge, so endangered sea turtles and numerous animal and bird species including manatees are not only sighted but also protected. PelicanIsland, the first wildlife refuge in the United States, became a National Historic Landmark in 1963. Pelican Island is off-limits to people but continues to attract birds to its mangrove bastion. To appreciate numerous botanical delights, visit McKee Botanical Gardens, which preserves in an 18-acre parcel what was once an 80-acre Florida tourist attraction (McKee Jungle Gardens). Another ecological resource is the Environmental Learning Center onWabasso Island, which contains 51 acres of marsh and uplands associated with the estuary. Daytime and evening courses and field trips are offered. Thirty-six rare or endangered species live among the many thousands of bird, animal and plant varieties within the center. It's possible to trek through three distinct ecosystems within this one small environmental and educational treasure. Children and adults learn by walking the boardwalk through a mangrove forest or following the native plant trail; they enjoy the butterfly garden and observe creatures large and small that inhabit the waters. Kids can sign up for classes like Tanks A Lot (home aquariums), It's a Jungle Out There (family biking on jungle trail) and Ask Dr. Bug (for families). Good Sports Diving or snorkeling invites the discovery of fragile beauty at reefs and ledges within easy swimming distance from shore. Surfing, boating and fishing are popular, with good reason, because the waves and the catches impress both participants and observers. Sebastian is well-known for surfing competitions and also sky-diving. Public and private tennis courts with surfaces of all types and a couple of dozen golf courses, some designed by famous links architects, challenge avid golfers. The Sandridge Municipal Golf Course has received national acclaim as one of the finest public courses in the country. Canoeing, kayaking, hiking, jogging and biking are also popular outdoor activities. The Windsor Polo Club hosts local league play matches to benefit community organizations and tournaments. The new Pointe West community features complete equestrian facilities with practice and tournament fields and a full season of tournament, invitational, and exhibition polo matches. Where to Go and What to Do There are activities for everyone in Indian River County. If you're a bird fancier, Indian River County has an incredibly diverse bird population--310 species--said to be the most varied anywhere in the United States. Ecotourism thrives because of the community's reverence for nature and the natural environment. The county boasts 10 garden clubs and organizations, a rather extraordinary number for a small community. For the senior citizens there are unlimited activities. There's bridge, including the 14th largest bridge club in America, where players can learn as beginners or play competitive duplicate matches. Bingo is popular, and shuffleboard or table tennis -- not to mention line-dancing classes, chartered bus tours and ballroom dancing -- all offered by the Recreation Department. For the growing population of young professionals, there are softball teams to join, sports restaurants to take the whole family to and professional service clubs for networking. Youngsters enjoy the Environmental Learning Center and the Creative Playground on 17th Avenue. Also well-attended are Easter egg hunts in the spring and children's art festivals in the fall. The Mashed Potato Players entertain area youth at schools, parks and libraries with their comedy routines, while the Agnes Wahlstrom Youth Playhouse presents a dozen productions annually. There's no lack of culture in Indian River County. Vero Beach Choral Society and Vero Beach Opera Guild present concerts of high quality, as does the Community Church and other churches in the county. For theater lovers, the newly renovated Riverside Theatre offers 633-seats with a full season of professional entertainment, including Broadway plays, musical groups, nationally known artists; plus Riverside 2 presents serious, off-Broadway-type productions and performances by local youth. Riverside Childrens Theatre provides productions for and by local children. The Vero Beach Theatre Guild presents theatrical productions throughout the year at its 312-seat theater on San Juan Avenue. The Guild, celebrating its 40th anniversary, offers community theater using local talent. Local art galleries and the architecturally pleasing neo-classical Center for the Arts appeal to lovers of the visual and performing arts. More than 100,000 visitors annually enjoy exhibitions of international, national and regional importance. The center also presents films, lectures and seminars and operates the largest museum art school in Florida. Area history finds many supporters at the Indian River Citrus Museum, the Heritage Center, the McLarty Museum (1715 shipwrecks offshore) and Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum. The annual Art Under the Oaks in the spring attracts crowds, while Summerfest, the early August festival held annually in Riverside Park, brings local and regional artists and craftsmen to display their wares. Art galleries are located on the beachside and in the downtown area, the latter holding a monthly Art Gallery Stroll for the public's enjoyment. In December, numerous Christmas events crowd the calendar, including Santa's Sail In, the annual Christmas House fund-raiser, the Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration, which highlights the arts, and the Vero Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Shop 'til You Drop Small specialty shops and boutiques dot beachside locations. Buyers and browsers can visit the Village Shops in Indian River Shores. Downtown Vero Beach revitalized its 14th Street downtown district, making it a pleasant place to shop and stroll. Along Route 69 (east/west) and U.S. Highway 1 (north/south) you'll find great shopping. The new Indian River Mall led the way to expansion on Route 60, resulting in super stores of all kinds to fit every need. Bargain hunters love the 87 brand-name stores that are part of the Horizon Outlet shops at the I-95 interchange. Other major shopping venues include Miracle Mile Plaza, Treasure Coast Plaza, Indian RiverPlaza and Indian River Commons. Nightlife and Dining Out Restaurants abound both formal and casual. Music and dancing are lively in the downtown area at Bombay Louie's, Brewhahas and Espresso Alley, while the Atlantic Grille and The Surf offer a sports-bar atmosphere plus food, music and dancing. The beach bops to live music at Riverside Cafe, The Menu, Waldo's and Mulligans Oceanside. Also, Sunset Saturday is held monthly on Ocean Drive to attract residents and tourists to the beach area. Both events offer food, live entertainment and an opportunity to see "everyone you know." In Sebastian, sample Captain Hiram's -- with entertainment nightly in season and weekends year-round -- or Hurricane Harbor -- featuring live entertainment most nights and a Dixieland band on Sundays. A few miles north of the Sebastian Inlet, great blues, rock 'n' roll and jazz artists can be enjoyed at Sebastian Beach Inn on weekend nights, plus you can join the fun at their Sunday afternoon reggae parties on the deck overlooking the ocean. There are an abundance of great restaurants in Indian River County offering food for all tastes. In Vero Beach there's the historic Ocean Grill, Tangos, Citrus Grill, Cafe du Soir, Chez Yannick, Monte's, Scampi Grill, Guytano's and the French Quarter. Further north on A1A, you can visit Disney's Vero Beach Resort and sample food at either Sonya's Restaurant or Shutter's Restaurant. In the Sebastian area, there's Captain Hiram's, Hurricane Harbor, Squid Lips, and The Windjammer on Indian River Drive.College Scene Several campuses associated with Florida's 4 year community college system are readily available to residents of Indian RiverCounty. Although the main campus of Indian River Community College (IRCC) is in Fort Pierce (in St. Lucie County), some of its seven locations are in Indian River County. In 1995, more than 6,000 Indian River County residents enrolled in the system for at least one class. At the Mueller Center, many courses are geared to adult learners; they're offered days, evenings and weekends. Computer classes via IRCC meet at the new Sebastian River High School. Numerous telecourses are also easily accessible. IRCC's award-winning Tech Prep program works with four county school boards in the region. And two of Brevard Community College's five locations are not far from Sebastian in Palm Bay and Melbourne. Traditional-age students and adult learners make good use of these community educational resources--and also of the extensive out-of-class learning system called the Indian River Education Network (I.R.E.N.E.). Residents can connect to this community telecomputing network from their home computers.Just for Seniors Activities abound for seniors: dance classes, art lessons, musical affairs, sporting events and plenty of bridge games -- not to mention birding and gardening, fishing and golfing. For special social activities, senior centers operate in both Sebastian and Vero Beach. Many 60-plus people volunteer for United Way of Indian River County or get involved in projects of the Volunteer Action Center. A substantial senior-to-senior volunteer program is also in place: Telephone reassurance and various RSVP projects assist the elderly who need help and involve other seniors in providing that assistance. The Elder Helpline is 772/569-8555. Use it for information regarding services, including personal care, homemaker services, Alzheimer's respite care, meals on wheels and adult day care provided or administered by the Indian River County Council on Aging (772/569-0760). Additional services are available from for-profit providers of medically equipped transport and other healthcare services.
2. Living in St Lucie County - Sunrise City
Top Ten Percent of "Best Places to Live" If you've ever bitten into a succulent orange or grapefruit, then you've already had a delicious taste of this area, sometimes called the "Sunrise City" of the Treasure Coast. Its popularity, however, extends far beyond its citrus or the sunken treasures recovered offshore. Climate, convenience and commitment to economic vitality make this Metropolitan area one of the nation's fastest growing and rank it among the top 10 percent of Money magazine's Best Places to Live. The area's two largest cities--Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie--are on Florida's lower east coast about 45 miles north of Palm Beach and roughly equidistant between Miami and interior Orlando. Ironically, Fort Pierce has a deep-water port; Port St. Lucie, despite its name, does not; but both cities and neighboring towns and beachfront communities have much to offer. An abundance of beaches and parks in both Martin and St. Lucie counties makes this area a cherished haven for residents who love beaches and boating and enjoy modern life but not urban crowding. Vital Statistics St. Lucie County: Area Population: about 272,000 Average household income: about $33,800 Median Age: 47The Weather The mild climate makes Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie a year-round playground without extreme temperature swings. Geographically, it's at the transition point where the warm-temperate climatic zone in north and central sections of the state shifts to the subtropical zone that characterizes South Florida's climate. In St. Lucie County the average difference between the coldest and warmest months is less than 17 degrees. The January average is 65.1 degrees Fahrenheit; in August it's 81.8. For the entire region, the average July high is 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit; the average January low is 55.9 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn't snow, but rainfall tops 62 inches annually. Some rain falls 131 days of the year, which helps keep lawns green. But even on rainy days, you'll probably see some sun, too. Job Market Residents say that a unique combination of soil, water and climate makes this region's Indian River fruit the best in the world. Many outsiders agree. But citrus is just part of the area's economic base. Tourism is another important component. Fort Pierce is the commercial hub for the entire Treasure Coast. It offers the 41,000 residents a small-town feeling with many big-city amenities. Meanwhile, Port St. Lucie has been on a lightning-fast growth track. In 1970 its population was 330; a decade later it was 15,000; today it's over 163,000. There's also a billion dollar city-within-a-city residential/commercial development being created in Port St. Lucie--called St. Lucie West. Its economic impact is a key element in explaining why Money magazine expects area job growth to climb over 10 percent. St. Lucie County's major employers are: St. Lucie County Schools (4,590); Liberty Medical Supply (1.852); Walmart retail (1.720); Indian River Community College (1.547);HCA Lawnwood Regional Medical Center (1,137); Riverside Bank (1,023); Walmart Distribution (1070);Florida St. Lucie County (982); Power & Light (797). The recent success of recruiting Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to locate its headquarters in Port St. Lucie, has aided in making St. Lucie County the epicenter of the developing life science cluster in the State of Florida. With ScrippsFlorida to the south in Palm Beach County and Burnham Institute to the northwest in Orange County, St. Lucie County will be a hub for life science companies. As a result, the county has developed more aggressive recruitment methods in attracting life sciences, as well as many other industries in order to provide employment for all county residents.
Schools Extensive information about the schools in this area is online at the state's Department of Education http://www.fldoe.org/ where you'll find what you need to know about Florida schools. For the details that really matter, click on the logo for the "Florida School Indicators Report." Getting Around St. Lucie County is approximately 120 miles southeast of Orlando and 120 miles north of Miami, along the Atlantic coast. A convenient highway network--including Interstate 95, the Florida Turnpike and State Road 70--makes it easy to get to world-famous attractions throughout Florida. The area also benefits from the service provided by St. Lucie County International Airport. Commercial commuter service is offered at this rapidly expanding facility. Other nearby airports include: Palm Beach International Airport, 60 miles south and, Melbourne RegionalAirport, 55 miles north, serviced by four major airlines. The deep-water Port of Fort Pierce handles lots of cargo--citrus exports to Japan and imports of cement from Columbia and aragonite from the Bahamas. Great Outdoors Picture a slice of paradise with unspoiled beaches and 20 beach parks--along with more than two dozen inland parks--and you've envisioned St. Lucie County. A University of Maryland expert, Stephen Leatherman, ranks St. Lucie's North Hutchinson Island beaches among the best in America. The South Hutchinson Island beaches feature a boardwalk, dressing areas with showers, picnic tables and lifeguards at five locations throughout the year. You'll find similar facilities on acclaimed North Hutchinson Island at North Beach State Parkand Pepper Park; there is a nominal charge for autos. A back-to-nature favorite is the Manatee Observation Center, where you can view these peaceful endangered mammals in their natural environment. You'll also want to visit the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, where a highly trained staff of 230 conducts underwater marine research in pursuit of their goal of understanding and protecting oceans, estuaries and their coastal regions. Part of the 500-acre complex on the Indian River lagoon contains an oceanographic museum. A truly distinctive setting can be found at St. Lucie Inlet State Preserve, an Atlantic Ocean barrier island accessible only by private watercraft. A 3,300-foot boardwalk leads through mangroves and coastal hammocks; there's picnicking, swimming, fishing and, in summer, a chance to see turtle-nesting areas.