Disney's Vero Beach Resort, So Close to Disney World But a World Awayby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
Opened on October 1, 1995, Disney's Vero Beach Resort—located 100 miles southeast of Walt Disney World along the shores of the Atlantic—was the first Disney Vacation Club to open beyond the perimeters of Walt Disney World.
Using the theme of Old Florida on the "Treasure Coast," the resort features deluxe inn rooms, studios, one- and two-bedroom accommodations, as well as impressive three-bedroom oceanfront beach cottages. The resort is not restricted to Disney Vacation Club members; others staying on points and those paying a nightly rate are also welcome.
As Disney Vacation Club members, my family had been wanting to get the most out of our membership, so we gave this resort a try. We have visited every summer since, and feel so lucky to be able to enjoy this little piece of paradise.
The resort features an expansive pool area that includes:
- A Mickey Mouse-shaped pool with a looping lighthouse slide
- The Tiger Lily Wet Play Area – a pirate ship with mini-slide for younger kids
- Bleachers – for food, drinks, and Rapid Fill mugs
- Port Holes Miniature Golf – a Peter Pan-themed miniature golf course
- A shuffle board court
- Community Hall – includes board games, table tennis, and arts and crafts
- Anchors' A-Weigh fitness center – a big favorite of my husband's and according to him, very well-equipped
- Blinker's Arcade
- Eb and Flo's rentals – for all your beach towel, sports equipment, and game-borrowing needs
- Rub Dubs massage
Separated from the main lobby and all guest accommodations, the area is enclosed and requires your resort key to enter. The benefit is that if I am sitting by the pool, my son could enter the arcade and still be within the fenced-in area. Or he can play mini golf with friends while I'm getting some food at Bleachers.
The resort offers a roster of free activities for all ages that change daily (some activities have a nominal charge). The resort's size and location make a large variety of activities possible. Is your 7-year-old interested in learning to fish? A cast member can host a catch-and-release fishing lesson. Does your little one love paper airplanes, pin trading, or making tie-dye? These are all available and hosted by cheerful and enthusiastic cast members.
The ocean, the star of the show, is mere steps away, and accessed with your resort room key. The resort piece of the Treasure Coast is clean, with manageable waves and soft sand. A concession provides rentals for all your umbrella, beach chair, paddleboard, and wave runner needs. On every morning weather permitting, I get up early and take a great long walk along the beach. The sand makes for a wonderful workout and if I am early enough, I can snag some incredible shell treasures.
Across the street from the resort, accessed by a Peter Pan-themed tunnel, is a volleyball court, archery range, soccer field, fishing pier, tennis courts, and a basketball hoop, available for use both by cast members hosting guest activities and guests looking to explore on their own.
The main building features blonde wood floors, cozy casual seaside-themed furniture, beach-themed decor, and a huge back porch with rocking chairs—perfect for whiling away the afternoon listening to the ocean. Not only is this building where you check in, but also where you watch Disney movies in the lobby, play video games on XBox 360 consoles on rainy days, check out your favorite apps at the iPad station, and eat.
In addition, the lobby houses the Island Grove Packing Company, where you can shop for gifts and supplies, and rent movies (which are free if you are a DVC member). Buildings that house additional accommodations radiate out from the main building and are connected by softly lighted walkways at night. We've stayed in both the main building as well as in these outbuildings, where the accommodations feature cool private patios. Both locations are great. This summer, we stayed in an ocean view room in the main building and loved it. The view to the ocean was clear from our balcony, and if we left the door open a bit, we could hear the sound of the waves.
The main building features three options for food:
- The Green Cabin Room – home of sweeping ocean views.
- Shutters – for all your Disney character dining needs, and casually elegant seafood offerings.
- Sonya's – the upscale dining option.
The resort offers the Disney Discover Club, where children ages 4 through 12 can make new friends as they enjoy dinner, sports, games, movies, and crafts—and which allows parents a bit of quiet time. Each club session lasts three hours, and is offered several times a week. My son, who has used the club several times, has had a blast and always returns with an e-mail address for a new pen pal.
There are so many things to enjoy, so Nate (my 9-year-old son and future surf champ) and I have each put together our must-do lists:
#1 – Sea turtles
The resort shares space with the nesting grounds of the loggerhead sea turtle. The Florida coast is their primary nesting area in the Northern Hemisphere. If you are at the resort at the right time (May through August), you can join a turtle walk at a nearby preserve to see these magnificent (and enormous) turtle moms lay their eggs in darkness, or if a few months later, wake at sunrise to watch the hatchlings scurry toward their first swim in the Atlantic. Our family has been lucky enough to have enjoyed both of these rare and beautiful experiences. We were enthralled both times, and mesmerized by the power of Mother Nature.
#2 – Nighttime campfire
Yep, it's corny—but anyone who has ever been to camp (or in my case, was a counselor) will be nostalgic as they gorge on s'mores and sing the songs they know and love, led by incredibly sweet and energetic cast members.
#3 – The spa
On every trip to the resort, while my son and husband are off doing archery or fishing, I sneak away for a pedicure or massage. It's a splurge, but I relish every moment (and I tell myself that the DVC member discount makes it reasonable).
#4 – Grilled fish tacos at Bleachers
I was only going to do three favorites, but I'm going for five. Fourth on my list is the fresh, healthy (and delicious) grilled fish tacos at Bleachers.
Fresh grilled fish, house-made slaw, and fresh tortillas at a hotel pool restaurant? Yes, please. My husband (a salad lover) digs the "Floribbean"—a dish of greens, hearts of palm, tangerines, and pumpkin seeds. My whole family loves the peel-and eat-shrimp, too. Bleachers may be a pool-side quick-service venue, but the food is thoughtful, varied, and tasty.
#5 – Green Cabin Room
Last, having dined in all the resort's restaurants, and enjoying them all, I am going to give it up for the Green Cabin Room.
Order the delicious truffle olive martini (a Disney standard) and the hot pretzels and cheese sauce, and gaze out over the breathtaking Atlantic. Kids are welcome, and live music plays many nights, too. Sometimes, I'll escape for an hour with a book and settle in at one of the tables on the porch. I can hear the ocean, and keep looking up at the spectacular view. The view from this little spot is, for me, the ultimate mental snapshot of my time at the resort.
#1 – Boogie boarding
Everyday at the resort, Nate rides the waves with the other kids (and adults), waiting for the day he is 10 so he can participate in the resort's Surf School.
#2 – Chicken wings
While vacationing, as in his regular life, chicken wings rule in Nate's world. The Green Cabin Room's wings do not disappoint. Nate's favorite is the barbecue flavor, but on our last visit, our wonderful server brought all the sauces on the side for him to try. I thought his head would explode.
#3 – Pool slide races
Everyday, the cast members lead pool games and host races on the resort slide. Nate always enters, and this year, after many tweaks to his pool slide racing strategy, he won his age group! Big stuff.
#4 – Old-timey Disney movies
Renting old-timey Disney movies like The Ugly Dachshund and The Cat From Outer Space. The resort is family-friendly and encourages family time by ending most resort activities before 10:00 p.m. We snuggle up and watch these Disney classics.
#5 – Mickey bars
With their delicious dark chocolate coating, Mickey ice cream bars are perfect any time of day, anywhere. It's vacation after all, right?
Disney's Vero Beach Resort is wonderful, and only an hour or so from the bustle of Walt Disney World. If you are able, do yourself a favor. Tack on a few days at Disney's Vero Beach Resort after your next WDW trip. Take a deep breath of ocean air, go to bed early after watching Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, and walk on the beach.