You'll find plenty of free and open beachfront along the coast -- most areas are uncrowded and are open from 7am to 10pm.
South Beach Park, on South Ocean Drive, at the end of Marigold Lane, is a busy, developed, lifeguarded beach with picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. It's known as one of the best swimming beaches in Vero Beach and attracts a young crowd that plays volleyball in a tranquil setting. A nature walk takes you onto beautiful secluded trails.
At the very northern tip of the island, Sebastian Inlet State Park, 9700 S. Fla. A1A, Melbourne (tel. 321/984-4852), has flat, sandy beaches with lots of facilities, including kayak, paddleboat, and canoe rentals; a well-stocked surf shop; picnic tables; and a snack shop. The winds seem to stir up the surf with no jetty to stop the swells, to the delight of surfers and boarders who come here to catch the big waves. Campers enjoy fully equipped sites in a woody area. Distant plans for the park include cozy, 1,150- to 1,600-square-foot cabins with both high-tech and woodsy amenities. Stay tuned. Entry fees to the park are $8 per car with two to eight people, $4 for a single-occupant vehicle, and $2 for those who walk or bike in.
Capt. Terry Lamielle has been fishing the area for more than 40 years and will teach you all about fly-fishing for red fish, snook, and tarpon. His Easy Days Fishing (tel. 321/537-5346; www.easydaysfishing.com) takes anglers on his Sterling Flats fishing boat for private river excursions. Half-day jaunts on the Indian River cost $275 for up to two people, tackle, rigs, and everything included; it's $50 extra for a third person.
Many other charters, guides, party boats, and tackle shops operate in this area. Consult your hotel for suggestions, or call the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce (tel. 772/567-3491). You can also contact Captain Hiram's (tel. 772/589-4345; www.hirams.com), a restaurant/bar/hotel/marina that houses many charter boats.
Hard-core golfers insist that of the dozens of courses in the area, only a handful are worth their plots of grass. Set on rolling hills with uncluttered views of sand dunes and sky, the Sandridge Golf Club, 5300 73rd St., Vero Beach (tel. 772/770-5000; www.sandridgegc.com), is one of them, offering two par-72 18-holers. The Dunes is a long course with rolling fairways, while the newer Lakes course has lots of water. Both charge $29 to $50, including cart. Reservations are recommended and are taken 2 days in advance.
Although less challenging, the Sebastian Municipal Golf Course, 1010 E. Airport Dr. (tel. 772/589-6801; www.sebastiangolfcourse.org), is a good 18-hole par-72 course. It's scenic and well maintained, and greens fees are just $25 to $44 per player, with cart.
Many of the tennis courts around Vero Beach and Sebastian are at hotels and resorts, and are thus closed to nonguests. Try Riverside Racquet Complex, 350 Dahlia Lane, at Royal Palm Boulevard, at the east end of Barber Bridge, Vero Beach (tel. 772/231-4787). This popular park has 10 hard courts (6 lighted) that can be rented for $5 per person per hour if you're a county resident, and $6 to $7.50 if not. Reservations are accepted up to 24 hours in advance.