McKee Botanical Garden, Vero Beach
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McKee Botanical Garden is a surprisingly gorgeous garden in the middle of a very plain area of Vero Beach. Planted in the midst of a natural coastal hammock/jungle, it is a fairly large garden that follows a shallow, still, perfectly clear waterway full of beautiful water lilies of all different colors. There are tall palms everywhere, abundant flowers on tropical plants, and bamboo stalks that rustle in the breeze. A stone bridge leads over the largest pond. An incredibly tall strangler fig (a type of banyan) leads into an entertaining area with Spanish-tiled stoves and a house, the Hall of Giants, where there is the largest mahogany table in the world. The royal palm grove is a regal and gorgeous area with a winding path through stately palms. Our whole family sparked up with delight as we walked around this paradise, as did other families we saw along the way. One little girl was sure that she was a fairy, hiding under every giant leaf. The Whisper Bench, where you can whisper to another person via sculpted flowers on each end of the bench provided even more inspiration for this little fairy.
Each winter, the work of a different sculptor is showcased in the lovely natural setting of the gardens. In winter 2013, glass sculptures by Hans Godo Frabel were dotted about the park. It was wonderful! Little longfellows (skinny men made of glass) were walking joyfully along tree branches, or dancing in the water. There were giant glass cubes in the pond, and glass flowers and butterflies in the streams. A giant blue calla flower caught the light from the sky. How perfect to see glass art in a garden, all lit up and catching the light.
In winter 2014, life-size painted bronze sculptures (castings) by Seward Johnson are displayed, looking like real people lazing in the garden. The best feature of these sculptures is that the sweaters and jeans sculpted in bronze look like real fabric, as does the tablecloth in the Eye of the Beholder statue. Some of the sculptures are based on famous paintings by impressionist painters such as Renoir.
There is a cafe with good prices and outdoor seating (admission is not charged if you only want to go to the cafe), which opens at 11:30 Tues-Sat and noon on Sunday. It is closed after May 13 for the summer. Bring mosquito repellent in the summer.
While in Vero Beach, head over the causeway to gorgeous Orchid Island, with its rows and rows of pink hibiscus bushes. Stop and enjoy the observation deck over the beach at McLarty Treasure Museum, which unfortunately is dusty and moldy inside. Two miles north of McLarty Treasure Museum, kids LOVE the rock pools at Sebastian Inlet.
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McKee Botanical Garden is located at 350 US Highway 1, Vero Beach FL 32962, call (772) 794-0601.
From the Florida Turnpike northbound, take exit 152. Follow Highway 713 for ten miles, then turn left on US Highway 1. After 4 miles, turn right on Vista Gardens Trail. From Highway 95 southbound, take exit 147. Turn left on Hwy 60 and follow it for eight miles. Turn right on US Hwy 1 and follow it for two miles. Turn left on Indian River Blvd, right on 4th Ct, and right on Vista Gardens Trail.
Open Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5. Closed Jan 1, July 4, Labor Day (1st Monday in Sept), Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in Nov), and Dec 25.
Admission Nov-Apr is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for children aged 3-12.
Admission May-Oct is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for children aged 3-12. The gardens are wheelchair accessible.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.