Those of you who have made this seaside slice of heaven your year-round home know exactly what I mean when I say that, for all its winter vibrancy, Vero Beach is at its Old Florida best during the summer months.
That’s not to diminish the impact of our seasonal residents and visitors, who show up every winter and provide our local economy – and assorted charitable causes – with a much-needed and truly appreciated boost.
We warmly welcome their annual arrival, which signals the return of the best winter weather in America, the resumption of valued friendships and the renewal of a beachside buzz that brings our barrier island back to life, particularly along Ocean Drive.
From Christmas through Easter, our hotels, restaurants and shops are packed. Our golf courses and tennis courts are full. Our thoroughfares and intersections are noticeably congested, with hundreds of automobiles bearing out-of-state tags adding to our usual traffic flow.
Even our waterways are busier, as boating and fishing enthusiasts revel in our nautical paradise.
And that’s OK.
It’s a good thing, really, especially for those of us who live here on a full-time basis. It’s part of Vero Beach’s charm, just as a similar-but-opposite seasonal divide adds to the allure and character of quaint, northern hamlets in the Hamptons and Newport and Saratoga Springs.
Think about it: We’re blessed with the opportunity to experience living in two desirable but distinctly different communities – without having to move.
As the calendar changes, so does Vero Beach, which isn’t nearly as seasonal as it was 20 years ago yet continues to have an entirely different feel during the spring, summer and autumn months.
The “off-season” weather is warmer and wetter, bringing with it the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. The population shrinks and fewer tourists are found. The traffic flows easily through our streets.
The pace of life slows to a nostalgic, Mayberry-like crawl.
For many year-round residents, especially those who’ve lived here for decades, this is the real Vero Beach – the Vero Beach most seasonal visitors never see.
Dinner reservations aren’t necessary and rarely is there a wait for a table at local restaurants, which tend to offer more specials during the slow summer months. Beachside hotel rooms are available, and at discount rates. Tee times are easy to get, greens fees are significantly reduced and rounds of golf often can be completed in under 3 1/2 hours.
Supermarkets, retail shops, car washes and movie theaters are far less crowded, even on weekends.
None of that, though, should surprise anyone familiar with summer in Florida, where, except for the Orlando-area theme parks and a handful of other vacation destinations around the state, tourism drops as temperatures rise.
But Vero Beach has a secret, something only year-round residents know: The summers here aren’t bad.
Yes, it gets hot and humid, especially throughout July, August and September, and there’s the almost-daily threat of late-afternoon thunderstorms. Our off-season weather, however, isn’t nearly as oppressive as most outsiders think it is.
While our afternoon-high temperatures range from the mid-80s to the low 90s – and the average relative humidity hovers around 70 percent – we usually can count on a sea breeze to make our summer days bearable, comfortable, even pleasant.
You can play golf and tennis. You can go boating and fishing, biking and walking. You can take a trip to the beach, or sit by the pool, or relax at a backyard cookout.
Truth is, there’s nothing you can’t do here during the summer months that you can do on Long Island, or the Jersey Shore, or the coasts of New England. Sometimes, for brief stretches, the weather here is actually cooler and less humid.
The only dark cloud is, well, the dark clouds.
Summer is the rainy season in Vero Beach, where we average from six to seven-plus inches of rain per month from June through September. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, if not daily. Occasionally, those storms are severe, accompanied by lightning and strong winds.
Summer also is the heart of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Though we’ve been lucky in recent years, it was just a decade ago that Frances and Jeanne pummeled the Treasure Coast, arriving only three weeks apart and wreaking havoc in Vero Beach.
That, too, is part of being a year-round resident.
The only bad part, really.
The “snowbirds,” as they are affectionately known, have their reasons for packing up each spring and returning home. They probably enjoy their summers there every bit as much as we do here. You can’t help but wonder, though, if they know what they’re missing.
Many of us who live here on a full-time basis – who love our summers in Vero Beach – fully embrace and appreciate what “The Season,” as we call it, means to our community.
We know it’s a fun time to be here, enjoying the perfect weather and all that this seaside slice of heaven has to offer.
But not the best time.