Avalon State Park: Historic significance, peaceful getaway
Avalon State Park’s one mile of beach is as pretty as it gets, but under the surface, obstacles remain from D-Day.
Yes, that D-Day.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy used this beach as a training ground for their underwater demolition team — “frogmen” — and beach obstacles made of concrete and steel were embedded under the surf; locating the hazards exercised a skill frogmen would later use in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Some of the obstructions were removed, but some remain.
Don’t be afraid, just be careful.
This is, otherwise, an outstanding beach for sunning, swimming and surfing, kayaking or just hunkering down in the sand with a book.
With fabulous beaches nearby at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and Pepper Park, Avalon State Park’s beach is often bypassed, perhaps due to the underwater obstacles, making it an ideal beach to fish in the surf or read a book.
We visited on a Monday during peak season, and not a soul was around. Except us.
There are four picnic pavilions, each with its own grill, tucked into the sea oats a short walk from the parking lot,
While we didn’t fish in the surf on this visit, I can attest to many successful outings, especially when the pompano are running (my favorite).
Venture across State Road A1A to a sandy trail that winds through the natural coastal hammock to the Indian River, where you’ll find an observation platform and plenty of shoreline for river fishing.
The wildlife here is abundant above and below the water, including many species of shore birds –the colorful roseate spoonbill, rare American oystercatcher and blue heron.
Look for the rare prickly pear cactus and perhaps you’ll see a gopher tortoise drawn to his favorite food.
Below the river’s surface you might very well spot a West Indian manatee, a winter visitor seeking shelter from the chill in the river’s grasses. And for anglers, there’s a notable presence of red and black drum and snook.
For the gastronomically inclined, red drum is more popularly known as redfish, a gourmet once featured in the finest restaurants until demand outstripped supply. With a ban on commercial harvesting of redfish, this delicacy is on the rebound in the Indian River.
The UMT-Navy SEAL Museum
Take a hike along the beach to the UMT-Navy SEAL Museum. The history of the Navy’s frogmen — later called SEALs — unfolds in photos, gear and displays of one-man submarines and landing craft.
The SEALs train today on the beaches of Cape Henry, near the massive Norfolk Naval Base, and the tools of their trade have dramatically changed.
The Museum shows you how they got there, and I highly recommend a visit.
For more information, go to Navy Seal Museum: A long history of heroics
Blue Cypress Lake, 7400 Blue Cypress Lake Road, a favorite kayaking discovery. Located 22 miles west of Vero Beach, this large lake has a shoreline dotted with hundreds of magnificent bald cypress trees. Just as impressive, there are hundreds of osprey nests on this lake and in late winter/early spring when the osprey are nesting, it is a sight to behold.
Pelican Island, the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge, 4055 Wildlife Way, Vero Beach, offers trails, a boardwalk and an observation tower overlooking the island, which is a bird rookery. It’s 15 miles north of Vero Beach.
Sebastian Inlet State Park, 9700 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, is a good destination for kayaking and camping.
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, 1000 Buffer Preserve Dr., Fellsmere, is a wilderness park that can be explored by hiking, biking and horseback.