Our days in the Melbourne beach area- 3.5 stars
Before I review Melbourne Beach, it would be prudent to set the foundation for our future Florida reviews. Our intent is to show how a family can beach hop in Florida for an extended period on a shoestring budget. Additionally, it's important to understand the reviewer... I am a 41 year old husband and father of four who hates heat, sand, crowds, and sweating. So needless to say, the beach is not my favorite place. I know this puts me outside of the norm, but I am who I am. In order to negate some of these irritants, we are beach hopping in the off season, the last week of December through January. The temperatures are typically in the 70's, the crowds are at a minimum, parking and traffic is much improved, and things are proving to be cheaper. That said, this non beach bum dad is a much happier camper. In our reviews, we will give an star rating out of 5 stars. We will average the opinions of the 6 of us and base it on things like cleanliness, parking, beach quality, amenities, beauty, cost, x-factor, and conveniences like beachside showers. With that ground work laid, let's get on with our review.
There were things we liked pretty well about Melbourne Beach. The area was clean and safe and had all the chain stores you could want. Ultimately, Melbourne left us "whelmed"... not underwhelmed, not overwhelmed... just "whelmed". I am creating a word here, but you get the idea. Nothing was missing or blatantly lacking other than the wow factor. Melbourne's fatal flaw for us was its lack of uniqueness. We have seen other areas we didn't like, but were trying to be polite in our review.... Melbourne is just the vanilla of beaches. A solid flavor, but none the less the standard barer for run-of-the-mill.
Our first stop in Melbourne was the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. Although, admittedly, we were disappointed to discover that there weren't any sea turtles on site to ogle, for what they lacked in living specimens, they made up for in hospitaltity and knowledge. The volunteers were as sweet as they could be and a wealth of information. We left their small storefront/museum educated and amphibian "Woke".
As per usual, our children were aching to play in the ocean, so we headed to Spessard Holland South Beach Park. It's a mouthful to say, but worth typing the tongue twister into Google Maps to visit. Holy waves Batman.... I have never seen waves so big on the East Coast in my 41 years. It was fantastic! The beach was beautiful, the parking was free, and all the amenities were present: cabanas, outside showers, eateries, a playground, and a boardwalk. Some things it did not have were many people, which is a big plus (it was the off season January, after all). Also, there was a serious lack of shells. To be fair, the locals say at times there are plenty of shells, but alas.
The next day we decided to do something educational for our four little information sponges. We had seen online that the Melbourne area had a Liberty Bell museum. It was listed as open and free so we went to check it out. I was skeptical and mocking to be honest. I know where the real Liberty Bell resides and it's not in Florida, but now I was curious. Sadly, my curiosity was not satisfied because despite the online listed hours, the museum was closed and a sign on the door said, "by appointment". It's just as well... if the outside of the museum is any indication of what's inside the museum... let's just say I was fine to move on with our day.
After a bust at the Liberty Bell Museum, we sought out a suitable location for a picnic lunch. A covered pavilion, picnic table, and a vista, were all happily found at the Riverview Park. As an added bonus, the park offered a wonderful breeze, a really cool playground for the kids, and the Melbourne Farmer's Market just happened to be set up in the park during our visit as well. In addition to our packed lunch, we enjoyed free samples of maple flavored cotton candy from one of the vendors. "When in Rome"? Actually these unique venders were snow birds down from the North for the winter and were a joy to visit with. For the record, maple flavored cotton candy is actually really good.
*Note that the video at the very bottom of the review of the prism playground is from this park.
We left the park with our bellies full and headed back to our/bus home, which we left parked at the local Bass Pro Shop (with permission). We have seen many BPS around the country, but this one was definitely unique and worth a pit stop. Outside the Big Bass Outpost was a lagoon full of live alligators. It's worth noting that these are the only alligators we have seen on our entire trek through Florida. We also noticed in a separate exhibit a pen of boars. My two youngest liked the boars so much that I didn't have the heart to explain that the boars were likely only there to feed the gators... so we moved on before they put it together for themselves. Below are a few pictures of this unique Big Bass.
Our last stop on our Melbourne tour was to the Barrier Island Sanctuary. This museum was small but well done. The exhibits on display were very kid friendly and we enjoyed learning from the exhibits, the video, and the very pleasant and informative volunteers. Outside the back doors of the museum was an observation platform facing the ocean and a long series of nature trails (which we didn't hike) and a beautiful series of boardwalks through overhung mangrove trees (which we did explore). The walk was lovely and eventually led to a public beach access. There was almost no one on this entire beach. Being aware that we were at the tip of the Treasure Coast.. a part of the coastline in which millions of dollars in Spanish treasure is found every year (Google the wreck of the 1715 fleet for more info), we decided to take an extra long beach stroll in hopes of getting lucky. We may not have walked away from the beach wealthy, but we did very much enjoy our private stroll along the beach with the sounds of large crashing waves and a panoramic sunset as our backdrop. By chance, we met a local walking his old dog, and had quite a pleasant visit. He explained that his father a few years back had discovered 800 silver coins on that beach and a visiter to the area had just recently found an $85,000 gold coin sitting a few feet offshore. The conversation was very enjoyable, and his 18 year old sea dog was such a joy to meet. Bruno, a Lab Shepherd mix, had belonged to a Brazilian surfer before he came to belong to this kind local. He had always lived on the beach and despite his late life difficulties with walking, Bruno still got excited for his daily trip to the beach to sit on the shore and watch the tide roll away.... Cue the Ottis Redding.
In summary, Melbourne was an enjoyable part of our journey. Early, I stated that it was very "Vanilla" and maybe that was a bit harsh. Yes, Melbourne lacked a wow factor, but we did very much enjoy the peacefulness and the beauty of the area. Being an introvert and the father/husband of other introverts... there is something very pleasant about enjoying nature unspoiled by populace. One gets the rare opportunity to soak in the beauty of one's surroundings without having to focus, also, on blocking out strangers who even at their best are still a distraction to what our beautiful planet has to show us. I am going to stick to my 3.5 stars, considering the formula listed above, but understand that this scale is skewed towards options and amenities that in turn drive more human traffic. If your 10 involves a distinct lack of people and unspoiled natural beauty, you should definitely visit Melbourne.
Groceries- Avg per day of $29 for three days.
Lodging- Free thanks to our skoolie
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