15 Best Things to Do in Sebastian (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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In 1715, eleven Spanish treasure galleons were shipwrecked in the Atlantic next to Sebastian. Naturally, this stretch of shoreline has come to be known as the Treasure Coast.

In and near Sebastian you can visit two museums charting the events of 1715, and showing items salvaged from the wrecks.

I also need to talk about the natural treasure all around Sebastian. The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere.

On hikes, eco-cruises, or self-guided boat trips you can observe a stupendous array of birdlife, as well as manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, alligators, and many more.

1. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican Island National Wildlife RefugeSource: Sharon Avila / Facebook
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

The United States’ first National Wildlife Refuge was established by Theordore Roosevelt in 1903. This came amid fears that plume hunting would soon drive egrets and other birds to extinction. 

Birds continue to take center-stage at the refuge, with more than 260 species documented here. So, my tip is to bring a pair of binoculars, and spend some time scanning the mangrove and salt marsh.

There’s a pair of three-mile loops, and a newly established Wildlife Trail. Still, my favorite walk is the Centennial Trail, which has an ADA boardwalk, and an accessible tower. This overlooks the three-acre island that gives its name to a vast 5,400-acre refuge.

2. Sebastian Inlet State Park

Sebastian Inlet State ParkSource: Noah Densmore / shutterstock
Sebastian Inlet State Park

North and south of the eponymous inlet, this beautiful state park has shoreline on both the Atlantic and the Indian River Lagoon. 

On the ocean side, Sebastian Inlet State Park is a hotspot for surfing. Monster Hole is an epic offshore break caused by a spoil sandbar about ⅓ of a mile out.

If you want to keep things a little more laid back you can kayak on the lagoon side, or wander along the shore observing sea turtle nests during the season (March through October). 

The first of my two pro tips is to always bring bug repellent here. The other is to keep an eye on the water, as manatees (in winter) and dolphins love this stretch of coast.

Lastly, there’s a lot of history to uncover around the Sebastian Inlet. I’ll talk about the McLarty Treasure Museum below, while the Sebastian Fishing Museum documents the area’s historic commercial fishing industry.

3. St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

Directly inland from Sebastian is a large sweep of nature, purchased in sections by the state since 1995. What thrills me about this state park is that it protects the kind of wet prairie, pine flatwoods and cypress domes that dominated Florida’s landscape before the 20th century.

The St. Sebastian River twists down the east side of the park, and is ready for paddling trips. In fact, there’s a launch right on the edge of the city off County Road 512. 

If you’re here for a hike, you can get onto the ten-mile blue-blazed trail in this corner of the park. The Southeast Quadrant Blue Trail traces the river, and then loops back once it reaches the canal that divides the property in two.

Before you start I’d recommend making a stop at the information kiosk near the trailhead. I found this particularly handy for identifying some of the plants, including carnivorous hooded pitchers.

4. Riverview Park

One place I think you’ll keep coming back to in Sebastian is this park on the Indian River. There are two parts to Riverfront Park—on the east side of Indian River Dr is a waterfront trail, with shelters and a pair of long fishing/observation piers.

This is a wonderful place to be first thing in the morning to see the sun come up over the lagoon and Hutchinson Island.

On the west side is a large pavilion, a splash pad, a playground and a dense stand of palms and live oaks. Even at this urban park, wildlife encounters are common, and you may find yourself in the company of sandhill cranes.

Riverview Park is also the venue for Sebastian’s outdoor public events. One, Concerts in the Park is a series of eight concerts every three weeks between January and June. Shows take place 5:30-8:00pm, and there are food trucks attending.

5. Mel Fisher’s Treasures

If you want to know more about the Treasure Coast, my go-to is this small but enlightening museum. In 1992 the daughter of the famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher (1922-1998) opened this attraction in Sebastian’s old fire station. 

Fisher is best known for discovering the wreck of the 17th-century Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985. This is still remembered as history’s largest underwater treasure discovery.

Exhibits here deal with Fisher’s fascinating career and the work of his family, which has continued the treasure hunting tradition. There’s also a map labeling the various wrecks around Sebastian. 

Most exciting are the various items recovered at several different wreck sites, from silver bars to jewelry, religious items, gilded plates, and weapons.

6. McLarty Treasure Museum

At Sebastian Inlet State Park is the site of the Survivors’ and Salvagers’ Camp following the destruction of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet.

First the survivors waited for rescue at this spot. Then, salvors made use of the same camp when they recovered treasure from the wrecks.

This enthralling chapter of local history is recorded at the McLarty Treasure Museum on part of the site. I don’t think it’s possible to visit this attraction and not get carried away with the romance of treasure hunting.

The museum paints a vivid picture of Spanish trade in the 17th and 18th century. The galleries here are packed with artifacts including coins, cannons, glass, ceramics, pistols, and armor.

7. Sebastian Watercraft Rentals

There’s so much to see in the Indian River Lagoon around Sebastian that it’s well worth putting on a captain’s hat and renting your own boat.

One thing you can do is explore the spoil islands just offshore. Part of a chain of more than 150 islands, these were formed by dredging activity in the middle of the 20th century.

Now they’re little desert islands, with shallow waters for swimming or just dipping your toes in the water. There’s wildlife everywhere you look, and you’re almost guaranteed to see dolphins in the lagoon. 

Sebastian Watercraft Rentals has a large fleet of pontoons, available for full or half-days. If you’re here for a fishing trip, then you can also rent rods and reels for your boat.

8. LaPorte Farms

One spot especially close to my heart in Sebastian is this nonprofit petting farm. Established in 1994, LaPorte Farms is on five acres, and it’s easy to see the love that has gone into this place.

In diligently maintained paddocks and enclosures are a wide assortment of critters. Among them are a llama, donkeys, goats, sheep, tortoises, a pot-bellied pig and a host of ducks, chickens and exotic birds.

There’s also a pair of miniature horses for daily pony rides, and even the zebra “Baby Girl”. You’ll find feed stations across the farm, while the calendar is full of special seasonal events.

9. About Kayaks River Rentals

If you don’t have your own kayak to explore the St. Sebastian River then I’d hit up About Kayaks River Rentals.  Following its natural course, the river meanders for several miles up the east side of Sebastian before flowing into the Indian River Lagoon.

The banks are a wall of thick vegetation, from saw palmettos up to magnificent live oaks. You’ll see a lot of wildlife, from turtles to herons, alligators, and maybe even manatees if you make the trip in winter. 

The main launch point is Dale Wimbrow Park on the east bank. From here you can paddle upstream against the slow current, and then glide back downriver.

10. Captain Hiram’s Resort

Captain Hiram’s ResortSource: booking.com
Captain Hiram’s Resort

With guided boat tours, lodging, dining and special events, Captain Hiram’s is a place where many guests choose to spend a good chunk of their time in Sebastian.

All the same, you don’t need to be a guest to join one of the River King tours. Led by certified crew, these depart from the resort’s marina daily.

Exploring Pelican Island, and the Indian and Sebastian Rivers, Captain Hiram’s eco-tours are a great way to see local wildlife in comfort. 

On my trip I spotted a lot of dolphins, and caught the magical sight of thousands of birds taking off around Pelican Island.  

Blackfins, the resort’s restaurant serves fresh seafood, burgers, salads, and cold drinks, and has a front-row view of the Indian River.

11. Skydive Sebastian

Sebastian-Roseland Municipal Airport is the base for a company offering tandem skydiving experiences over the Central Florida coast. 

In business for almost 40 years when I wrote this article, Skydive Sebastian is the only operator of its kind on the Treasure Coast.

You don’t need any special training to do a tandem dive, as you’ll be strapped in with a professional jumpmaster who has performed thousands of similar jumps.

Whether free falling or gliding under the parachute canopy, you’ll be free to marvel at the coastline. Skydive Sebastian has a range of special packages for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and even proposals.

12. Wabasso Beach Park

If you want to make a beeline for the beach, the closest public access is under ten minutes away. With lifeguards on duty daily, Wabasso Beach Park is managed by Indian River County and has all you could need for a few carefree hours.

The park opens at 7:00 AM, and I’d recommend coming first thing at least once for the sunrise. As for conditions, the surf can be rough, but at low tide there’s a large shallow area by the shore. 

Finally, for amenities you’ve got restrooms, showers, four picnic tables, two pavilions, and two grills.

13. Riverview Coffee, Tea and Books

Riverview Coffee, Tea And BooksSource: Riverview Coffee, Tea and Books / Facebook
Riverview Coffee, Tea And Books

This bookstore/cafe is an endearing local meeting spot by Riverview Park. Many of their products are organic, and they offer delicious fresh-baked goods too. These include vegan and gluten-free options available for those with dietary restrictions.

If you’ve got a few books that you’ve already read just laying around taking up space, you might want to consider taking them along. Provided they’re not too beaten-up, you may be able to trade them for other used books.

I caught a bad spell of weather when I called in, and spent a few minutes getting myself back together here.

14. Sandridge Golf Club

<yoastmark class=Source: Sandridge Golf Club / Facebook

Sandridge Golf Club is a public facility owned and operated by Indian River County. It features two 18-hole courses that opened between the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Both courses wind through natural dunes, lakes and pine hammocks, with challenging and scenic holes. Playing at Sandridge, I was impressed by the many elevation changes, uncommon in such a flat state.

Sandridge Golf Club has repeatedly been rated one of the state’s best values by national golf magazines. Be ready for wildlife encounters on your round, as I saw ducks, turtles, alligators, and a family of sandhill cranes when I played.

15. Sebastian Riverfront Fine Art & Music Festival

My favorite annual event at Riverview Park is this juried art and music extravaganza in January. 

Set over a weekend, the Sebastian Riverfront Fine Art & Music Festival features more than 100 artists and craftspeople. 

You can peruse and purchase work in a range of categories like painting, pottery, drawing, jewelry, glass, and woodwork. Several prizes are awarded, and the most prestigious of all is Best in Show.

The event is attended by more than 20,000 people, and there’s a packed schedule of live music on both days.

15 Best Things to Do in Sebastian (FL):

  • Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Sebastian Inlet State Park
  • St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
  • Riverview Park
  • Mel Fisher's Treasures
  • McLarty Treasure Museum
  • Sebastian Watercraft Rentals
  • LaPorte Farms
  • About Kayaks River Rentals
  • Captain Hiram’s Resort
  • Skydive Sebastian
  • Wabasso Beach Park
  • Riverview Coffee, Tea and Books
  • Sandridge Golf Club
  • Sebastian Riverfront Fine Art & Music Festival