No shirt, no shoes, no worries. There is nothing like a few days at the beach to set the world right.
No calls, no computer, no meetings. Sand on your feet, sun on your head, nothing on your mind except ... nothing. The biggest decision involves what to do this afternoon: Read? Walk on the beach? Swim in the ocean? Nap? All of the above?
No deadlines or layoffs or schedules. For your viewing pleasure, dolphins engage in synchronized swimming and pelicans perfect their dive-bombing and formation flying.
My wife, Susan, and I found a week's worth of this bliss in Indialantic, a little beach town near Melbourne. Indialantic, and its sister town, Melbourne Beach, are mom-and-pop kind of places, residential beach towns that once were common in Florida but became precious during the past 20 years as the state grew by 6 million residents.
People don't come to Indialantic looking for resorts or country clubs or honky-tonks. They come for the beach in its most basic sense--that wonderful place where the land meets the sea and the sea reaches out to the sky. The approach is simple: Sit down and enjoy it.
This vacation, we weren't interested in sightseeing or hiking or visiting museums or dashing from here to there by car. We wanted to plop down on the beach and stare at the ocean, a simple pursuit that is stupendously soothing. We wanted to devour books and magazines. We wanted to sip margaritas in the afternoon and doze by the pool.
A beach town such as Indialantic is ideal for such lazing. Overhead, the performance is continuous. Every morning, the steadfast sun awakens from the sea in a demonstration as spectacular as it is eternal. Many afternoons in the summer months, billowing clouds assemble into huge dark fists that soon hammer the air with lightning and unleash a river of rain. The demonstration of nature's might is magnificent and makes Central Florida the lightning capital of North America.
The storms aren't a threat, though, as long as you plan for them and stay out of their way: You don't want to be the tallest object on an open beach as a lightning storm swoops in.
Indialantic occupies a slice of the barrier island stretched as thin as taffy as it dangles down from Cape Canaveral 25 miles to the north. Rising only 10 feet above sea level between the Indian River and the ocean, the mile-wide town must stand on its tiptoes to stay above water when the occasional storm stirs up the Atlantic.
But most days are quiet in the neighborhood. There are no high-rise condos to block the view of the sea and blight the landscape. Most structures are two stories, a few rise to four stories.
Except for the mile or so of businesses lining U.S. Highway 192 and a few small hotels near the ocean, most of the buildings are houses. In other words, College Park by the Sea. If the ocean instead of Interstate 4 ran down the east side of College Park, the Orlando neighborhood would be Indialantic.
The leisurely pursuits of residents and visitors alike are flavored with salt air: surfing, surf-fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming. Only 16 miles down A1A is Sebastian Inlet, where the Indian River meets the Atlantic. The inlet is a favorite spot for surfers and fishermen.
During the summer months, the beaches of south Brevard County attract visitors from the sea: thousands of female sea turtles lumber ashore to bury eggs in sandy nests before returning to the waves. Park rangers lead small tour groups on "turtle walks" during June and July. The walks are so popular that reservations must be made weeks in advance.
It was during the decade of the 1920s that Florida became a tourist destination. Carl Fisher created Miami Beach and hyped the city in the national press. He popularized the notion of a vacation at the beach, easy and carefree. Florida, the land of sunshine, was booming. The ocean and the Gulf of Mexico lured visitors from across the South and Northeast.
Indialantic was born of the sun and the sea too. A bridge from Melbourne on the mainland was completed in 1921.
Nowadays the town of 3,800 residents is not so much a tourist destination as it is a slice of seaside suburbia. Which is exactly what makes it so pleasant to visit.
Ken Clarke writes for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Co. newspaper.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun