The Town of Orchid may be small in population, but it is rich in character and extensive in history. Home to Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club, the gated barrier island town claims its rather private notoriety and relishes in the territory of its existence. Often confused as being referred to as ‘Orchid Island,’ the Town of Orchid is a community within itself, and entrance is accessible only by residents and visitors that are associated with residents, or members of the golf and beach club.
Cherry Stowe, town clerk, said there is often some confusion about the town and the island, as some of the commercial locations with “Orchid Island” in their name, are actually located within the City of Vero Beach.
“The entire barrier island is basically “Orchid Island,” Stowe explained. “The Town of Orchid is small, and is mostly inclusive of the Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club.”
The history of Orchid dates back to the late 1800s with Captain Frank Forster, a sailor who traveled the world. The 29-year-old captain discovered what is now the Town of Orchid (back then he gave it the name “Orchid” because of the beautiful orchids that were growing all over) and acquired land under the Homestead Act, according to the town’s website. Captain Forster is celebrated through the 110-acre Captain Forster Hammock Preserve, which is open to the public and features a number of trails for hiking and experiencing nature firsthand. The preserve is an ideal way to experience old Florida as it was in its early days of settlement, including the ability to see the orchids for which the area was named after. The preserve is located at 8650 Historic Jungle Trail. If you’ve not taken a drive or a bike ride along Jungle Trail, it’s a must-see experience and a quiet, nature-filled afternoon.
The Town of Orchid became a municipality in 1965, and it currently has its own town manager, Noah Powers, a five-member town council including a mayor, Harold Ofstie, and four councilpersons. Other vital persons who are an essential part of Orchid’s municipal functions are a town clerk and a part-time building clerk, Teresa Brown. Other positions within the town are contracted out, including the town attorney, land use attorney, building official, and land planner. The only full-time town employees are the town manager and town clerk.
Harold Ofstie, who has been the mayor in the Town of Orchid for the last eight years, embraces the town and expressed his love for it and why he calls it his home.
“I’ve played golf my whole life,” Ofstie began. “I grew up on the East Coast and am quite familiar with the ocean. I knew I would love to settle down in a place [like Orchid] that had three qualities: a great golf course, close proximity to the ocean, and a close community environment.”
The Town of Orchid – and the Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club – certainly has those qualities. The serene, 300-something member population, offers an “everybody knows your name” type of setting.
Shirley-Anne Morgan Reul, marketing director for Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club, remarked about the uniqueness of the Town of Orchid and said the history of Orchid is a fun geography and history lesson in and of itself. She provided Vero Vine with a 25th anniversary publication that she created for the club, and it accentuates the history of the town and all the areas comprised within the barrier reef that is Orchid Island. The publication is available for viewing HERE.
The Orchid Island Golf Course is an 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed course and is an Audubon Certified Sanctuary. Abundant wildlife is part of the habitat in the Town of Orchid, especially within the realm of the Resort and Beach Club. Otters, sea turtles, and white pelicans are freely roaming the grounds.
The namesake of “Orchid Island” is associated with some well-known businesses, even though their addresses and jurisdiction are geographically in the realm of Vero Beach. A few of those better-known establishments include the following: Orchid Island Brewery, Orchid Island Dog Spa, Orchid Island Roofing, Orchid Island Realty, Orchid Island Bikes, Orchid Island Pizza, Orchid Island Botanicals, and Orchid Island Juice Company.
Although the prestige and intimacy of the Town of Orchid is one of its most unique qualities, the folks who live there are said to be some of the friendliest, most welcoming individuals, according to town clerk Cherry Stowe.
“It’s nice that there’s a certain level of seclusion in our town, but even better is that everyone is warm and friendly,” Stowe said.
The Town of Orchid (and Vero Beach) is listed as one of “The 10 Happiest Seaside Towns” in the nation by Coastal Living for the year 2019.