The smooth, sandy Gulf of Mexico beaches in Venice Florida (map) are its main claim to fame and, with the pleasant climate, spectacular sunsets, and fossil sharks' teeth, are what brings many people to the "City on the Gulf."
Being on a western shore, Venice's beaches may offer some spots of shade in the morning when the sun is in the eastern sky, but by noon and in the afternoon there is little or no shade on the beaches themselves (although you may find shade in beach facilities, shelters and trees a short walk inland).
Bring a beach umbrella if you want to be assured of shade. (Inexpensive beach umbrellas are sold in many Venice stores.)
You can sun, swim and play on any beach, but on Venice's beaches you can also hunt for fossil sharks' teeth. Yes! They're yours for the finding...depending on your luck. Where else can you get a million-year-old artifact for free?
Family time on the beach
Venice's claim to fame, this long, smooth sand beach at the western end of West Venice Avenue starts at South Jetty and extends south for miles.
Venice Beach, Venice, Florida
South of the city center near the airport, Service Club Beach is the southern extension of Venice Beach. Its claim to fame is its raised picnic shelters which provide shade in the afternoon, and excellent sunset views over the beach.
Sunset at Service Club Beach
Venice Fishing Pier, extending across Service Club Beach and into the sea from Sharkey's restaurant, is a favorite place to watch sunsets.
Fishing Pier Beach, Venice, Florida
Dedicated to dogs and their owners, the Paw Park south of Maxine Barritt Park has enclosures for dogs and access to the only stretch of beach on which dogs are permitted.
Dogs are allowed on the beach and in the water at the Paw Park.
South of the Paw Park and north of Caspersen Beach, this less-visited stretch of the shore has parking, toilets, an outdoor shower, and access walkways to the beach.
South Brohard Park
Southernmost of Venice's beaches, Caspersen is favored by those wanting to get away from crowds, and those searching for sharks' teeth: the tides gather them at several rock outcrops along the beach. A few palm trees provide small islands of shade in the morning.
North of North Jetty, beautiful Nokomis Beach is just north of Venice, on Casey Key, in Nokimis, reached by Albee Road west from the Tamiami Trail (US 41). At the beach's south end is the North Jetty of Casey's Pass, the water road between the Gulf of Mexico and several inland bays.
Nokomis Beach, just north of Venice, Florida
The southern continuation of Caspersen Beach, miles to the south, is not really a "Venice" beach (being in the city of Englewood), but it's a fine, long strand with good facilities...and quite good sharks' teeth hunting possibilities.
From time to time, some of Florida's Gulf Coast beaches are hit by Florida red tide, a concentration of toxic algae that can cause respiratory distress in humans, and poisoning in marine life. It's a natural phenomenon that's been going on for centuries, but it can affect your beach vacation. Check the red tide situation here.
You'll see lots of people fishing in Venice, with many at Casey's Pass at the northern border of Venice (with Nokomis). The Pass is a waterway connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Intracoastal Waterway.
Casey's Pass is defined by two stone jettys: South Jetty is in Venice, North Jetty is in Nokomis at the southern tip of Casey Key. Both jetties are popular with fishers. Here's the scene on North Jetty:
Fishing at North Jetty, Venice Florida
On South Jetty, because of the way the waves wash the fish toward the shore, you'll be competing with pelicans and dolphins.
The Fishing Pier is a popular place for fishing, and also for strolling and enjoying the view, especially at sunset.
A bait, tackle and snack shop is in service halfway out the pier. Near it are sinks at which you can clean your catch.
For meals, if you don't bring your own, there's Sharky's with its popular Tiki bar, and Fins, Sharky's upscale (more expensive) cousin.
Venice Fishing Pier
At the southern end, the paths connect to Caspersen Beach.
Just north of the drawbridge that carries Venice Avenue across the Intracoastal Waterway is the historic Venice train depot, a landmark along your way. It's now the terminus for SCAT buses to Sarasota.
Venetian Waterway Park
bike & walking path
If you like bicycling, you'll love doing it in Venice. It's so easy.
The twin bike paths in Venetian Waterway Park along both banks of the Intracoastal Waterway are perhaps Venice's most enjoyable riding route, but there's also the Legacy Trail between Sarasota and Venice.
Several businesses in Venice rent bicycles:
—Florida Bike & Beach (tel 941-412-1411); bikes delivered to you!
—Venice Bikes & Trikes (tel 941-412-3821); bikes delivered to you!
—Bicycles International, 1744 S Tamiami Trail (US 41)(tel 941-497-1590)
—Real Bikes, 581 US 41 Bypass (tel 941-485-3113)
—Segway Venice, 1590 S Tamiami Trail (US 41) (tel 855-873-4929), the bicycle alternative.
It's easy and pleasant to bike to Venice's beaches. Riding to Caspersen Beach, the farthest beach from the city center, you must take care on the narrow approach road because of shifting sand—the sand can cause loss of front-wheel control.
No hands along the Legacy Trail, Venice, Florida.
If you have your own boat, the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway provide plenty of adventure.
If you don't, Venice has several boat clubs and yacht clubs where you can rent boats, including Freedom Boat Club.
Freedom Boat Club, Venice, Florida
Some of Venice's gatd communities boast their own golf courses, but Venice has a longtime, conveniently-located course just on the southern edge of the city center near Venice Municipal Airport.
The 27-hole Lake Venice Golf Club is open to the public and equipped with all facilities. More...
Lake Venice Golf Club
In addition, two fine state parks are only a short drive north from Venice.
Monty Andrews Arboretum in West Blalock Park.
South Jetty, at the northern end of Venice Beach, is part of Humphris Park, which provides benches, toilets, shady trees, picnic tables, and parking lots, as well as excellent fishing opportunities for both people and pelicans.
Humphris Park & Casey's Pass, an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico.
Bike & walking path along the Intracoastal Waterway in Venetian Waterway Park.
Bounded by Palmetto Court and Menendez Street and named for John Nolen, the visionary urban planner who designed Venice's original plan, Nolen Park has shade trees, benches, an open area for games, and a children's playground with slides and swings.
John Nolen Park
The park around and west of the Venice Community Center, between Nassau Street and Pensacola Road, is small but pleasant and uncrowded.
Venice Community Center
West Blalock Park holds the wonderful Monty Andrews Arboretum, a collection of trees and plants of the region, all labeled and described. More than a dozen varieties of palm tree rise here, all signposted. Picnic tables provide welcome places for a snack.
South of Blalock Park, Venezia Park, at the west end of Palermo Place, is another of the shady parks included in Venice's historic master plan.
Just south of the Fishing Pier, this park has parking lots, picnic tables, a lagoon with alligators, and access to the beach.
Maxine Barritt Park, Venice Florida
At the far eastern end of Venice Avenue is Snook Haven, a Sarasota County park set on a loop in the Myakka River. Canoeing, birding, picnicking and the riverside restaurant are favorite activities here, but the big draw is Logan River Tours to spot alligators. Best to reserve your seat(s) on the boat well in advance.
That's a snook (Centropomus undecimalis) on the sign.
Happy alligator in Myakka State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey FL, six miles (10 km) north of Venice along the Tamiami Trail (US 41; map), comes as a surprise: a dense tropical forest amidst the urban sprawl of an ever-developing Gulf Coast.
With 15 miles (24 km) of trails for walking, running, hiking, bicycling, roller blading, bird watching, and water for fishing, paddling, swimming and snorkeling, plus a simple (primitive) campground, it's a welcome getaway from traffic and crowds.
Come for the forest, the trails, the beach, the canoe and kayak launch, and to get a glimpse of Florida scrub jays, ospreys, and even—if you're lucky—bald eagles.
The simple campground has picnic tables, showers, laundry facilities, and hookups for RVs.
The Legacy Trail runs right by Oscar Scherer Park, so you can easily bike there from Venice.
Oscar Scherer State Park
For a world-class collection of art in a palatial mansion, head for the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.
Venice Art Center
For anyone who lives in the northern USA or Canada, Florida prices usually seem to be refreshingly low. Shopping in Florida, even on a sunny day, is therefore a logical thing to do.
Otherwise, most Venice shopping is ranged along the Tamiami Trail (US 41), both on Venice Island along US 41 Business and, even more, off the island along US 41 By-pass.
A major concentration of shopping centers is south of Venice Island along US 41 toward Englewood.
Weekly street market
Use your base in Venice for excursions to other cities on the Gulf Coast and central Florida: Sarasota (40 minutes by car), Tampa (1.5 hours), even Orlando (Disney World; 3 hours) and Miami (4 hours).
From 1960 to 1992, Venice was the winter quarters of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the home of Ringling's famed Clown College. The focus of activities was the Venice Arena, a 5000-seat building on Venice Airport property near Circus Bridge (map), where training, practices and rehearsals were held. (I used to go to the dress rehearsals there as a child.)
The circus ended its glittering 146-year run in May 2017, and the great Arena was demolished years ago, but the soul of the circus lives on in Tito Gaona's Trapeze Academy, still on the site of the Venice Arena at the end of Airport Avenue East (map). For lots more, visit the Circus Museums at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota for the whole story.
Tito Gaona's Flying Trapeze Academy, where the Venice Arena used to be.
Tito Gaona's Flying Trapeze Academy, where the Venice Arena used to be.