Welcome To Venice Beach, FL
Mid-way down the Gulf Coast is this old-time Floridian development that still exists with one foot in the past and one in the present. Venice was turned into an island by a man-made canal in 1964 that connected it to the Intracoastal Waterway – and split the city in two. Today, it exists quite happily as a rather laid-back beach destination with lots of natural charm to take advantage of the year-round good weather.
Highlights of Venice Beach, FL
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Venice Beach, FL Location
Weather in Venice Beach, FL
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Things to do in Venice Beach, FL
The city of Venice was originally settled in the 1870s and incorporated in 1927 as part of a railroad-influenced land boom in south-west Florida. The whole city was laid out on a master-plan with a grand avenue leading directly to the beach, and all the original buildings had to conform to northern Italian renaissance architectural style that still largely exists today. That full story is well documented and presented by the Venice Museum & Archives, with a series of exhibits that display the unique cultural heritage of ‘The Land on the Gulf’ from prehistoric times to the modern-day tourist attraction it has become – including why it is such a great area for fossilised sharks’ teeth. Another historic curiosity is the Historic Venice Train Depot, featuring more Venice history and a variety of railroad carriages and artefacts, with a children’s playground in Legacy Park opposite the Depot.
Beaches & Parks
The main attraction hereabouts is one, long, blissful stretch of glistening white sands from South Jetty Beach on the northern tip of the island to South Venice Beach, 10 miles to the south. It is ideal for sunbathing, fishing, boating, shelling and water-sports, and offers Florida’s most sought-after beach treasures, fossil shark teeth. While these ancient remains can turn up on many parts of the Gulf Coast, they are most plentiful here, and shell hunters often turn out in force, especially after major storms. There is plenty of public access to the beach, with regular car parking and restrooms, and several parks, including one for dogs, Brohard Paw Park. The iconic 700ft Venice Fishing Pier is located on the beach by Venice Municipal Airport, with the chance to rent reels and rods and try your hand at fishing licence-free.
Culture & Arts
For a largely beach-dominated resort, Venice boasts a surprising amount of modern cultural activities to go with its old-school vibe. Venice Arts Center is a great community focus for the arts, with regular exhibitions of well-known artists, as well as satellite galleries of local art and crafts. There are also lessons, regular events and a cute café. For photography fans, the Clyde Butcher Gallery is well worth seeing, with some magnificent exhibits of landscape work from this internationally renowned photographer. The Venice Theater is also a major family-friendly community venture, albeit with large-scale productions, while the Venice Performing Arts Center is home to the Venice Symphony, with regular orchestral concerts, and visiting groups for opera, ballet and other programmes. Plus, for culture vultures looking for even more active interests on their holiday, the major arts centre of Sarasota is only 20 miles north.
Health & Spa
Fitness and yoga are top of the agenda for many locals, and it’s not hard to find a variety of health and wellness programmes to enjoy while you’re here. Yoga with Elin can often be found on the beach each morning, while Island Fitness & Yoga is a fun fitness studio that will happily accommodate visitors for Zumba, Yoga, BodySculpt and more. For a more gentle experience, the Sirena Island Day Spa offers a mixture of individual and couples’ pampering, including massage, skincare and other body treatments. Or choose from another 10 day spas that all offer a range of health-inspired treatments, including Aura Organic Spa and Zen Day Spa. As ever, the larger-scale delights of Sarasota are not far away, and you will find a variety of major spas at some of the bigger resorts, notably the Westin, Ritz-Carlton and The Resort at the Longboat Key Club.
Wildlife & Ecotourism
Wildlife is a big part of the Venice scene, with an especial abundance of birds and local sealife. In the spring, visit the Venice Area Audubon Rookery, which has a wonderful profusion of nesting birds and their chicks, while 614-acre Jelks Preserve, further inland, is another great birding source, with eight miles of scenic trails along the Myakka River. Nearby Snook Haven is famous for its fish-camp restaurant and the chance to take kayaks or canoes along the river for another natural experience. For sealife, there are various tours that take visitors dolphin-watching, on sunset cruises and sandbar excursions (looking for shells and sharks’ teeth), including SailVenice, Aristakat Charters, the Tiki Taxi and Xplore FL Charters. For the full, large-scale Florida wildlife experience, head 25 miles inland to Myakka River State Park and sample the boat and tram tours, or just go hiking on almost 40 miles of trails.
Get ready for another signature Floridian dining experience in Venice, with more than 100 restaurants in the area, from humble pizza parlours to full-on gourmet seafood experiences. As ever, the seafood is fresh and plentiful, with oysters, rock shrimp, stone crab and Florida Gulf grouper among the local delicacies. It’s hard to go wrong with the seafood here, and any of Dockside Waterfront Grill, Captain Eddie’s Seafood Bar (in nearby Nokomis), Left Coast Oyster Seafood Bar and Cedar Reef Fish Camp will provide an authentic experience, along with the signature style of the Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant and Sharky’s On The Pier, which is idyllic at sunset. You should also try the upscale Fin’s at Sharky’s, upstairs from the main restaurant, for gourmet steakhouse style. For a true Venice tradition, sample Yummies Donuts & BBQ, or Blu Island Bistro for a pancake breakfast extravaganza.
Maintaining Venice’s reputation for the individual and small-scale, the shopping here is equally boutique and original. Art galleries pop up regularly and gift shops – like Smoky Mountain Handmade Candles – tend to out-number the more prosaic offerings. Much of the city’s shopping interest is centred on three blocks of Venice Avenue and Miami Avenue (just across the waterway), with an old-fashioned touch to this original 1920s downtown area. Here you’ll find stores like Green Parrot Gift Shop, Coppola Artistica, Venice Trading Company and Tangi & Jess. Another highly original shop is the one-off Tiki Tyme, on the Tamiami Trail in South Venice. The nearest major shopping mall is Westfield Sarasota Square just 12 miles to the north. For a completely unusual experience, Detwiler’s Farm Market features an amazing range of fresh produce in this overgrown grocery store!
It’s Florida, it’s the coast, so get ready for some serious water-sports, plus the ever-present high-quality golf. Start at Crow’s Nest Marina on the north of the island for a great range of boat, bike and kayak rentals that allow you to explore the immediate area and its waterways. Jet-skis and paddleboards are widely available for rent, while scuba-diving opportunities can be found with Florida West Scuba & Charters, Xplore FL Charters and Aquanutz Dive Charter (who specialize in looking for fossilised prehistoric shark teeth). Sport-fishing is another major activity, with each of Bad Habit Sport Fishing, Fish Galore Offshore and Best Catch Fishing Charters based in Venice itself, while other opportunities are based in nearby Nokomis. Golfers can take advantage of seven high-quality courses in the Venice area, and several dozen more within a short drive north towards Sarasota or south to Englewood, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.