Sarasota is more than just an exciting downtown with the most beautiful islands in Florida. The greater Sarasota area is made up of towns ranging from tiny rural outposts to cities that are destinations in their own right. None, however, offers as much historic character or as many attractions as Venice. The biggest “little” city on Florida’s Gulf Coast
Cross the small bridge arching over the Intercoastal Waterway into Venice proper and you will immediately feel the small-town charm. To the right is Venice’s downtown, the tree-lined avenues are packed with quaint shops, art galleries and cozy restaurants – all owned and operated by locals. You will find that many started out as part-time visitors before turning their favorite vacation spot into their home base.
Downtown Venice offers plenty of places to stay, from modern hotels that blend into the historic Northern Italian Renaissance architecture to bed and breakfasts built into classic island homes. Walk out the front door and you can stroll to dinner before taking in a show at the Venice Theatre – one of the largest community theaters in the country.
If you have any interest in the world-class golf courses in the area or if you plan on exploring Florida’s natural landscape at the half-dozen area nature preserves – it is all just a short drive away. And, of course, there are the Venice, FL beaches.
Drive south past downtown Venice and you will enter shaded residential streets before eventually running into Venice’s regional airport. Not very exciting, maybe, but those few landing strips are responsible for creating the largest, most unspoiled stretch of public beach in all of Sarasota.
It starts at the Venice Fishing Pier — which juts out into the Gulf of Mexico and offers spectacular views of the shoreline stretching to the north and south — and ends at Caspersen Beach, with no development marring the panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico along the uninterrupted miles of sandy beach.
Walk from one end to the other and you will find a section of beach called South Brohard Beach and Paw Park. This Florida beach is devoted to man’s best friend, where dogs can dig, run and sun themselves alongside their owners. You will also see people digging through the sand along the edge of the waves with everything from plastic beach buckets to the metal and wood sifting baskets sold in area shops, looking for the triangular, fossilized shark teeth brought to the area from deep waters of local currents. With little effort, you can start your own collection of pointy keepsakes that have made Venice the “Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World” and fostered an annual festival that brings aficionados to the area every April. The Shark’s Tooth Festival features more than 100 Florida artists alone in a family-friendly celebration of art, music and beach.
Just north of the public beaches, you’ll discover all the beachfront rentals that make an island stay easy, whether you are parasailing hundreds of feet above the water or relaxing under an umbrella.
Soak in the calm atmosphere of the vast scenic beaches, watch the kids hunt for toothy treasure and then head back to the cozy town that’s just a short drive away. Venice is not just another one of Sarasota’s many pocket cities, it is an escape.