A&A Tour Venice, Florida With The Kane Family
End of Week #88
Oscar Scherer State Park, Venice FL > Fort Desoto Campground, Fort Desoto FL
Miles traveled since last week's post = 59 miles
Total miles traveled to date = 12,166 with trailer
Wouldn't you know, I'm late again this week! I promise I will be getting back into my groove ASAP... I'm blaming this week's delay on our shenanigans with family, and mercury retrograde, ha!
We have had a great action packed week, despite the cold front that took over Florida and the days of gusty winds. Adam and I have been making the most of everything by touring the area, hanging out with great Aunt & Uncle Tim & Kimber, and by enjoying every second of the coast and the Florida sunshine.
This week's post will shine a light on all of our adventures with my extended family (from my mom's side) - especially focused around the Venice, FL area they live in. Enjoy!
A&A Tour Venice, Florida With The Kane Family
Venice is a city on Florida's Gulf Coast, just south of Sarasota. It is known for Venice Beach, which has offshore coral reef, and Caspersen Beach, where you can go on the hunt for shark teeth. The entire city of Venice is technically an island! Did you know that? Although it sits close to the rest of the state, there is an Intercoastal Waterway in between and you have to cross a bridge from the mainland to actually get to Venice. They call the islands off the mainland of Florida, barrier islands, as they would take the brunt of a hurricane upon impact, helping to preserve everything inland.
Just like anywhere in Florida, or anywhere in the USA for that matter, there is a lot of history behind Venice. Originally, what is now Venice, was home to Native people that lived here more than 12,000 years ago. The Native tribes hunted and farmed this land, and millions of years before that - so did animals such as woolly mammoths, giant sloths, mastodons and tapir, all of which remains have been found throughout the area. It wasn't until the 1800's that the first true wave of settlers came here and began to homestead the area. Venice was first named "Horse and Chaise", due to the carriage like tree formations that marked this spot for fishermen. In 1888 the city acquired the name Venice from a settler named Frank Higel, known as the "Father of Venice". In 1927 the city was incorporated and the Italian architecture started to first take shape. The Kentucky Military Institute moved into Venice in 1932, and with it came a boost to the economy. The army then built a training base in 1941, at the Municipal Airport.
What really started to drive the population, from under 1,000 to nearly 10,000, came with the arrival of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1950's. The circus turned Venice into their winter headquarters and the population continued to boom through the 60's. The 60's also brought the construction of the Intercoastal Waterway, officially making Venice an island.
My extended family moved to Venice many years ago, from Stone Lake, WI, and I'm totally grabbing from the back of my mind here, but I want to say it was the 80's? Of course I now can't remember correctly, but it was quite a long time ago. I have visited them here once, way back when I was about 10 or so years old, and the area is just as pleasant as I remember it then. I haven't gotten to see them too often over the years, and a lot of our get togethers may have been centered around less than fortunate family circumstances, but I have to say it's been so nice visiting with them here in their Florida home. We have been having such a blast getting to know each other and learning everything about my family history, and the history of Venice alike!
Eats & Drinks
Dockside Waterfront Grill - This was the first place we ventured to in Venice and it was definitely one of the more popular places to go to, situated right on the water and marina. There is also a lot of history here in my family, as both my great Uncle Tim and my second cousin Troy have worked here. We had an excellent time enjoying some beers and snacks, and when we drove by it another time at night it was absolutely packed. I can see why so many people like it!
Snook Haven - I would consider this a secret gem outside of the city, tucked away on the Myakka River and amongst the Florida jungle. This is what you would call "Old Florida", or the Florida before Florida became so built up and full of tourists and snowbirds. This place is known for it's BBQ, it's live music, and giant alligators hanging on the walls inside. Here you can sit next to the music, next to the river, or inside. The entrance to get to Snook Haven is lined with lights all along the trees, and it is simply beautiful and enchanting!
Irma's Tacos, Craft Beer & Tequila Bar - This modern day, hipster place is situated a bit south and out of the city, in a newer development. It immediately reminded me of places Adam and I used to frequent in Woodbury, Hudson and St. Paul, MN, and it was definitely our style with their 100's of different tequilas and full menu page of tacos to choose from. The best part is that they have street tacos, and the best kinds of creations! One of the tacos I had was like a ceviche/sushi taco, and it was super excellent.
Pop's Sunset Grill - In terms of popular, waterfront establishments, this was hands down the coolest place we went to in Venice. We were warned by the family that we might not be able to get a spot there, but sure enough a parking space emerged on a Thursday night. This place reminds me of something that you would find in a tropical resort, or along the coasts of Mexico. There are essentially 3 different areas to it - the upper indoor tiki bar, the outside seating with flames on your table, and the dockside seating along the water. We sat dockside, and had flaps down to help keep out the cold and the wind. It features all your typical seafood, fried food, and American food, and had a good selection of drinks. And as we were leaving, we were able to see the shadows of a ton of fish sitting in the water. Loved it!
Sharky's On The Pier - After 33 years in Venice, this place has become a landmark and is one of the very first things that will pop up if you google search what to do in Venice. We did not actually eat here, but we walked through it and by it when we were taking a walk out on the Venice fishing pier, as it is situated right at the base. Voted one of the best beach bars, you can surely find everything you are looking for here, and we will definitely have to keep it on the list for another time.
The city of Venice is a "Florida Main Street" city, a designation that is awarded by the State of Florida for Historical Preservation. It is filled with Italian architecture and beautifully landscaped boulevards. Downtown Venice is home to over 100 unique and privately owned businesses - which includes stores and restaurants. The charm of the entire area is something you just can't find anywhere else! The streets are lined with Oak trees and old Banyan trees, with walking paths and parks. The main street itself is lined on both sides with the tallest palm trees you have ever seen, and downtown is very active in arts and culture.
Some of the key areas downtown to point out would include: the Venice Theater, the San Marco Hotel, the Performing Arts Center, Centennial Park, historic plaques about the Kentucky Military Institute, and plaques about the dinosaurs that were once excavated from this area!
North & South Jetty
The Venice Jetties, and the channel between them, were constructed in 1937. The South Jetty is in the City of Venice - the North Jetty is in Nokomis and under the jurisdiction of Sarasota County, even though it's just across the waterway from the South Jetty.
Each Jetty offers you the ability to walk out into the Gulf to fish, or simply watch for wildlife or admire the views. They are also each connected to a beach too! This is the perfect area to watch the sunset or look for pelicans in the trees... Yes, pelicans do apparently land and rest in trees, we witnessed it with our own eyes after much debate!
Venice Beach & Pier
Along this portion of the coast there are 14 miles of beaches, all the way from Casey Key to Manasota Key. Venice Beach is known as a certified Blue Wave Beach, part of the Clean Beaches Coalition. Read more about that here.
At Venice beach you will find just about everything you are searching for: music, beach volleyball, yoga, bird watching, waves, sunsets, sand, arts in action, and a very unique sail shaped pavilion. Parking is free, and camping is not allowed. There is a pier that suits well for fishing or dolphin watching (we still have yet to see any dolphins in Florida), and this area is also home to a large amount of turtles from May to October.
While we were at the beach we saw anything from birthday celebrations to folks all by themselves doing what I would call interpretive dance in the sand. There was a large gathering of birds along the shore, that we couldn't quite figure out why they were congregating there, and there were a log of beachgoers set up, ready to watch the sun set over the horizon.
Caspersen Beach - Another beach, just south of Venice, is known for it's treasures of shark teeth that can be sifted through the sand. This beach is also extremely popular as a place to go for shelling. We did not get to explore this beach just yet, but I have it on my radar to go back and find us some shark tooth treasures.
Myakka River & State Park - Another Florida gem that I tried so very hard to get into for us to camp, but had no such luck. This place is more off the beaten path, tucked inland from the city of Venice, but an absolute gem of a jungle along the Myakka River. In this same general area there is also a Spirituality Retreat center that my great Aunt and Uncle are associated to through their work. We took a drive through it, and along the river, and the entire area was incredibly stunning! Old Florida is wild and thick with vegetation, but it brings so much peace and comfort too.
Oscar Scherer State Park - Just to the north of Venice, in an area called Nokomis, is another beautiful jungle oasis State Park. We were lucky enough to stay 2 nights here, as it is highly sought after and hard to get into this time of year. I had been checking their website daily for months before finally snagging the two we got. There are about 100 campsites and miles and miles of walking trails, amongst a thick forest of palm trees and other Florida vegetation.
Sarasota & Siesta Key - Just to the north of Oscar Scherer is the city of Sarasota and Siesta Key, known for those white sandy beaches. Now I have been to this area over 20 years ago when I first came to Venice, but we haven't yet had a chance to thoroughly adventure here this time around. But don't you worry, it's definitely still on the list for this month!
Greater Tampa Bay - Continuing on (north) along the Gulf Coast will take you to the Greater Tampa Bay area, with cities such as Palmetto, Bradenton, St. Pete's, Fort Desoto, etc. This is an absolutely beautiful area and I'm happy we will get to camp and explore a lot of it while we are in this part of Florida! There really is so much to offer in terms of water activities, hiking, biking, canoeing, eating, drinking, and beaching.
From a once small fishing village, to a now haven for vacationers and retirees alike, Venice is thriving. The overall vibe I get from the city is peaceful, relaxing, hipster, and modern. The architecture is that of which I absolutely love about Florida, as it is about as European as it gets without being in Europe. Venice is full of all the best places to eat and drink and watch the sun go down, and it will forever remain a place of sentimental value to me!
Aside from being on time and getting back to my regular posting schedule, next week I also plan to review our camp stay at Fort Desoto. This is another highly sought after place to camp in FL, and it is also filled with a lot of history and adventure too! Stay tuned for more next week.
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