When people think of Venice, Florida, they often have the first thought of beaches: long beautiful white sand beaches that stretch along the Gulf Coast as far as the eye can see. Though the beaches in Venice are definitely spectacular, this city in south Florida has a well-kept secret: several gorgeous nature trails and parks that appeal to those who love immersing ourselves in nature. Here are some of the best in the area:
Shamrock Park & Nature Center: Picnics & Birding
Perfect for birders, nature-lovers, and sports-lovers, the Shamrock Park & Nature Center mingles nature and community. You can have an amazing group picnic under the group pavilion, meet up with friends to play tennis, or attend a Butterfly Garden demonstration. This ADA-accessible Conservancy also has a playground if you're planning to take the grandkids out for a fun afternoon.
Or, if you'd rather just immerse yourself in a quiet trail, take advantage of the paved 1.2 mile trail through the center of the Conservancy. This is a unique area because it contains coastal shrub, some of the last that remains in coastal Sarasota County. Interested in birding? The Shamrock Park & Nature Center might offer you a glimpse of the elusive Florida scrub jay.
Legacy Trail: Dog-Friendly & Community-Oriented
A dog-friendly destination, the Legacy Trail connects several communities across Sarasota County. Open daily from 6 a.m. to sunset, the Legacy Trail has rest stops every mile or so. It's a concrete trail that's perfect for walking, biking, or running. It also has a fascinating history: it's built on the railroad corridor that used to allow for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad to connect local communities.
Now, this 12.5 mile long trail still connects communities—by foot. The Legacy Trail is accessible from the Patriots Park in Venice and the Historic Venice Train Depot. Take this trail at your leisure, while enjoying the sense of community, the water views, and the wildlife. Each trailhead offers free parking.
Venetian Waterway Park: Amazing Intracoastal Waterway Views
You can access the Venetian Waterway Park from the Historic Venice Train Depot (which also connects to the Legacy Trail). It offers five miles of biking or walking along the Intracoastal Waterway, leading to Caspersen Beach Park. It's a generally flat and easy walk, and has the extra appeal of a beach at the end!
Wildlife abounds here: the Venetian Waterway Park contains scrub Jays, bobcats, and alligators. One thing to keep in mind while walking this trail is that it is often windy and sunny because it is quite open. This makes it a wonderful place for an early morning or late afternoon walk, since it can be quite hot during the middle of the day.
Caspersen Beach Park: Shelling & Shark Teeth
If you want to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of Venice Beach, head to Caspersen Beach Park. Especially if you're looking to get away from the more populated areas of Venice Beach, Caspersen Beach Park offers a 20-minute nature walk trail. Known for its shells and for its prehistoric shark teeth, this is a great way to enjoy a pleasant walk along the shore.
And it's not just ocean: Caspersen Beach park also features freshwater marshes and mangroves, making it another one of south Florida's incredibly diverse ecosystem experiences.
Sleeping Turtles Preserve: Rustic and Wild
The trails at the 174-acre Sleeping Turtles Preserve are unpaved, but offer incredible view of the Myakka River. Its name comes from the Sleeping Turtles landmark, a term dating back to the navigational maps of the 1800s along the Myakka. A little more rustic than some of the other preserves and trails we've mentioned, Sleeping Turtles Preserve offers an incredible glimpse into nature in Venice.
With the river otter, gopher tortoise, red shouldered hawk, swallow-tailed kite, and bobcat listed as just a few of the animals you might encounter along this trail, it's a true destination for nature lovers. Just keep in mind before you go that it is a more rustic preserve than some of the others in Venice, and hence there are no restrooms here.
Venice is one of the most unique ecosystems in the country, with its coastal shrubbery and diversity of local birds and animals. This trail-friendly city offers outdoor activities galore in settings that range from remote to community-oriented.