Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Brohard Beach and Paw Park

1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice

The county’s only dog-friendly beach is in a pretty park between Venice and Caspersen beaches. A good-sized, fenced- in grassy area allows dogs to romp off-leash. They can also race up and down the beach and plunge into the Gulf to retrieve balls or just cool off. Visitors give this beach rave reviews on social media, saying it’s clean and quiet, with well-behaved dogs; one fan calls it “the best dog park in Southwest Florida.”

While your pooped pooch rests in the sand, try to spot some of the sharks’ teeth Venice is famous for. No lifeguards, but there are picnic tables and restrooms along with hoses to wash off dogs and showers for their humans.

Venice Beach

101 The Esplanade

Most beaches on the west coast of Florida are on barrier islands, but in Venice, the beach perches right at the edge of the mainland, giving the town much of its picturesque charm. Easily accessed from the historic downtown and central residential area, Venice Beach is at the end of Venice Avenue, with a small parking lot that’s usually close to full.

Underneath the beach lies Venice’s claim to fame: a 35-foot-deep layer of fossilized shark’s teeth, deposited 10 million years ago when the west coast of Flor-ida was submerged. The beach holds so many shark’s teeth that it’s sparked an annual Shark’s Tooth Festival and the city’s proud moniker: Shark Tooth Capital of the World. On this and other Venice-area beaches, you’ll see lots of people stooped over, sifting sand through shark-tooth strainers, searching for the shiny black artifacts.

Venice Fishing Pier at Brohard Park

Venice Fishing Pier at Brohard Park

1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice

This southern stretch of Venice beachfront may offer the most variety of any county beach, with a fishing pier complete with Papa’s Bait Shop; sand volleyball courts; Sharky’s at the Pier, a casual restaurant and tiki bar that’s been named Florida’s Best Beach Bar and hosts reggae and other bands; and Fins, an upscale seafood restaurant. But there’s plenty of sand, too, for sunbathing, shelling and shark-tooth hunting and castle-building.

You don’t need a license to fish from the pier, where anglers land everything from redfish, jack and snook to hammerhead sharks and barracuda. It’s fun to walk along the pier at night, watching the eclectic crowd, from seniors in baseball caps to families with kids, settle in with coolers and bait buckets to fish, swap stories and watch the moonlight glimmer on the Gulf.

Caspersen Beach

4100 Harbor Drive, Venice

 If natural splendor is what you want in a beach, head to Caspersen, an almost two-mile stretch of pristine shoreline. There’s a big parking lot with fancy new restrooms (elevated to escape storm surge); you can also arrive by bicycle, pedaling down the Venetian Waterway Trail, which ends here. At the far end of the parking lot, paddlers can launch their crafts to access Red Lake and the Intracoastal.

On the beach itself, there are no lifeguards, concessions or sports courts; waves, sand and solitude are the big attractions here. This is one of the best Sarasota beaches for shellers, who can find an ever-changing trove of new and ancient treasures, such as fossilized shark’s teeth and even remnants of long-ago mastodons and horses. As you walk down the beach, you will encounter varied coastal ecosystems, including freshwater and saltwater marshes, mangroves and tidal flats. Even the most stressed-out modern spirit should come away with a healing sense of wonder and calm.

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