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Tropical treats and shark teethTropical treats and shark teeth

Venice, FloridaVenice, Florida

Fly in for tasty Caribbean/American cuisine and panoramic runway views. Or, amble down to the pier for fresh seafood. Look for shark teeth on the beach and revel in the tropical climate. How many airports offer an afternoon like that? Welcome to Venice—Florida, that is.

  • Venice Beach, California? No—this is Venice Beach, Florida, where the suns sets over the warm Gulf of Mexico. Fly to Venice for a tropical vacation any time of year. Photo by Matthew Paulson.
  • The huge jaw of an extinct shark is displayed during the Sharks Tooth Festival, held in April at the airport. Photo courtesy Sharks Tooth Festival.
  • You’ll see all kinds of chalk art at the Chalk Art Festival, held in November at the airport. Photo courtesy Inn at the Beach Facebook.
  • After playing in the sand at Caspersen Beach, this girl is using a shark tooth sifter tool to look for shark teeth buried in the sand beneath the waves. Rent yours at Papa’s Bait Shop, on the pier by Sharky’s. Photo by Rickpilot via Flickr.
  • Canary Island palms line the median in front of the Sea Pleasures and Treasures shell and fossil shop in downtown Venice, Florida. Photo by Arthur Rozumek.
  • When the local post office was established in 1888, the name Venice was chosen, after the Italian city by the sea. During the early 1900s, the railroad was extended south from Sarasota. A transportation canal (now called the Intracoastal Waterway) was built and renowned city planner John Nolen was tapped to design the city, in a style echoing Northern Italian Renaissance. Most of the original buildings remain. Photo by psyberartist via Flickr.
  • A pair of great egrets in full breeding plumage work together to build their nest at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery. Photo by Diana Robinson.
  • The red eye of a black-crowned night heron catches the setting sun at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery. Photo by Diana Robinson.
  • A great blue heron brings flies in with a branch for its nest at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery. Photo by Sal Catizone.
  • Canoeing and kayaking along South Creek in the Oscar Scherer State Park. Rent yours right at the park. Photo courtesy Florida State Parks.
  • This bobcat was walking right on the trail in Oscar Scherer State Park. Photo courtesy Florida State Parks.
  • Enjoy frozen drinks and fun food at Daiquiri Deck, on Venice Island. Photo by Mark Sickles, courtesy VisitSarasota.com.
  • You’ll have plenty of space when you stay at the Inn at the Beach. Photo courtesy Inn at the Beach Facebook.
  • The beach is literally right across the street from the Inn at the Beach. Photo courtesy Inn at the Beach Facebook.
  • Sunsets along Venice Beach are a real event, appreciated by visitors and locals alike. Photo courtesy Venice Island Antiques.

I’ve spent countless hours at the famous Venice Beach, California, a mecca for bodybuilders (like me) and others who try to avoid living by the rules. But there’s another Venice in America—Venice, Florida, about halfway down the Gulf Coast. This Venice also has a canal, sidewalk cafés, and beautiful beaches. Best of all, it has an airport, so it’s a great destination for pilots.

Venice Municipal Airport is about 50 nautical miles south of the Tampa area. The airspace is heavily trafficked, so VFR flight following or an IFR flight plan is recommended. Approaching the Venice area, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the beaches. The airport occupies the southern section of “Venice Island,” that portion of land west of the Intracoastal Waterway. You’ll see two intersecting runways. In calm wind, Runway 5/23 is preferred. Runway 13 has a right pattern. For noise abatement, if departing on Runway 31, turn left as soon as practical.

Each year, the Chalk Art Festival brings some of the greatest chalk artists to the Venice Municipal Airport. Photo courtesy Inn at the Beach Facebook.

Good times can start right at the airport with the Suncoast Café. Enjoy panoramic views of the runway outside and plenty of warbird art inside. The St. Lucian Breakfast Quesadilla comes with a side of plantains, or, try the Island Jerk Chicken. Each April, the city holds a Sharks Tooth Festival right at the airport! Fly in to see or buy amazing shark teeth, prized by collectors, and sample the food, arts and crafts, and entertainment. Come back in November for the Chalk Art Festival, when the airport tarmac comes alive with incredible 3-D chalk art—the best I have ever seen. Clean, quiet Caspersen Beach is just west of the airport. Swim or snorkel in the warm water, watch the pelicans, or look for fossilized shark teeth in the sand. Brohard Beach and Paw Park, also just west of the airport, is the only local beach that allows dogs.

Walk up to the pier for lunch or dinner at Sharky’s on the Pier, Venice’s only beachfront eatery. You’ll find a tiki bar, live music, and plenty of seafood like ginger Thai shrimp. Downtown Venice still retains much of its original Northern Italian Renaissance architecture, which makes a stroll up Venice Avenue especially rewarding. As in Venice, California, Canary Island palms line the streets, but you’ll also find banyan trees, art galleries, and quality shops like Venice Island Antiques. Stop by Sea Pleasures and Treasures, a retro shell shop that displays locally found fossilized shark teeth.

Rare Florida scrub jays thrive at Oscar Sherer State Park. One of the many interesting thing about these birds is that a pair’s adult offspring usually remain with their parents to help raise the following year’s chicks, thus helping to ensure the success of the entire family. Later, the young adults inherit the territory from their parents. Photo courtesy Florida State Parks.

Rather than walking, you can reserve a bicycle, and have it delivered to the airport for free—what could be easier? You can ride north on the Venetian Waterway Park, which runs along the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway. Stop at the Old Venice Depot beneath the Venice Avenue Bridge and check out the restored Pullman car. You’ll also see a statue of Gunther Gebel-Williams, world famous animal trainer and mega-star of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Back when the circus came to town each winter, elephants and camels disembarked here and promenaded along the waterfront.

Golfers will be happy to know there are six courses within five miles of downtown. The Pelican Pointe Golf and Country Club offers 27 holes of championship golf plus a pro shop and dining. Birders will want to visit the Venice Area Audubon Rookery, a small island in a lake where thousands of herons and egrets nest. At Oscar Sherer State Park, you can hike or rent a canoe or kayak and look for bobcats and rare Florida scrub jays. You can also rent a kayak and paddle along the mangrove-lined islands of the Intracoastal Waterway, especially to the north along Little Sarasota Bay and Spanish Point, or south toward Lemon Bay.

You certainly won’t go hungry here: Enjoy a frozen concoction and the raw bar at Daiquiri Deck Island of Venice. Choose an elegant seafood meal along the Intracoastal Waterway at The Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant, near the kayak rental marina. Or, sit on the sidewalk at T.J. Carney’s Pub and Grille and watch the people go by. For a place to stay that’s close to downtown, the beach, and the airport, go for the huge rooms and kitchenettes at Inn at the Beach Resort or the Venice Beach Villas with free bikes. So, fly in and discover America’s other Venice Beach, in Florida!

Fish with a feathered friend in Venice, Florida. Pick up your license at the local K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Photo courtesy VisitSarasota.com.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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