Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival
This article includes:
Details about the Shark Festival
Favorite Places to Eat Nearby
Where to camp near Venice
Hotels, B&Bs and other Lodging near Venice
Things to do near Venice
There are very few sharks in the waters off Venice these days, but you don’t have to dig very deep or look very hard to find a shark’s tooth on its beaches.
The teeth you find today date back for centuries — prehistoric — when sharks were prolific in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida was under the sea.
Venice’s calm waters gave the Gulf’s shark’s teeth a place to settle into the sand, aided by the tides and shifting sands, and earning this Southwest Florida coastal city the moniker “Shark Tooth Capitol of the World.”
Beachgoers use sifters, some use toy beach shovels, most just use their fingers or pick them out of the surf like sea shells. You’ll find them. Nobody goes home without at least one.
So it’s only fitting, in this state of Spring festivals, to have a festival to celebrate shark’s teeth.
The Shark Tooth Festival is held each year in mid-April near the beach at the Airport Festival Grounds on Beach Road (120 East Airport Ave.), just off the U.S. 41 Business Loop.
Sharks have 40 or more teeth in each jaw and continually shed their teeth and replace them. Over a period of 10 years, an average Tiger shark can produce as many as 24,000 teeth. Dead sharks (and their shedded teeth) sink to the ocean floor, where they are covered with silt and sand and decompose, leaving only the teeth.
The unique tides and Gulf currents that wash shells up on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva also wash sharks teeth up on the beaches of Venice. (Venice also has its share of shells). Snorkelers and divers go deeper for the prize and often come up with the large teeth that don’t always make it to the beach.
One of the more captivating opportunities at the festival is the viewing of the fossil displays, where you can buy sharks teeth and other marine fossils from the area. There is continuous music throughout the weekend, and an art show.
2017 festival dates: April 7, 8 and 9
- Admission is $3 (children under 12 free)
- Location: 120 East Airport Road, Venice, FL
Things to do in Venice:
You can spend a full day in Venice’s historic downtown shopping district, around the square, just past the airport on the U.S. 41 Business Loop. Take Venice Avenue west from U.S. 41. There is plenty of parking in the square and on surrounding side streets.
The Legacy Trail is a multi-use trail created on an old railroad bed that starts in downtown Venice and runs 12.4 miles north through woods, parks, wetlands and back yards to Sarasota. At the historic railroad depot in Venice, the trail connects to the Venetian Waterway Park, another multi-use trail that parallels the Intracoastal Waterway (both sides) and takes you out to Venice’s beaches.
The Legacy Trail runs through Oscar Scherer State Park, which is just a few miles north of Venice on U.S. 41 in Osprey. In addition to bike trails, you’ll also find a full day’s worth of hiking and kayak trails, wildlife viewing, a swimming lake and some fantastic camping (see note below).
Where to eat:
Sharkys is the pier restaurant on the main beach and one of our favorite places to enjoy seafood. The outdoor dining area is quite large and has a tiki bar. You can also eat inside or enjoy cocktails on the roof. Sharkys is always busy, but the service is fast and the food is good. 1600 Harbor Drive South (just take Beach Road past the airport to the main beach) 941-488-1456. TripAdvisor Reviews
Crow’s Nest Restaurant, Tavern and Marina. Just by the name, you can guess this restaurant is on the water. In fact, it’s on the inlet at the South Jetty. Great views from the upstairs dining room, and the tavern is tucked away in a corner downstairs. The tavern often features entertainment. I was treated to a wonderful meal in the upstairs dining room on a sponsored tour. The seafood entrees, including a hearty Bouillabaisse, are priced between $18 and $30, about normal for a somewhat upscale restaurant. Oysters are the raw bar specialty, and they are from all over the world — priced accordingly, of course. Definitely worth a visit. TripAdvisor Reviews.
T.J. Carney’s Irish pub on the historic downtown square has outdoor sidewalk seating and a comfortable bar inside where you can enjoy a cold beer, a stacked sandwich or a full dinner. Great place to people-watch as the bar opens up on the square. 231 West Venice Ave (on the south side of the square). 941-480-9244. TripAdvisor Reviews
The White Elephant Pub in Englewood Beach is a favorite waterfront eatery, not so much for the food but because of the outdoor deck overlooking a quiet marina on the Intracoastal Waterway. The food is decent pub fare and reasonably priced, and you’ll usually find a band playing outside on weekends. Getting there is half the fun if you jump off the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) at Route 776 (Englewood Road) and look for Manasota Beach Road, which you take west across a bridge to Manasota Key. Manasota Key Road is narrow and picturesque, where those wealthier than I have cute homes and live a quiet beach life. After a few miles, you’ll be at the White Elephant. South of the White elephant is Stump Pass Beach State Park.
Camping near Venice
Camp Venice Retreat is one of our favorite campgrounds, one we visit almost every year. The privately owned campground has 100 RV sites with full hookups, including 19 shady sites on the inlet that accesses the beautiful Myakka River. There is also a separate and well-shaded tent area, three small cabins (primitive) and a swimming pool. 4085 East Venice Ave. (off River Road, at the end of a hard-pack sand and shellrock road). 941-488-0850. Read the Florida Rambler article on this campground.
Ramblers Rest RV Park is a couple of miles downriver from Camp Venice with more than 500 RV sites on the 100-acre property. This is campground is more like a small city, and they cater mostly to snowbirds who spend the winter months. It’s clean and well-kept with all the amenities, and it has a boat ramp, a dock and picnic area on the river. Rates range from $39 to $48 a night. 1300 North River Road. 941-493-4354. You can reserve your site on ReserveAmerica.
Oscar Scherer State Park is only a few miles north of Venice on U.S. 41 in Osprey. We love this state park with its shaded sites, river and intracoastal access and network of off-road and on-road bicycle trails. There is also a swimming lake just a short walk from the campground, which has 104 sites suitable for RVs and tents with water and electric. The 15-mile-long Legacy Trail, a pave rail trail, runs through the park providing two-wheel access to both Venice on the south and Sarasota on the north. Reserve your campsite at ReserveAmerica.
Myakka River State Park. One of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River has two campgrounds with 76 sites. Each site has electric, water, a fire ring and a picnic table. (Dump station available). The park is paradise for cyclists and paddlers. There are 7 miles of paved park roads and backcountry dirt roads that wind through backwoods habitats. Canoe or kayak on a large lake or down the wild and scenice Myakka River. Reservations accepted by phone, 800-326-3521, or online through ReserveAmerica. Read more in this Florida Rambler article: Myakka River State Park: Playland on the prairies
Other nearby camping:
Royal Coachman RV Resort (3 miles)
Harbor Lakes RV Park (17 miles)
Hotels, B&Bs and other Lodging Near Venice
The Horse & Chaise Inn, Venice. This cool little bed and breakfast is located in the heart of Venice’s historic district and is within walking distance of the beach and downtown. We toured the rooms (but did not stay there) on a trip sponsored by the Sarasota County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The rooms vary in size with different features, but all were clean, spacious and looked extremely comfortable. Each room has a private bath, cable TV, and a small refrigerator. The couple that owns this historic lodge closes for the summer (July, August and September), reopening for the winter season on Oct.b 15. You can make your reservations directly on their web site.
Bentley’s Boutique Hotel, Osprey, FL. This former chain hotel just a few miles north of Venice on U.S. 1 has been converted by its new English owners into a boutique hotel with lots of amenities. Love the conversion of the pool area, making it an island with beach sand all around and a tiki bar. I stayed at this hotel for two nights on a trip sponsored by the Sarasota County Convention & Visitors Bureau. I give it a thumbs up. Moderately priced. Reserve your room online at Hotels.com.
Hampton Inn & Suites Venice Bayside. This well-appointed chain hotel is within walking distance of downtown Venice (less than a mile) on the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). I’ve never stayed here, but it looks great from the highway and it has an outdoor pool and picnic area, a spa and a fitness center. Free Wi-Fi and free local phone calls. For more information and to book a room, go online to Hotels.com.
For other lodging options in Venice, follow this link to Hotels.com.
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