Casey Key is a perfect destination for someone who wants to bicycle the nearby Legacy bike trail in the morning, beachcomb amid natural beauty in the afternoon and then head to an authentic waterfront fish house for dinner.
After three days of exploring Casy Key, we think we’ve found a hidden treasure.
A skinny 8-mile long barrier island between Venice and Sarasota, Casey Key has one road — a narrow twisting lane through a residential neighborhood of spectacular Gulf-front mansions.
Part of what makes Casey Key appealing is what it doesn’t have: tall buildings, commercial development, lots of roads.
The southern end of Casey Key has a half dozen mom-and-pop motels on the beach, two public beaches including a popular fishing jetty and a few casual restaurants.
The northern end of the island ends with a private road and some exclusive homes.
Near the top of the island is the road east off the island, Blackburn Road, which is the site of a small waterfront park that offers a good put-in place for kayaks and power boats. On this street is one of the best seafood restaurants in the area, the Casey Key Fish House.
One thing to love about Blackburn Road is the little one-lane swing bridge that takes you to the island. Its small capacity ensures that those passing through really want to be there because there is often a wait.
The gorgeous Casey Key beach
There are two public beaches on Casey Key and — how great is this? — parking is free. Make a note to admire the pavilion at Nokomis Beach – it was built in the 1950s, designed by Jack West, of the renowned Sarasota School of Architecture.
The Casey Key beach, which has coarse sand and mounds of broken shells, is one of the best places to hunt for prehistoric shark teeth in the Venice area. There are miles of beach to walk, with few people beyond the public Casey Key beaches.
You’ll see people sitting at the wrack line, sifting through shells looking for shiny black shards that are the teeth of long-extinct sharks.
What do they do with them? I don’t know. In this case, I suspect, the search – sitting in the sand closely examining nature’s bounty at a beautiful beach – may be the point.
At sunset, Casey Key beach is the place to enjoy a long-standing drum circle. The Nokomis Beach Drum Circle occurs every Wednesday and Saturday evening at the main public beach area on Casey Key about two hours before sunset. Drummers, musicians and dancers congregate with an audience that can reach a few hundred.
Just south of the Nokomis Beach is the North Jetty Park, which is popular with fishermen and visitors enjoying the scenery. Dolphins are often seen feeding here as well as manatees in winter.
Casey Key Road: As scenic as it gets
Casey Key Road is so small and twisty that the speed limit posted in many places is 15 mph. This slow residential road makes a scenic ride by car.
While a tempting place to bicycle, we don’t recommend it. It requires extreme caution because of the level of traffic and twists in the road. (Don’t worry: There are better, safer places to bicycle nearby.)
Bicycling the Legacy Trail, 10 minutes away
For bicyclists the real star in the region is the nearby 18-mile Legacy Trail and its southern connector, the Venetian Waterways Trail. This trail system can be accessed 10 minutes from Casey Key at Laurel Park, 509 Collins Road, Nokomis.
The Legacy Trail is one of the best traffic-free paved trails you will find in Florida. The quality of the trail is outstanding, the route is scenic nearly the whole way and it takes you to appealing destinations along the way.
If you take the Legacy Trail south, at the historic Venice Trail Station, you reach the Venetian Waterways Trail. This trail splits with one paved path on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway and one bike path on the east side. The western route extends five miles to beautiful Casperson Beach. The eastern route ends in four miles at Shamrock Park and Nature Center.
If you head north on the Legacy Trail, you pass through Oscar Scherer State Park, where you can park your bikes and explore or take a hike. The trail extends 18 miles north from the Venice Trail Station.
We started our days with a bike ride in the cool morning when the trail was in the shade. One day we pedalled north from Laurel Park and one day south. In the warm afternoons, we swam and beach-combed along Casey Key.
Our favorite rides were along Casey Key and the northern section of the Legacy Trail from Laurel Park through Oscar Scherer State Park. The Venetian Waterways Trail was scenic but lacked shade.
Casey Key restaurants: Dine on local seafood
We enjoyed two Casey Key restaurants that serve fresh local fish. Both are open-air, waterfront, and full of Florida ambience — just the sort of places we seek out in Florida.
On the north end of the island is Casey Key Fish House, 801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, which serves only fresh fish, most of it locally caught.
At the south end of the island we dined at Pop’s Sunset Grill, 112 Circuit Road, Nokomis, a large establishment on the Intracoastal with good seasfood and live music, even on a Tuesday night.
Kayaking and boating from Casey Key
Visitors who bring kayaks or power boats will find ample sites to launch and places to explore. Blackburn Park has a kayak launch and a boat ramp for larger boats. From here, you can explore the inland waters.
For kayakers, an appealing destination would be to paddle two miles north to Midnight Pass, or more accurately, what used to be Midnight Pass. This pass was actually filled in in 1983 at the request of local property owners. Now, it is a stretch of beach that is owned by the public but inaccessible by road from either Siesta Key to the north or from the Casey Key to the south. If you zoom in on a Google map, you’ll see a sandy spot where kayakers land and walk over the dunes to this isolated beach.
Kayakers also can put in at Oscar Scherer State Park, where South Creek makes a very scenic short paddle.
Casey Key: A throwback
With all its charms, in some ways, Casey Key is not all that special — it’s a pretty beach with low-key commercial development. There used to be dozens of beachfront towns like this.
What is special now is that Casey Key is still there, and it hasn’t changed.
Related stories from Florida Rambler to plan a Casey Key getaway
- Legacy Trail and Venetiian Waterways Trail
- 5 things to discover near Florida’s Venice
- Beaches of Venice: The sands of time
- Oscar Scherer State Park a wild oasis amid urban sprawl
- Myakka River State Park: Expansive with abundant wildlife
- Myakka River State Park: Top camping site
- Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival
- Best Camping: Camp Venice Resort
Links to help you plan your visit to Casey Key
- Casey Key hotels: We stayed at a nice and basic motel on Casey Key. Alas, it’s under new management and prices have gone way up. There aren’t a lot of rooms for rent on Casey Key but if you hunt around, there are some under $200 a night. Although we have not stayed there., we were intrigued by Casey Key Resort, which offers Old Florida bungalows on the beach.
- Casey Key Fish House: The website is not working, but here’s the menu. Here are Yelp reviews.
- Pop’s Sunset Grill
- Nokomis Beach and the Nokomis Beach Drum Circle
- North Jetty Park and Beach
- Friends of the Legacy Trail
- Detailed map of Legacy Trail
- Rails to Trails Conservancy: TrailLink.com (includes lots of trail reviews)
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.