By Samantha Amarante
Venetian Pool, the only swimming pool ever to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, is also the largest freshwater swimming pool in the U.S.
It’s located in Coral Gables south of downtown Miami, and it’s one of those “only in Florida” sites that is worth a visit if you’re in the area – especially on a hot day. Even if you are only there for the day, you feel as though you are on vacation in a tropical oasis.
The pool was originally a rock quarry in the early 1920s and was once used for symphony concerts: They would empty its 820,000 gallons of water and the orchestra would perform on the bottom of the pool creating unbelievable acoustics.
Today, the pool is drained and filled daily during the spring and summer seasons, using fresh water from artesian wells. (The water is then pumped back into the aquifer through porous rock, which filters it. The pool requires minimal use of chlorine.)
The Venetian Pool, originally known as the “Venetian Casino,” opened in 1924 and has been used by movie stars including Johnny Weismuller and Esther Williams, as well as generations of visitors.
The pool has two massive lookout towers that view the city, two waterfalls, and cave-like grottos. It still has limestone and coral surrounding the structure from its early days. Venetian pool’s extravagance does not end there. Its palm trees, porticos, and signature bridge help make it picturesque.
Also included are a kiddy pool, sandy beach, and picnic area. Music videos and photo shoots are still shot at the Venetian Pool — for the right price of course.
Daily swimming and seasonal swim opportunities are available, as well as, a variety of lifeguarding training camps and courses.
The pool’s concession stand offers drinks, snacks, and a wide variety of ice cream.
Parking is tough because there are only two decent sized lots located by the pool and once they fill up, guests are forced to find parking elsewhere. That could mean walking quite the distance with bags, towels and chairs, so I suggest getting there early.
I visited Venetian Pool on a Friday and stood in a short line to get in. It is best to get there around 11 a.m. when they open in order to can beat the crowd.
It cost me $13 to enter because I was not a Coral Gables resident. For residents, however, it’s half that price. It seemed costly, but I felt it was worth it, because I spent a majority of my day there.
The pool did not get crowded til later in the day and when it did, it was not an overwhelming amount of people. The pool attracted a wide range of people, from children to senior citizens.
The water seemed cold at first but after adjusting, it felt perfect for this Florida climate. Surrounded by exquisite waterfalls, authentic limestone, and exotic plants, I found the place mesmerizing.
There were not many available chairs, so I would advise bringing your own. There were however, enough life jackets for all guests to use free of charge.
Lockers are available to rent if you want to lock up your belongings. (The lockers are $10 but you get $5 back when you return the key. )
If you didn’t have time to pack a lunch, you can stop by the concession stand and eat at one of the picnic tables. The nachos and hotdogs were satisfying as far as concession food goes, and the prices were not outrageous. Food and water is allowed but coolers and alcohol are not permitted.
Here’s how a TripAdvisor reviewer describes it: “The perfect location to have a relaxing day together with the ones you love. It is a unique piece that you can’t miss if you are around Miami Florida. The pool is so refreshing as well as the environment.”
And from a Yelp review: “I’ve been here as a kid, for weddings, and recently. Still the same wonderful experience of stepping back in time to the good old days of amazing architecture. Parking is limited and lines can get long. Come early or wait til later in the afternoon.”
The Venetian Pool website
2701 De Soto Blvd.
Hours through October:
Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday through Sunday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m .
(In November, the pool closes at 4:30 p.m. weekdays. )
The pool will be closed for renovations December 2016 to February 2017.
Hours of operation are subject to change and holiday hours vary.
Cost: $13 for non-residents; $5.50 for Coral Gables residents
Venetian Pool does NOT allow: Rain checks, refunds, re-entry without a receipt, coolers, alcohol or glass, outside deliveries, smoking on property, or sale of admission tickets once maximum capacity has been reached
It is required that children are at least 3 years old and 38 inches tall in order to enter the pool.
What’s near the Coral Gables Venetian Pool?
While you’re in the neighborhood, you can make a day of it visiting other nearby attractions.
The pool is close to the historic and luxurious Biltmore Hotel, where you can admire its architecture and design, or eat lunch at one of its well-known bars and restaurants. (The Biltmore also is known for its large and impressive pool.)
You can also visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, an 83-acre natural preserve with incredible views, flowering vines, lakes, rainforest displays, a butterfly garden and hundreds of exotic plants.
Nearby, scenic Matheson Hammock Park, has a manmade atoll pool that is popular with families with children.
This guest post was written by Samantha Amarante, a multimedia journalist studying at Florida Atlantic University. She has a degree from Florida State University in Family and Child Sciences and has worked as a teacher.