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, 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.
2019 festival dates: April 12-14, 2019
- Admission is $5 (children under 12 free)
- Location: 610 E Airport Ave, Venice, FL
Things to do in Venice:Clyde Butcher’s Venice Gallery & Studio, but you’ll have to do it Tuesday through Friday, the only days the gallery is open. This is the home of Clyde’s amazing large-format darkroom where he produces his original prints. The gallery is located in an industrial park off Venice Avenue at 237 Warfield Ave. 941-486-0811. (Clyde also has a gallery in the heart of the Everglades at Ochopee on Tamiami Trail).
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, 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. Shady campground with direct access to a beautiful stretch of the Myakka River for paddling and boating. Privately owned. Pool, hiking trails, clean and well-kept. 4085 East Venice Avenue, just off River Road. For reservations, call (941) 488-0850
Oscar Scherer State Park. Beautiful state park with shady campsites and access for paddlers to the Intracoastal Waterway. Swimming lake and access to the 9-mile-long Legacy Trail, which will let you bike to the festival. Just north of Venice at 1843 South Tamiami Trail, Osprey FL. Reserve your campsite online.
Ramblers Rest RV Park is a couple of miles downriver from Camp Venice with more than 500 RV sites. This is campground is more like a small city with a boat ramp, a dock and picnic area on the river. 1300 North River Road. 941-493-4354 or online.
Hotels, B&Bs and other Lodging Near Venice
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.