Ancient sharks once cruised the waters off modern-day Venice, carcharodon megalodon, a shark more than 52 feet long that outweighed a t.rex. Folks flock to Caspersen Beach today not just because it’s at the end of the road, but it’s the prime spot along the coast to unearth the fossilized teeth of these ancient sharks, buried treasures in the sand.
The beach walk is a fine one, providing more than a mile and a half of undisturbed strand: just you, the wind, the waves, and the palms waving on the hilltop above. And the little-used nature trail is a delight as well: it gives a good overview of the mangrove community along the Intracoastal Waterway. A short hike and a fabulous beach: what better way to spend a lazy summer day?
Length: 3.8 miles or less
Lat-Long: 27.057233, -82.442700
Type: loop and round-trip
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low to moderate
From I-75 exit 193 (Englewood/Venice) follow Jacaranda Blvd west for 0.7 mile to Venice Ave. Turn right and follow it into downtown Venice, crossing US 41 and business US 41. In the downtown business district, turn left at Harbor Drive North. Follow this road through the residential community and out past the airport. It passes several seaside parks before ending after 3 miles at Caspersen Beach Park.
CASPERSEN BEACH NATURE TRAIL
Starting off from the kiosk, you walk down a corridor shaded by tall cabbage palms draped with goldfoot ferns. After it gets through a dense grove of cabbage palms, the trail begins to parallel a freshwater marsh. It makes a sharp left to follow a salt water inlet.Mounds of lantana with yellow and pink blooms grow amid the mangroves, next to young cabbage palms swaddled in Virginia creeper. At a bench, the trail curves left. Stop for a look at the mangroves off the observation deck. Cross under a power line and over a bridge, and the trail climbs up through the cabbage palms again. Cross the park road to the boardwalk and turn left.
You can go as far as you want along the beach; I followed it until I saw the remains of an old road up on the bluff, and went up there to explore. Start along the boardwalk, heading south. You’ll get great views of pelicans diving. When the boardwalk ends, past the parking area and restrooms, continue down to the beach. The sand is relatively hard-packed near the water. Small sandpipers and ring-necked gulls scatter across soft sand the color of ground white pepper. As you walk along, keep your eye on the many shell deposits above the tide line. The black specks are small shark’s teeth or eroded portions of teeth, and you’ll find your eyes drawn to them again and again. Little tidal pools form and vanish, gleaming pink in the late day sun. After 1.9 miles, you reach a flag-capped shelter posted “Private Property.” This marks the end of Caspersen Beach. Turn around and head back. Watch for an access point where you can climb up the dune to the old road that once stretched down this peninsula, an alternate route for hiking back to the parking lot. A sand road parallels it along the inner waterway. When you reach the boardwalk, you’ve hiked 3.6 miles.