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.
It’s also 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 nature trail is a delight as well. It gives a good overview of the mangrove community along this barrier island.
A short hike and a fabulous beach: what better way to spend a lazy summer day?
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Length: 3.6 mile round-trip and loop
Trailhead: 27.057233, -82.442700
Address: 4100 Harbor Drive S, Venice FL 34285
Restroom: at the parking area
Land manager: Sarasota County Parks
Open 6 AM to midnight, this oceanfront park offers much more than a beach. There are picnic tables and grills, a launch for paddlers into the Venetian Waterway, and a playground.
Dogs are not permitted here, but they do have their own beach along Harbor Drive just north of here, called Brohard Beach.
From Interstate 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 nature trail map kiosk in the parking area, 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 parallels 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. Young cabbage palms are 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.
This is an out-and-back walk, so you can go as far as you like along the beach. We followed it until we saw the remains of an old road up on the bluff, and went up there to explore.
Start along the boardwalk, heading south. There is a bluff here, with lots of rocks near the shoreline and pelicans diving.
Once the boardwalk ends, past the parking area and restrooms, continue down the ramp to the beach.
The sand is relatively hard-packed near the water. Little tidal pools form and vanish, gleaming pink in the late day sun.
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 fossilized shark’s teeth or eroded portions of teeth, and you’ll find your eyes drawn to them again and again.
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.
It’s an alternate route for hiking back to the parking lot. A sand road parallels it along the inner waterway, Red Lake.
When you return to the ramp to the boardwalk, you’ve hiked 3.6 miles.
Across a vehicular bridge from the main parking area, there are even more places to roam on an island in Red Lake. And beyond.
We haven’t done these ourselves yet so we don’t count them in the mileage. They are in blue on the map.
From the looks of the soil, the island may be entirely or partially made up of the earth dredged to create the Venetian Waterway.
It is largely covered in palmettos with some oak hammocks. A 1.1-mile natural surface loop trail circles the perimeter and provides access to a kayak launch.
The parking lot in the middle of the island provides access to a picnic pavilion, playground, and restrooms.
The broad sidewalk that starts (or ends) here is the western terminus of the northern side of the Venetian Waterway Trail.
Follow this trail, and you’ll find a pedestrian bridge leads across the outlet of Red Lake to the Intracoastal Waterway. A short walk south leads to an overlook facing towards the outlet of the canal facing south.
Best suited for biking, as it is out in the open, this trail continues along the Intracoastal up to the Circus Bridge along US 41.
It ends 1.6 miles north at a parking area by the airport, where the former Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus winter home was between 1960 and 1993.
See our photos of Caspersen Beach Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Oscar Scherer State Park
A stronghold for Florida scrub jays north of Venice, Oscar Scherer State Park is an important island of biodiversity in an increasingly overdeveloped region.
Warm Mineral Springs
One of the largest natural mineral water springs in the world, Warm Mineral Springs near Venice is Florida’s only hot spring open to the public
Manasota Scrub Preserve
A Sarasota County preserve established for the Florida scrub-jay, Manasota Scrub Preserve has a 1.5 mile loop in 145 acres of scrubby flatwoods.
Stump Pass Beach State Park
At the south tip of Manasota Key, Stump Pass Beach State Park sits at just the right angle to collect seashells like a scoop, so early risers have great shelling