No, this isn’t Italy; this is Venice in Florida, and the beachside city is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the state.
Found on the western coast of the Floridian Peninsula, halfway between Fort Myers and Tampa Bay, Venice is named for the elaborate waterways and canals that cut through the city. The buildings and boulevards too were designed with the Italian city in mind, and Downtown Venice is a wonderfully preserved example of historic architecture.
Venice Florida is also home to some of the best beaches in the country; you’ll find mile upon mile of white sands and clear waters fringing the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s a great city to holiday in. To inspire your trip, here are the 15 best things to do in Venice, Florida.
1. Venice Beach
The most famous beach in Venice is, of course, Venice Beach. Located just a short walk away from downtown Venice, the beach is one of the best reasons to visit the city.
Venice Beach is beautiful; you can find soft white sands that are as pristine as any in Florida. The city’s skyline looks glorious from the shoreline, and along the coast, you will find plenty of cafes and restaurants to sit out at and relax the day away.
The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are perfect for swimming any time of year too. The clear, calm water straight off the beach is great for splashing around in.
2. Downtown Venice
Downtown Venice is the heart of the city and is home to the most historic buildings and boulevards. Venice was designed with the Italian Venice in mind; you’ll instantly realize this when you see the canals and the grand, renaissance-inspired architecture.
Of course, it’s not quite as historic as European Venice, but many of the buildings in downtown date back to the early 20th century, which for this part of Florida, is rather historic.
In downtown, you’ll also be able to take advantage of plenty of great shopping opportunities, as well as sample the excellent cafes, restaurants, and bars, making this the place to be in the city.
3. Venetian Waterway Park
The Venetian Waterway Park is a fantastic place to explore the city’s beautiful canals and waterways. The park follows the waterways – in particular, the major Intracoastal Waterway, which separates the coast from the mainland.
There are several miles of walking paths leading from downtown Venice, following a gentle route along the water that eventually leads all the way to Caspersen Beach to the south of the city.
You’ll be immersed in nature as you leave the suburbs of Venice, and you may even be lucky enough to see alligators swimming in the waterways.
4. Caspersen Beach
Caspersen Beach, at the end of the Venetian Waterway Park walking trail, is one of the best beaches to visit in Venice.
You don’t have to walk here, as there are also plenty of parking spots along the shorefront, but you’ll appreciate the scenery more if you do take a stroll from the city.
The beach itself is beautiful, but in a more rugged and wild way than the more refined and pristine sands of Venice Beach. There’s soft sand to lay on, but there’s also more dramatic and rocky areas along the beach to explore too.
5. Venice Museum and Archives
If you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history, then take a trip to the Venice Museum and Archives, which are found in the heart of downtown.
The building the museum is housed in dates back to 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
You’ll find several different exhibitions exploring the history of the local area, with most of the tales and exhibits beginning around the mid 19th century, when Europeans began to settle in the south of Florida.
6. Historic Venice Train Depot
History lovers won’t want to miss out on the chance to visit the Historic Venice Train Depot when they are staying in the city.
This quirky piece of local heritage is located on the edge of downtown; like the Venice Museum and Archives and much of the other architecture in the city center, it dates back to 1927.
It’s no longer a working station but has been preserved as a museum, and volunteers offer free tours of the building. There are old carriages and trains in the yard, and it’s a great place to learn more about local history.
7. Centennial Park
Found in the center of downtown, Centennial Park is a lovely public park dedicated to the city’s 100th anniversary.
In the park, you’ll also find a memorial to the city’s war veterans, and to conflicts that the country has been involved in across the world.
It’s a great place to spend a sunny afternoon or take a quiet stroll in the morning. You can find picnic tables, benches, and an undercover gazebo, as well fountains to splash around in when it gets hot in the city.
8. Venice Fishing Pier
To the south of Venice, by Brohard Park, you can find the scenic, wooden stilts of the Venice Fishing Pier.
This iconic sight extends from the beach for several hundred meters across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a wonderful place to watch the sunset over the ocean.
You’ll find a few restaurants nearby, along the beach, and if you’re traveling with pets, Brohard Park is, in fact, the only dog-friendly beach in Venice.
9. North Jetty Beach
North Jetty Beach is found on the northern edge of the wide bay that Venice and the adjacent community of Nokomis are built around.
The beach is a great place to relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery. Not only can you see the Gulf of Mexico, but also the Intracoastal Waterway on the other side of the barrier island.
There are plenty of amenities, too, making this a great place to spend the whole day. There are toilets, changing areas, and even a great restaurant.
10. South Jetty
Opposite North Jetty Beach, you can find South Jetty, which sits on the barrier island adjacent.
South Jetty is quicker to travel to from downtown Venice, as you don’t need to go all the way around the watercourse to get here, but you won’t find as much sandy coastline.
You can look out over both the Gulf of Mexico and the Venice Inlet that leads into the Intracoastal Waterway, and be amazed by the stunning views so close to Venice.
11. Oscar Scherer State Park
A short, 15-minute drive north of Venice will bring you to the beautiful outdoor climes of the Oscar Scherer State Park.
The park protects a large area of wilderness, consisting of forests, lakes, and creeks; this is how much of the eastern coast of Florida would have looked hundreds of years ago.
It’s a haven for wildlife; in particular, for birds – you can find many rare species living in the trees of the Oscar Scherer State Park.
12. Myakka River State Park
If you’re looking to find more of Florida’s great outdoors, then take a trip from Venice to Myakka River State Park, an enormous area of wilderness that begins on the edge of the city.
This is one of the largest state parks in Florida, and it protects the area surrounding the Myakka River. You’ll find a huge range of scenery, from flat, open prairies to dense, woodland and flowing waterways.
13. Myakka State Forest
Another fantastic outdoor area to visit is the Myakka State Forest, which is found just a short journey away from Venice.
The state forest also spans the Myakka River. Amongst the trees and creeks, you can find a wide array of wildlife.
14. Fort Myers
Located just one hour to the south of Venice, Fort Myers is an intriguing mix of urban and outdoor attractions.
The city is built around some Florida’s most majestic coastline, and you’ll be blessed with some of the most pristine beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.
Explore the coast, take a cruise across the bay in search of dolphins or manatees, or head into the water snorkeling or diving.
The city is surrounded by spectacular keys, each with their own beautiful beaches and coastline, while the many aquatic preserves that surround the keys and Fort Myers are home to a diverse world of marine life that can be matched by few other places in Florida.
Tampa is one of Florida’s most iconic cities, and the large metropolis is found just an hours drive along the coast to the north of Venice.
Tampa is known for its theme parks – including the famous Busch Gardens – and water parks. But more than this, you can find a wealth of history in downtown.
The city dates back to the mid 19th century, and you can learn more at the local history museum. If you’re into culture, you can also visit the excellent Tampa Museum of Art, one of the city’s most visited galleries.