Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Nice Day Trip from Sanibel

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about day trips from Sanibel. These jaunts are most appealing to people who come for multiple weeks or months on Island who need to change their scenery.

To add another destination---- and one that surprised us yesterday on our day trip there---- is the town of Venice.

It's been nearly a dozen years since we visited the town and though it had a nice infrastructure 12 years ago, it was a little too provincial to be a draw for a renter or owner on the island paradise of Sanibel.

In this intervening decade plus two, the wide palm tree lined main boulevard, Venice Avenue, has become quite sophisticated. The appealing town grid is now further enhanced by lovely shops, nice restaurants and several ice cream parlors. It's a delightful place to stroll and new benches dot the downtown area, surrounded by flowers, invite the ice cream strollers to sit and relax.

Further investigating, this evolution was no accident. The 1920s town plan was created by John Nolen, one of the nation’s first urban planners. Nolen, an urban planner before there was such a specialty, learned from his association with Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, about features that make cities “livable.”

A central park along Venice Avenue is the site of concerts, arts and craft shows, and various special events. Throughout the city are neighborhood green spaces and parks, many design features of which inspired architects and city planners working on what is called the "New Villages” concept of city planning.

In addition to the enchanting down town area, there is a really wonderful natural beach just a few minutes drive from the town center. Caspersen Beach Park is located just south of downtown Venice, at the southern end of Harbor Drive. There is no fee to enter or to park your car. The southern end of Harbor Drive is quite scenic. The dunes block the view of the Gulf in most places, but are quite pretty in and of themselves.

Caspersen Beach is a good place to look for the much desired sharks teeth that Venice is known for.

Venice has been listed in many publications as being the "Shark's Tooth Capital of The World". It hosts an annual festival, the Shark's Tooth Festival, every year to celebrate the abundance of fossilized shark's teeth that can be found on its shores.

In addition to finding shark's teeth on beach shores, many large sized teeth can be found freediving off of the coast or by excavating in the many shell deposits that are left over from the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Beach renourishment efforts also brought new sand from a few thousand yards off the coast, yielding new, but fewer, fossilized shark's teeth. The teeth in the area can vary in size from an eighth of an inch to 3 inches and, on occasion, even bigger.

So, if you are feeling "island fever" after a couple of months on Sanibel, take the 1.5 hour drive north and visit Venice for the day. It will be a satisfying and different experience~!

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