Several public parks were included in John Nolen’s wonderful 1926 master plan for Venice Florida (map), and others have been added as the city expanded. In addition, two fine state parks and a large conservation area are only a short drive from Venice.
(Parks with beach access along the Gulf of Mexico shore are described on the Beaches page.)
Here are Venice’s public city parks, from north to south and west to east:
Humphris Park at South Jetty
South Jetty, at the northern end of Venice Beach, is part of Humphris Park on the south side of Casey’s Pass, a water channel providing access between the Gulf of Mexico and the three protected bays north of Venice city center.
The park includes benches, toilets, shady trees, picnic tables, and a parking lot, as well as excellent fishing opportunities for both people and pelicans on South Jetty.
Higel Marine Park
Higel Marine Park is actually a small boat-launching place and dock for a temporary mooring, and for fishing, with a picnic shelter and some parking. It also has public toilets.
West Venice Avenue
West Venice Avenue from Harbor Drive west to Venice Beach is a wonderful half-mile-long “park avenue,” with a mall of beautiful old shade trees (banyans, live oaks, palms & more), walking/biking paths, benches and monuments.
Look for the monument that exhibits all the pre-historic Ice Age beasts that inhabited this region:
Centennial Park is Venice’s Central Park, right in the center of the historic district bounded by West Venice Avenue, Tampa Avenue, Nokomis Avenue and Nassau Street.
A parking area takes up much of the park, but there’s also a gazebo for band concerts, a shaded fountain and play area for children, public toilets, and other services.
Venetian Waterway Park
Venetian Waterway Park extends along both banks of the Intracoastal Waterway from the northern KMI Bridge past the Venice Train Depot and Venice Avenue Bridge, past the southern Circus Bridge to Caspersen Beach and Shamrock Park & Nature Center in the south.
Bike paths follow both riverbanks. Benches are located at intervals along both bike paths.
John Nolen Park
Bounded by Palmetto Court and Menendez Street and named for John Nolen (1869-1937), the visionary urban designer who designed Venice’s original plan, Nolen Park has shade trees, benches, an open area for games, and a children’s playground with slides and swings.
West Blalock Park & Arboretum
West Blalock Park around and west of the Venice Community Center, between Nassau Street and Pensacola Road, is small but pleasant and uncrowded.
West Blalock Park holds the wonderful Monty Andrews Arboretum, a collection of trees and plants of the region, all labeled and described. More than a dozen varieties of palm trees rise here, all signposted. Formerly the Venice Arboretum, it was renamed in 2013 to honor the avid gardener who was instrumental in its creation.
South of Blalock Park, Venezia Park, at the west end of Palermo Place, gives its name to this upscale residential neighborhood. Though John Nolen’s plan for this area included a school, playground, and golf course, it was later redesigned for upscale housing, retaining the pentagonal park you see today. Most building here was done after economic recovery from the 1930s Depression.
The park features a large open space for games, and a small children’s playground.
Chuck Reiter Park
Chuck Reiter Park, bounded by Fort, Cockrill, Field and Cooper streets, is Venice’s sports park, home of the Venice Little League’s four baseball diamonds.
Look for the tall, bulbous water tower and follow it to Chuck Reiter Park.
The Venice Area Audubon Rookery is a hidden gem in an unexpected location: turn south off busy Tamiami Trail (map) in the midst of shopping malls and auto dealerships and, behind the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s office, you find yourself at a tranquil pool with a wooded island at its center, the island crowded with birds.
If you like watching or photographing birds, this is your place!
The larger Oscar Scherer State Park, six miles (10 km) north of Venice in Osprey, offers 10 miles o biking trails (including the Legacy Trail, which skirts the park to the east); bird-watching for 200 species (especially Florida scrub-jay; camping (104 sites for tents or RVs); paddling (with canoes and kayaks for rent); fishing (fresh- and salt-water); geo-seeking; hiking & walking (15 miles of trails plus the Legacy Trail); picnicking; snorkeling & swimming at Sarasota County’s onlyfresh-water swimming lake, with a fine beach; and wildlife (alligators, bobcats, Bald eagles, gopher tortoises, deer, rabbits and raccoons. More…
T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve
The Carlton Reserve is a 24,565-acre nature preserve administered by Sarasota County and open to the public for nature walking, bird- and wildlife-watching, boating, off-road bicycling and horseback riding. The reserve adjoins the even larger Myakka River State Park. The entry to the reserve on Border Road is 9 miles (14.5 km) northeast of Venice City Hall.
Only 10 miles (16 km) north of Venice, the 58 square miles of Myakka River State Park, 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota (map), afford a wilder atmosphere than Venice’s city parks. This is one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks, with facilities for biking, bird- and wildlife-watching, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and picnicking.
Camping facilities include log cabins, RV hookups, tent sites, and primitive backwoods camping.
There’s a small per-car fee for entering and using the park. By the way, don’t confuse this state park with the Myakka State Forest to the south in Englewood.