In southwest Florida, there's very few beaches left that are not developed, but thanks to conservation efforts, a few wild strips of beach remain. One of them is Caspersen Beach, a several-mile long section of preserved, wild beach near Venice. The small, linear county park that protects the beach also has a couple of nature trails that lead to and along the Intracoastal Waterway. This hike occurred on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015. My plan was to hike the short nature trail to the Intracoastal Waterway and near the beach. I would then hike the old road/trail that follows the strip of land between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway to the southern boundary of the park. I would return via Caspersen Beach.
R/T Length of Trail: 4 Miles
Duration of Hike: 1:45
Type of Hike: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10
Cons: Walking along the beach becomes tiring after a while due to an incline and deep sand
Points of Interest: Views of the Intracoastal Waterway from nature trails; Caspersen Beach
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Year-round
Beginning Point: Caspersen Beach Park
Directions: From Venice, FL: Follow Harbor Drive south for 3.1 miles to a dead-end in Caspersen Beach Park. You will pass by Venice Municipal Airport along the way to your left. In Caspersen Beach Park, there are several parking areas to choose from, although I chose to start at the first big parking area to the left.
A map and some other information regarding this hike can be viewed here.
While Caspersen Beach is a beach that the local population is well aware of, not many know of the unmarked nature trails that travel across this pristine corner of Venice Island. The first nature trail starts in the bottom left corner of the first big parking area. A picnic area is located at the start. The path is wide but unmarked. You will travel through rather thick forest before reaching Red Lake Run at 0.1 miles. Keep left on a wide route along the waterway with some views of it. Soon, keep left again as you reach Red Lake. At 0.2 miles, an observation platform to the right provides views of Red Lake, a lagoon near the Intracoastal Waterway. Leaving Red Lake, the trail dives back into the forest. A spur trail on the right leads to a stand of cabbage palms. At 0.3 miles, cross Harbor Drive at a small parking area, and continue onto a boardwalk. Caspersen Beach is to your right, with the vast Gulf of Mexico shimmering in the sunlight. The boardwalk continues parallel to the beach and ends at the large parking area at 0.5 miles. From here, you'll head off into the quieter section of the park. Continue onto a paved road (that is closed to vehicles) parallel to the beach. At 0.55 miles, the paved road ends at a bench. Caspersen Beach lies straight ahead. However, a wide, unmarked path bears left. Take it. As other paths join this path, it soon becomes evident that this is an old road. You'll be following an old road across a narrow, open strip of land between the Intracoastal Waterway to the left and Caspersen Beach to the right. There are occasional exploratory paths that lead to the beach, but the beach itself is never visible. At 0.8 miles, you reach a good view of the Intracoastal Waterway to your left. Shamrock Park and Nature Center is located across the water.
The old road continues on for some time through the exposed terrain. Then, at around 1.5 miles, you reach a turnaround where there are traces of a campsite. Bear right, and you will see a path leading left into thick woods. The strip of land becomes narrower as the Intracoastal closes in to your left. To your right, a path leads to the top of tall dunes at the beach. The main path is quite slow - you're going to have to duck under various vegetation as the path twists and turns through the coastal forest. The Intracoastal is visible much of the time. At 1.8 miles, things get confusing as there are several paths that do not seem to lead anywhere. Take the most obvious path that leads to the dunes at the beach. Carefully descend the dunes onto Caspersen Beach. By this point, I was wondering if I had reached the boundary of the park. It appeared like the boundary was at the old road turnaround over a quarter-mile earlier, but I didn't see the anticipated sign anywhere. The funny thing is, whether the boundary had been passed or was farther down, I never found the sign anywhere. I continued down the beach some more, and at 2.2 miles, I reached a bizarre construction: a flag perched on the dunes to the left, with some steps leading to a boardwalk. Taking the boardwalk, I passed across the narrow peninsula and reached the Intracoastal Waterway, where, judging by the signs, is a ferry terminal. This boardwalk seems to be for ferry passengers. In any case, the boardwalk/flag seem to mark the southern boundary of Caspersen Beach Park. From here, I retraced my steps along the beach, returning to the parking area at 4 miles.
Hike just the loop nature trail and then spend some time at the beach - 0.5 Miles
Just to the north of Venice, the Pocono Trail Preserve at Dona Bay can be used as a bonus stop.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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