Venice, Florida beaches are unique on Florida's Gulf Coast. Unlike most of the Gulf beaches, Venice beaches have dark sand. It's not dark because of organic matter, like the soil in your garden; it's dark because it contains tiny fossils and minerals.
The most popular fossil on Venice's beaches is the shark tooth. So popular in fact that every April a Shark Tooth Festival is held in the city of Venice. It attracts fossil hunters and shark tooth collectors from all over the state.
Any time you visit the Venice beaches you'll see people with a special wire sifter (often called a Florida Snow Shovel), scooping up sand at the water's edge looking for shark teeth, shells and fossils. Żou don't have to have a special tool to find shark teeth, but it does help.
Venice Municipal Beach and downtown Venice are both centers of activity in this retirement town. I'm not sure which is busier. The beach gets started bright and early with Yoga on the Beach. Elin Larsen holds up to three free yoga classes each day right on Venice beach, usually beginning at around 8 am. It's for all ages, though most participants are retirees.
The beach is a healthy place to be; lots of fresh air and sunshine. People in Venice definitely make going to the beach a part of their daily regimen.
Where to Stay in Venice
Venice, Florida does not have big beach resorts like you'll find on Fort Myers Beach, Siesta Key, or St. Pete Beach. Venice mostly offers rental condominiums on or off the beach, and single family homes. Most of the beach condos are from Venice Avenue northward along the beach. South of Venice Avenue there are a couple of small motels and some single family homes on or near the beach.
The rental condos are mostly Old-Florida style two level motels that have been updated. This is not a party town, so most places will be relatively quiet. A quick search on Google will turn up some good options for places to stay. Otherwise, don't hesitate to contact a local realtor for some suggestions.
The best beaches in Venice are located south of the city. Service Club Park, Brohard Park, Paws Park (for dogs & people), and Caspersen Beach all provide plenty of free parking and a mostly undeveloped shoreline. My favorite is Caspersen Beach Park. It has brand new (2013) restroom facilities that feature the high-design elements associated with Sarasota County and they are designed to be environmentally friendly. The price tag was over a million dollars. For restrooms.
Where to Eat on Venice Beach
Most of the restaurants are located on Venice Avenue a couple of blocks from the beach (not really within walking distance). Sharky's Restaurant at the foot of the fishing pier is famous and always has a good crowd. Or you can grab some hotdogs at the bait shop on the pier. Further north there is the Crow's Nest Marina and Tavern with a very good restaurant on Venice Inlet. At the jetty (Humphris Park) on Venice Inlet there is a snack bar / cafe that offers food and drink overlooking the inlet and jetty. And of course there are fast food restaurants along US 41, and the usual suspects, like Cracker Barrel, at the I-75 exits.
Caspersen Beach has one section that has a rocky shoreline. When the water is calm and clear it is a great place for snorkeling. It also has several submerged rockpiles just off the beach. A little further south on the beach the rocks give way to a sandy beach with a wild and wooded shoreline great for hiking, birding, or whatever. Be sure to bring some water with you if you plan on going for a long walk as there is no drinking water anywhere other than at the park facilities.