Messing About on the River at Snook Haven, Venice

MustDo.com | Snook Haven Myakka Riverfront restaurant and park Venice, Sarasota, Florida.

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

There are only two rivers that have been designated preservation status as “Wild and Scenic Rivers” by the State of Florida, and the Myakka River is one of them. This idyllic river basin was purchased by Sarasota County in 2006 to preserve it in its natural state and showcase this landmark as a forerunner to the Florida Parks system.

MustDo.com | Snook Haven rustic natural park covers just 2.5 acres, but it packs in plenty of outdoor activities, food and live entertainment to draw plenty of visitors.

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

Snook Haven Park is at the far end of the unpaved East Venice Avenue. It is a popular place to chill out with plenty of amenities for enjoying the scenic waterway and its unspoiled surroundings.

Things to Do at Snook Haven

This rustic natural park covers just 2.5 acres, but it packs in plenty of outdoor activities, food and live entertainment to draw plenty of visitors. Open year-round from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. it is free to visit apart from when special events are being hosted and charge admission. Visitors can enjoy shore fishing or get out on the river with kayak and canoe rentals from the boat ramp.

MustDo.com | Myakka River canoe rentals Snook Haven Venice, Florida

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

Rover boat tours are a great trip for first-time visitors and are organized by Logan River Tours Advance reservations should be made to ensure a seat on this one-hour tour down the river on a pontoon boat. It’s a great opportunity to spot alligators, herons, turtles and birds of prey in their own natural environment. Tours run at various times from Wednesday through Sunday, so check out the website for times. Private tours can be booked on Mondays and Tuesdays.

MustDo.com | Snook Haven Old Florida-style restaurant is in a prime location for enjoying a relaxing meal or drink, especially when live bands play bluegrass and other music at the entertainment stage area.

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

The well-established Old Florida-style restaurant is in a prime location for enjoying a relaxing meal or drink, especially when live bands play bluegrass and other music at the entertainment stage area. Look out for Banjo Thursdays when entertainment is provided by the Gulf Coast Banjo Association.

MustDo.com | Snook Haven restaurant menu features barbecue offerings including pulled pork, brisket, ribs and smoked chicken.

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

The restaurant is run by the Pachota family, who own the widely popular and successful Sharky’s on the Pier and Fin’s at Sharky’s in Venice before managing this subsidiary restaurant. Known fondly as “Smack Dab on the River,” the restaurant’s menu reflects the location and history of the venue with barbecue offerings including pulled pork, brisket, ribs and smoked chicken which all have excellent reviews. Brewery beers on tap and old favorites such as fried green tomatoes keep locals and visitors coming back for more.

MustDo.com | Venice Salad with bbq pork at Snook Haven restaurant

Photo credit Elizabeth Barnett

Local History at Snook Haven in Venice

Florida does not have a great deal of history, but what it does have is often highly colorful as is the case with Snook Haven. The first modern-era residents of Snook Haven Park and Fish Camp were smugglers who unloaded contraband during the prohibition era. This secluded spot on the remote peninsula made it the ideal place to discharge and distribute alcohol far from the prying eyes of the revenue men.

Later, a mule trail and a still made it a place for moonshiners to gather before a location scout for jungle movies found the area and used it for some Hollywood jungle movies, reputedly starring Johnny Weissmuller. After its brush with fame, Snook Haven was used as a private camp with a river house and cabins for “gentlemen” to bring their escorts. By 1988 Snook Haven was an established local Venice landmark and fishing camp which continues to provide a slice of real “Old” Florida.

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Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

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