Florida Guide > Places to Visit
Snook Haven, Venice
For visitors to the Gulf Coast, something really unique is a visit to Snook Haven which really is a trip back into ‘old’ Florida. Although the official address is Venice, it is only a few minutes from junction 191 on the I-75 and only 20 minutes drive from Rotonda West. From McCall Road take Winchester Boulevard north then turn right on to River Road. The entrance to Snook Haven is on the right shortly before joining the I-75.
As you drive down the dusty lane under a canopy of oaks past side turnings to isolated homesteads, it is easy to see how the remoteness led to some illegal activities in the past – smuggling, a speakeasy and even a brothel. Film buffs will be interested to know it has also been the setting for many Hollywood films including the Tarzan film ‘Return of the Killer Turtles’. More recently it was a fishing camp. There is still plenty of opportunity for fishing for Snook. Just as you are convinced you are lost you enter a large clearing with a panoramic view of the beautiful Myakka River.
The group of rustic buildings belong to the restaurant. They’re not pretending to be “old Florida” here, they really are! On first impression you might not think you’re going to get a very good meal but don’t be put off by appearances. This is not ‘fine dining’ or for people in a hurry but the food is very good. The restaurant specializes in southern foods and regional specialties. There are also picnic tables scattered under the trees and around the restaurant if you want to take your own food. Seating inside is mainly at large trestle tables although there are tables on the terrace
overlooking the river giving you the unusual opportunity to spot Alligators and wildlife while you eat. There is a small menu which should cater for all tastes. Our personal favourites are Chicken Po’ Boy (chicken breast, grilled sweet onions, green and red peppers on a toasted bun) and Pulled Pork (slowly smoked over several hours and shredded the pork is served on a toasted bun with BBQ sauce). Service can be slow during the main tourist season but relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
One of the reasons people keep returning is the daily live musical entertainment. This is provided by local and regional musicians playing anything from blues, jazz, country music, banjo and even occasionally The King himself – ‘Elvis’ regularly performs at Snook Haven! We were entertained during our lunch by a dulcimer and banjo duo. While their repertoire was aimed at a large party of seniors we knew many of the songs played and particularly enjoyed their version of a Glynn Miller number. Look on the Snook Haven website for the monthly entertainment calendar and for their opening times.
From November to the end of May you can also take a guided boat tour along this beautiful river spotting alligators and turtles while osprey and eagles soar overhead. You can hire a canoe but be warned – some of the alligators are large!
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