by Barbara Ann Weibel at Hole In The Donut
Most folks who head for the beach in Venice, Florida end up at the municipal beach access, right in the center of town. Since it is miles long with great facilities, few find it necessary to search further afield. Yet just minutes away, on the south side of the airport, is Caspersen Beach, the longest in Sarasota County. The majority of people who find their way to this part of Venice come to experience Sharky’s, a world-class seafood restaurant and bar that sits at the end of an 1,100 foot fishing pier. Content to join an impromptu game of beach volleyball, sip tropical drinks on the upper deck, or watch the sun dip below the horizon, visitors are blissfully unaware that just a half mile further down the road lies one of Florida’s least crowded and most natural beaches.
Two-thirds of Caspersen has been left in its natural state. In areas, large rocks jut from the sand, creating tide pools at low tide. In most places the sand is a light tan color, but in other areas the sand is nearly black. These dark sands hold a secret – they are the most likely repository of prehistoric shark teeth. Storms wash these sands into the ocean, freeing the fossils, which are then scooped up by mesh basket wielding beach-goers. For the best results, people work in pairs. One person wades into the water, scoops up a backet full of material from the ocean floor, jiggles the basket around in the water to rinse the sand away, and dumps the remaining material on the beach. The second person crouches over the booty, carefully sifting and searching for shark teeth.
I first visited Caspersen Beach five years ago, in the days when it was still secluded and fairly deserted. These days, the beach has been discovered, partially because it is the site for the town’s annual Sharks Tooth Festival. Scheduled for April 17-19, 2009, the event is a weekend of food, fossil hunting, arts & crafts, music, and fun for the whole family. And although not as secluded as it was when I first encountered it, Caspersen is still one of the least populated beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, especially in the dead of summer when all the tourists have fled. Another unique feature? The beach is very dark at night, and very quiet, which attracts egg-laying sea turtles and other wildlife. To experience a Florida beach that still looks like it did 500 years ago, be sure to make a short detour to Caspersen.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel