The Legacy Trail has a splendid opening: the Historic Venice Train Depot, a pale sunset orange structure that fits right into the beachy Florida color palette. Situated adjacent to a palm-tree-dotted waterway, the Mediterranean Revival style building dates back to 1927 and was once considered the finest station on the line. Open year-round on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., the inside houses displays on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad on which the rail-trail was built. The tracks were once used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and next to the depot stands a bronze statue of circus star Gunther Gebel-Williams, heralded as “The Greatest Wild Animal Trainer of All Time.”
The smooth, paved trail unfurls north from the depot and is an easy ride: level and straight as an arrow for just over 10 miles to the southern outskirts of Sarasota with only a few well-marked street crossings on low-volume roads. The only steep spot comes at the US 41 pedestrian overpass, but shift gears and you’ll make it just fine. Several other smaller bridge crossings over waterways offer picturesque views.
Much of the trail is exposed, but shaded benches with drinking fountains appear nearly every mile, making the experience comfortable. Multiple trailheads with free parking also make the route very customizable with easy opportunities for getting on and off the trail.
About midway, the trail transverses the sprawling Oscar Scherer State Park, which offers ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, including camping, hiking, canoeing and kayaking along South Creek, and fishing and swimming in Lake Osprey.
Like much of the state, nature is close at hand along the trail and you’re likely to see many types of birds, lizards, snakes, tortoises, and rabbits. Watch for the trail’s many interpretive signs to identify and learn more about the regional flora and fauna, as well as signs about the area’s history.
Should you have extra time and energy, explore the 8.6-mile Venetian Waterway Park Trail, which heads south from the Historic Venice Train Depot to Caspersen Beach (perhaps best known for the prehistoric shark teeth that wash up on shore) and then continues back up the other side of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
The Historic Venice Train Depot (303 E. Venice Ave.) at the southern terminus of the trail offers parking, restrooms, and drinking water. From the US 41 Bypass, turn west onto E. Venice Avenue. Just before you reach the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, turn right into the depot parking lot. The depot also serves as a stop for the Sarasota County Area Transit bus system (SCAT).
Six other trailheads, offering additional parking and amenities, are available as you head north on the trail:
- Patriots Park (800 Venetia Bay Blvd., Venice)
- Nokomis Community Park (234 Nippino Trail East, Nokomis)
- Laurel Park (509 Collins Rd., Laurel)
- Oscar Scherer State Park (1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey)
- Bay Street Park (300 Bay St., Osprey)
- Potter Park (8587 Potter Park Dr., Sarasota)