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Following the former rail corridor of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, the Legacy Trail runs parallel to Florida's western coastline between Venice and Sarasota.
The Shamrock Park & Nature Center (3900 Shamrock Dr, Venice) serves as the southern end of the trail. After circling through the park, the trail runs along the east bank of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) as it heads north to downtown Venice. The Venetian Waterway Park Trail runs parallel to the trail on the west bank of the of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). You can cross the river via designated pedestrian walkways on several bridges located along the route.
In about four miles, the trail passes the Historic Venice Train Depot (303 E Venice Ave), 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 on Saturdays from 10am to 1 pm, the depot now has an exhibit about the former Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The tracks were once used by the Ringling Bros and the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Next to the depot stands a bronze statue of circus star Gunther Gebel-Williams. The trailhead by the depot has parking, restrooms, and drinking water.
The smooth, paved trail unfurls north from the depot and is an easy ride: level and straight as an arrow for just over a dozen miles to Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota, with only a few well-marked street crossings on low-volume roads. Once in Sarasota, the trail curves to the west on a three-mile extension completed in 2022, before coming to an end in downtown Sarasota at Fruitville Road. 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 Sarasota County Transit system (SCAT) provides access to the trail via bus. Visit the SCAT website to plan your trip.
For those driving, parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed direction.
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