Drive east on Venice Ave. Go ahead. Just keep going east. Start anywhere on Venice ave and point away from the water. If you started here on the island like us, first of course, you have to go over a bridge, then past some restaurants and shops, some doc offices and business, a plaza that has Dairy Queen in it (of course I would know where that is) and any number of neighborhoods. It's a pretty street with nicely kept homes and well maintained buildings and most of the way there is a grassy and treed meridian between east and west bound lanes that pretties it up even more.
Keep going, that's it. Just keep nosing east until it seems that you have run out of road. Suddenly it seems that you have the choice of turning right or left. The correct answer is, neither. Keep that car pointed east.
"What?" I hear you say, "That's no road, that's somebody's dirt driveway." Nope, that's still road. it's a dirt road, I'll grant you that. But go on, be brave. Keep going. And by the way, it's bumpy and lumpy the entire length so don't be heavy on the gas pedal. Also nature encroaches here. Yup, the trees and grasses and undergrowth hug reallllly close to the road. So close in fact, that at times it feels a bit like it's leaning in. Well, never you mind about that. Just keep going. Leave your windows down too. That way you can hear the birds and the wind in the trees and breathe in all the mysterious and wonderfully earthy fragrances of the forest primeval. Let it tickle your olfactory system.
Just when you think the road is going to go on forever it opens up. Swing 'round to the left and park your car because you have arrived. You are there at Snook Haven. And what a place to be. It's a restaurant, no wait, it's a music venue, hold on now, it's a boat launch, a Myakka river boat tour starting point, a campground....... It's all of that and a little bit more.
Tim and I wandered out that way recently. It was a beautiful day to be outside. Temps in the 70's and sunshine with a gentle breeze. Perfection! We walked around a bit, spied not a single alligator then settled in with BBQ sandwiches eaten outside at an umbrella'd table while listening to some pretty darned good music.
We weren't alone by any stretch of the imagination. There were plenty of other folks or all ages there doing the exact same thing. One of my favourite moments was when a little girl of maybe 5 years old led her (I assume) grandfather to the dance floor and the two of them boogied the entire length of the song. Adorable.
While enjoying our meal and the music which was neither to soft nor too loud by the way, we watched a number of kaykers paddle by and the river boat tour stop to unload and reload passengers. It was peaceful and joyous, yummy and relaxing and I sang along with nearly every song and Tim didn't not appear to be embarrassed by that in the slightest.
It's a unique place. Kind of old Florida meets new Florida I suppose. It's smacks of authenticity as well it should. Snook Haven was created in the 1920's by smuggler's during prohibition. And it's easy to imagine those times. As their own historian attests, "add in a still for some moonshine, a mule path and you have the beginnings of the Snook Haven Community Watering hole." The die was cast.
Once prohibition was repealed, it was already an established place to be and it's reputation attracted all sorts of folks. Including a Hollywood location scout! It became the perfect stateside setting for jungle pictures which were very popular at the time, including the 1931 French Foreign Legion classic, "Prestige".
Since then it has been a private fishing camp, a public fishing camp and boat launch with cook shack (which led to the restaurant) and now it's.....whatever it is now. Not sure it's completely definable. A very fun place to be. There. I suppose that will do for a definition.
Now I have to be absolutely fair here. We have never done one of the river boat tours, nor have we kayak'ed or canoe'd out of Snook Haven. Yet. But considering that The State of Florida has declared the Myakka River to be one of two officially Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state, I'm sure it would be an adventure. Oh and by the way, there are at least 100 named rivers in this state, so that status is a wee bit more interesting than if there were only, say two rivers in the state y'know?
It's worth a look and a taste and a listen. You don't have to dress up. Casual is the dress code here. When we mosey on down, we like to come on the weekends for the music of our era, but if banjo music is your thing, then plan on Thursday evenings. That's banjo night. That's right. Snook Haven. We are fans. You might be too. Check it out.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.