The Canals of Venice (California)

Back around the turn of the 20th Century, a developer named Abbott Kinney and his partners bought the land which is now Venice, California. Their idea was to create a beach resort for day trippers from Los Angeles, a sort of Coney Island West. Just one problem: the land was mostly a swamp (they didn’t know the value of wetlands back then).


Kinney drained the swamp by building canals, then called his development Venice of America. He even imported gondoliers from the original Venice. The gondoliers did not stick around, but otherwise Venice of America was a success for several decades. In fact, a second set of canals were eventually built on some adjoining land.


We spent a very pleasant afternoon wandering along the canals that still remain. These have a total length of about two miles, arranged mostly in rectangles and lined with private gardens and houses.


Eventually, the original canals were filled and turned into roads so that people could get around by car. Venice of America became just Venice. The second set of canals fell into disrepair, but were restored in the 1990s.


There were a decent number of waterfowl making themselves at home, including these egrets.


Judy caught one with a fish in its mouth, and one with a fish in its talons.


Almost every house had a small dock with canoes or kayaks. A few had creative variants, like a flamingo boat. Wouldn’t paddling to your office in a flamingo boat be an excellent way to commute?


Narrow bridges provided a means for crossing the water.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a yellow Aeonium before, if that’s what this is.


Most of the houses had front gardens open to passersby, but there were exceptions.


Judy was entranced by this giant metal chicken. She has an inexplicable thing about chickens – but only those made out of metal, concrete, or ceramic.


The houses themselves were a mix of new and old, modest and deluxe.


I wondered if this was perhaps a California version of decorating the Christmas tree.


There were so many beautiful reflections in the calm water.


David and his friend Meridith take a moment to relax on one of the bridges.

After strolling around the canals, we walked back to our cottage via the beach and Abbott Kinney Boulevard. The Boulevard is full of outrageously overpriced stores but it also has a truly excellent ice cream shop called Salt and Straw. We all had ice cream cones to restore our strength before returning to base.

Incidentally, I wondered at first if Abbott Kinney was some kind of monastic real estate developer. But it turns out that Abbott Kinney was not an abbott, that’s just his name. Either way, we were glad that this part of his legacy can still be enjoyed.

56 Comments on “The Canals of Venice (California)”

  1. I have always heard of Venice, CA. I have been to CA several times but never to Venice. It is interesting to hear and see what Venice is about. I always wonder how towns get their names. It is amazing to see how large the succulents and other plants grow that don’t grow here. Everything looks lush.

  2. I swear I should have been born rich. I could be very happy there. I was going to ID the aeonium for you, but see Peter beat me to it. Salt & Straw huh? That’s a Portland company. Interesting to know they’ve made it that far south. Here there are lines out the door…did you have to wait in line?

  3. Aren’t they marvelous! I did enjoy discovering them here, how lovely it must be to have a home on the bank completer with little boat….oh yes, that would be a great way to glide to work! I was fascinated by the egrets complete with fish, a great capture indeed. Love the lantern tree too. What a fantastic place to spend the

  4. Thanks for an interesting post, it would be lovely to have a house so close to the water, and watch all the birdlife go by. I liked the shot of the egret catching the fish, Judy, and the palm tree reflected in the water. Enjoy your holiday..

    • The sun was difficult, and I had no idea the egret had a fish until Jason looked at the photos – much as I’d like credit for a brilliant photo! The light on the water was beautiful in places.

  5. I had no idea that there were any canals in California’s Venice. It’s nice to see that some modest, smaller homes still exist on the water there. My mother lives on the intracoastal waterway in Venice Florida. All the small, old homes there are being replaced with humongous, grotesque, monsters of houses that eat almost every square inch of the lot (leaving token patches of greenery) and block out everyone else’s view. Very sad.

  6. Like Brenda above, I had no idea there were canals in CA’s Venice. My family has lived in CA for years. We drove by Venice countless times, but I never actually explored the area. It looks so pretty. Thank you for the photos, Judy!

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