There have been a lot of stories of Snook Haven’s history – Tarzan movies, killer turtles, and other legends. But sometimes, the truth can be stranger than fiction.
The “Snook’s” first modern-era occupant was a confederacy of smugglers seeking to unload contraband during Prohibition in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Snook Haven’s location on a remote peninsula along the shores of the Myakka River, upstream from the Gulf of Mexico, made it ideal to land and ship their illegal wares to a thirsty Florida population!
Add a still for some moonshine, and a mule path, and you have the beginnings of Snook Haven’s greatest role as a community watering-hole. Sometime during this period, a location scout for a Hollywood studio (sober or otherwise) stumbled upon Snook Haven. A perfect stateside location for filming exotic jungle movies, Snook Haven became a staging site for film crews shooting a number of movies such as the 1931 French Foreign Legion classic “Prestige”.
The same qualities that made Snook Haven a perfect location for the nefarious activities of prohibitionists, smugglers, and Hollywood producers, set the stage for the next occupants of the site: A New England entrepreneur who made his fortune as a manufacturer of “gentlemen’s products”. Looking for a private fishing camp for his buddies and his female “quality control” staff, he built the river house and five cabins that occupy the Snook Haven riverfront.
In the decades of the 60’s and 70’s, the property changed ownership a number of times, and in 1988 finally became open to the public as a fishing camp with a boat ramp and a cook shack (the site of the current restaurant). The restaurant has become a Florida landmark and gained notoriety as one of the finest examples of “Old Florida” on the West Coast of the state.
In 1987, The State of Florida designated the Myakka as one of only two “Wild and Scenic Rivers” in the state, a federal designation designed to preserve the Myakka River basin in its natural state. Sarasota County purchased the property in 2006 in an effort to further protect this showcase of an earlier era as part of the Parks system.
In early 2013, Snook Haven reopened under its current management team, appropriately named Smack Dab on the River LLC. Most locals know the company as the ‘Pachota family’ or owners of Snook’s now sister restaurant, Sharky’s on the Pier, which was voted #1 Florida Beach Bar of 2013. The Pachota’s opened their third restaurant in December 2013, Fins at Sharky’s.
Our talented chefs at Snook Haven have updated the Snook Haven menu to Smokehouse & BBQ, while keeping old favorites, such as Gator Bites and Catfish. Meats and sauces are prepared in-house and a state-of the-art smoker out back smokes many of the items fresh daily. From the banjo’s to the boat rides, the Pachota’s look forward to carrying on the ‘Ole Florida’ tradition at Snook Haven for years to come.
Things to Know-
- We love our furry family members, but because we are a Sarasota County Park, dogs are not allowed at Snook Haven. Please leave all pets (that are not service animals) at home.