If you’re looking for a slower-paced island destination with all the amenities, Gasparilla Island is a place that offers it all. This small barrier island is only about 7 miles long, and doesn’t have a single traffic light or tall multi-story condos crowding the beach. The tallest, Sea Oats of Boca Grande, are only 3 stories tall and a small complex right on the beach.
On the east side of the island, Charlotte Harbor is a favorite deep-sea fishing destination, while the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico lap the pristine beaches on the west.
Boca Grande of Gasparilla Island
Gasparilla Island was originally inhabited by the Calusa Indians, but as early settlers moved there to fish, the one and only village on the island came into existence. The once a sleepy little fishing village of Boca Grande gradually changed after Phosphate was discovered in the late 1800s. That brought the railroad and with it snowbird visitors. By 1912 The Gasparilla Inn was built and became a hot winter vacation spot. It’s still a favorite and listed among the Historic Hotels of America.
Today, instead of train tracks stretching the length of the island, the tracks have been replaced by a bike path ideal for jogging, walking or riding a bike in the tranquil tropical setting. The village offers restaurants, a small general store, post office, and plenty of shops.
The only thing it doesn’t have is a gas station, so be sure to fill up before you head across the causeway.
The Gasparilla Inn is the only hotel type facility on the island, and it is only opened during peak vacation season. However, the island’s many real estate companies offer beach vacation rentals and other options off the beach which cost a little less. The good news is that the island is small enough, that wherever you stay you’re a walk away from the water.
Boca Grande offers a relaxing, laid back vacation destination. Walking the beach is a favorite and a good choice for those who enjoy shelling. Shops include everything from art galleries, to historic restaurants like the Loose Caboose and the Temptation Restaurant. You may even see a celebrity!
Rent a bike and visit the state park at the southern tip of the island. It’s home to the historic Boca Grande Lighthouse and museum. Or travel into town for an ice cream, or rent a charter boat for a day on the water.
A ferry use to carry visitors and their cars onto the island, but today the island is connected to the mainland via a causeway and a toll is charged per vehicle. How much it is will depend on the size of the vehicle, but plan to spend at least $5.00.