Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande

Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande

Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande

Discover the captivating old-world charm of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, nestled along Florida’s stunning Gulf Coast. This hidden gem offers a truly unique island experience and it will leave you enchanted. From its 7 miles of pristine beaches to the charming town of Boca Grande, it’s a haven of natural beauty and tranquility. Breathtaking sunsets paint the sky, gentle waves lap the shore while dolphins play out in the gulf waters. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, or a taste of local culture, Gasparilla Island has it all. Explore the rich railroad history, indulge in delectable coastal cuisine, and embark on unforgettable outdoor activities. Come and experience the magic of this enchanting island on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Gasparilla Island Statistics 

An island on the Floridian Gulf Coast roughly halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers.

Beaches, Wildlife, Outdoor Activities and Dining.

Visit between October and March to avoid the humid and hot summer months.

The average yearly population of Boca Grande is only 1130, tripling during Jan - April.

No gas stations, traffic lights or chain restaurants but plenty of natural beauty and old world charm.

Home to Osprey, Pelicans, Dolphins, Tarpon, Iguana and many more...

Island History

The Calusa Indians, well known as fishermen, were the first inhabitants of Gasparilla Island back in 800 AD/CE.  By the 1870s several fishing ranches started operating in the area run by Spanish and Cuban fishermen.  Boca Grande also became known as a mecca for sport fishing.  When phosphate became popularised as a farm fertiliser in the mid-19th century, Boca Grande’s deep water location became important for loading tug boats heading to Charlotte Harbour.  By 1912 the island flourished and had a railroad, ferry, an Inn and even a golf course and then wealthy winter ‘beachfronters’ started to move in.  However in 1958 when the bridge opened, the economy and community declined and the car ferry, train school and even lighthouse sadly closed down. Gasparilla Island is resilient, so from the late 1970’s, beach-loving second homeowners gave the island a new lease of life.  

Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande - lighthouse
$6 to be a millionaire for a day

It’s only a $6 car fee to cross the Boca Grade Causeway bridge and it’s  worth every cent.   When you cross the causeway, look out for the old railroad on your left. To your right, you will see several picturesque islands like Little Gasparilla Island that are now only accessible by boat.  Stop at North Village on your left and hire a golf cart at Kappy’s Island Shoppe to get a true Boca Grande day trip experience.  Then, drive a few pretty miles along a purpose-built and mangrove-lined golf cart and bike lane into the historic district of Boca Grande.

Downtown Boca Grande

Downtown Boca Grande has a nostalgic and relaxed feel.  Quiet streets are lined with pretty, picture postcard houses with immaculate and manicured gardens and white picket fences.  Dotted around the town are historic buildings telling of a bye-gone era of a prosperous railroad community.  There are scenic bike and golf cart lanes and tiny parks like The Sam Murphy Park, all tended with love and care

Sam Murphy Park
Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande
Pristine Beaches

The island offers visitors some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Florida. The sand is white and powdery and there are huge varieties of shells and even prehistoric shark teeth to go hunting for (TIP – they are small and jet black!)  Keep an eye on the flags at the state park areas to keep you alert to any danger to swimmers. There are options for renting paddle boards, kayaks and boats or maybe head out on a fishing trip! Choose from public beaches with restrooms, showers and parking to smaller, quieter sections “off the beaten path” – there’s something for everyone. 

Banyan Street

One of my personal highlights of Gasparilla Island is Banyan Street – it’s totally captivating.  The trees were planted in 1915 by the original builder of The Gasparilla Inn.  Over the years, the banyan trees have intertwined and formed a beautiful canopy over the street. The huge gnarly roots and trunks are like something from a movie and this is a fantastic spot to take some memorable family photos. 

Banyan Street
Pink Pony
Eat and Drink

It’s not a trip to Boca Grande without an ice cream at the Pink Pony. Choose from exciting and iconic flavours including Hurricane Charley or Gator Trail (chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel peices, YUM). The Temptation has been a popular restaurant for decades and Miller’s Dockside is a great choice for lunch.  One of my favourite eateries is currently closed for refurbishment post hurricane Ian but hopefully, you’ll soon be able to enjoy a seafood strudel and rum runner at the South Beach Bar & Grille!

The Boca Beacon’s Visitor’s Guide

Pick up a FREE visitor guide produced by towns weekly newspaper, the Boca Beacon.  It’s full of useful information for locals and visitors alike.  You’ll even find spotters guides including some for fish, marine life, shells, plants, birds and reptiles.

Want more information on Boca Grande? You can download the Boca Grand mobile app now too!

Island Landmarks

Tick off these Island classics on your trip to Gasparilla Island.  There are the two iconic lighthouses – Port Boca Grande and the Range Light which are a lovely 40 minute beach walk apart.  There’s the Lighthouse Museum, Fugates department store and Hudson’s Grocery.  Whidden’s Marina is a one of a kind – and the Pink Pony Ice cream shop is legendary.  You have to walk down Banyan Street and take a golf cart along the length of the island. Stop by the beautiful Gasparilla Inn and you’ll be stepping into the same hotel frequented by US legends, J P Morgan, Henry Ford and even President Bush.

Hudsons Boca Grande
Gasparilla Island Birds
Nature at its best

Gasparilla Island is home to some very special creatures.  There are massive osprey with a wingspan averaging 180cm.  You’ll spot plenty of pelican and anhinga birds that you might see swimming with their elegant necks exposed.  Watch out for Iguanas and on occasion an alligator or two.  It’s a beautifully green island with palms, mangroves, railroad vines and sea oats lining the shore.  If you look out to sea, you are likely to see dolphins at play.  A beautiful island full of nature ready to be explored!

My top 10 things to do on the island:

1. Visit the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum

2. Set up your beach chairs on your own patch of beach paradise

3. Go seashell and shark teeth scavenger hunting

4. Have the ultimate ice cream at the Pink Pony

5. Stroll around the shops and eateries downtown

6. Enjoy a beach sunset

7. Explore the island by golf buggy

8. Take a selfie or family photos on Banyan street

9. Drop a penny in the Sam Murphy Park fountain

10. Up for a challenge? walk the length of the island!

Church on Boca

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande with my family for over 15 years.  It’s a wonderful place that simply feels like coming home.  Elegant yet laid back, it’s full of natural beauty and old-world charm.  Gasparilla Island has to be one of the hidden gems in the USA.

Some Of My Top Destinations

Some Of My Top Destinations

Some of My Top Destinations

Looking for inspiration? Here are some of my top destinations.  There are ideas for a weekend away, a trek or a splurge vacation. Some destinations are about the culture and mood, while others are for the experiences and activities.  Take a look and be inspired!

Seville - Plaza De Espana Some of My Top Destinations

City break – Romantic – Walkable

Seville, Spain

Seville is one of my favourite cities in the world.  It has stunning architecture, soft sunny colouring, tempting tapas and numerous iconic buildings to visit. It’s very walkable and invites you to explore both day and night.

Seville, Andalucia, South-West Spain, Europe

Sightseeing, food and drink

Visit in the Spring or Autumn

Nyhavn Harbour Copenhagen

City break – Cultural

Copenhagen, Denmark

Reputedly the happiest city in the world, Copenhagen has a lot to offer. Sightsee on canal tours, through beautiful Nyhavn harbour or cycle through the gardens to castles and palaces. There is plenty of culture to soak up too, with an opera house, theatres and museums.

Copenhagen, Denmark, Europe

Sightseeing and culture

Spring through Autumn

Some of My Top Destinations - Lacanau Ocean Beach

Beach holiday – sports

Lacanau Ocean, France

The 14km long sandy beach is a base for lots of family fun, watersports and walking. It’s one of the best surf spots in France – so a great choice for beginners through to pros.  The sandy beach leads into deep forests and nature reserves to explore on foot or by bike.  There’s lots of great locations to day trip to including St Emilion, Bordeaux or the Phare du Cordouan.

Lacanau Ocean, France, Europe

Surfing, hiking, cycling

Early Spring to Late Summer

Some of My Top Destinations - Little Gasparilla Island Boardwalk

Family – beach and relaxing

Boca Grande & Little Gasparilla Island, Florida

If you are in the need of some R&R, then Boca Grande or Little Gasparilla Island might be your spot.  BG is a village on Gasparilla Island Northwest of Fort Myers, and LGI lies a short boat ride away. Low-key beach life blends with delicious dining. Spend your days fishing off a boat, shell collecting on beach walks or perusing the BG shops and cafes.

Boca Grande & LGI, South-West Florida, USA

Relaxing beach vacation

October to March

Some of My top Destinations Trek to Petra through rocky desert

Trek – across the Jordanian desert to Petra

Dana village to Petra – Jordan

This epic trek is one of the finest in the Middle East. Through rugged and rocky terrain across the edge of the Rift Valley. There are canyons and gorges, steep inclines and breathtaking views. Wilderness Bedouin style camping under the stars end each of your trek days. The final destination is magical Petra – one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Dana village to Petra, Jordan, Middle East

Trek and Sightseeing

April, May, October or November

Some of my top destinations Scilly Isles from a boat

Relaxation – outdoor activities

Scilly Isles, England

The Scilly Isles might lie just off the Cornish coast; however they feel a world apart.  140 small islands lie in turquoise waters waiting to be explored by foot, boat or bike. There’s a sense of escaping to these isles as you get to explore and enjoy or equally do nothing but soak up the spectacular views. Each island has a unique feel, and there are sub-tropical gardens, beach, coastal or country walks and water activities to try out.  And did I mention great seafood? 

Scilly Isles, off Cornwall, South-West England

Walking, watersports, relaxation and dining

Spring to Autumn

Some of my top destinations

Couples or Family Beach & Activity Holiday

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Sweeping white-sand beaches are dotted with All-Inclusive hotels, small boutique hotels and restaurants galore. Riviera Maya is perfect for a care-free holiday especially suited when you have a mix of ages to cater for.  Take days out to sacred ruins and sparkling cenotes or get some adrenaline hits with zip-lining, horseriding and activity adventure parks. Quieter than Cancun, you can still seek out Mexican culture and authenticity – but you can equally sit back, relax and recharge. The choice is yours.

Riviera Maya, Caribbean Coast, Mexico

Relaxing beach holiday with activity and cultural days out.

December through to April

Some of my top destinations, Keystone Colorado mountains

Winter or Summer activities

Keystone, Colorado, USA

A fantastic ski resort in the rocky mountains of Colorado.   Mountains of fun – from skiing, sleigh rides, snow tubing and ice skating.  In the summer, take the lifts and cruze down the mountain bike runs.  There are fabulous places to stay, eat and shop too.

Keystone, Colorado, USA

Winter sports and Summer hiking, biking, fishing

January to March (Ski) May to Sept (Hike and Bike)

Rhossili Beach The Gower

Walking, Surfing and outdoor life

The Gower, Wales

It’s no wonder that The Gower was Britain’s first Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty!  There’s so much to explore and do here.  Rhossili, Three Cliffs or Whiteford Sands are the perfect place for a recharge day.  Walk the Wales Coast Path taking in saltmarsh, dramatic cliff or secluded bay views. There’s history and heritage to explore and local food and drink to try. 

The Gower, Wales, Europe

Coastal walks, watersports, history and heritage

Year round

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