The drive along the Boca Grande Causeway features turquoise-blue waters plied by boats ranging from yachts to kayaks. Completing the picture: Sandy beaches, a historic train trestle, high-end shopping and more fishing holes than anyone without a skilled guide can find.
Boca Grande’s beautiful beaches, abundant world-class fishing, dynamically stocked retail shops and gourmet restaurants make for a fabulous day trip or elite extended vacation.
Tourist attractions begin just two miles over the bridges at the North Village anchored by the Boca Grande Resort. Some of the North Village businesses include Courtyard Hair, Kappy’s Markey & Deli and Uncle Henry’s Marina. Seafood connoisseurs visiting the island will find a plethora of restaurants to satisfy their taste buds. Some notable ones include Temptation Restaurant, Sisters Restaurant, Eagle Grille and Miller’s Dockside restaurant and 3rd Street Bistro.
The island is also home to many rare animals, birds and fish. Raptors such as osprey and bald eagles soar while multitudes of pelicans ply the waters giving onlookers a fascinating insight into the workings of the wild kingdom. Iguanas or alligators can often be seen sunning after the rare cold fronts pass through.
Whether you switch to a golf cart (highly recommended), bicycle the island path or drive the entire 7.5 miles to the south end of the island to view the famed Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum, the key to enjoying Gasparilla Island is to let cares slips away and fall leisurely into island time.
There is no place in the world where fishing is more abundant or varied. Team with a member of the famed Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association to maximize your enjoyment in Boca Grande Pass, the Gasparilla Sound or the saltwater flats – all within moments of launch. They’ll take you out into the Gulf of Mexico for deep-sea game as well.
Gasparilla Island beaches are maintained by the Florida Park Service and offer an incredible glimpse into the world-class estuarine habitat where hammerhead sharks mingle with red fish, hogfish, grouper including the massive Goliath grouper, and porpoises, manatees and, of course, the famed silver kings – the tarpon.
All beaches are swim at your own risk because of the stream of underwater wildlife that runs through the treacherously swift currents of the Boca Grande Pass. Adventurers and shell-collectors alike know how much fun it can be. Others watch or fish from the safety of the sand, especially in prime spots such as nearby the South Beach Bar & Grille.
Fishing is king on Gasparilla Island and the silver kings are at the top of the angler’s bucket list. Tarpon put up a brilliant fight making them a coveted gamefish to catch and release. With the tarpon habitat under pressure from developers, the Boca Grande fishing guides have teamed with the Lemon Bay Conservancy and Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce in working to conserve the species and its fisheries.
No mention of Boca Grande attractions can omit the famed Gasparilla Inn & Club, which also operates the Inn’s Dining Room, the Inn Bakery, The Beach Club and the historic Pink Elephant restaurant.
The Gasparilla Inn & Club is the hub of the Boca Grande economy. It attracts visitors the world over to its Pete Dye-designed championship golf course, croquet and tennis courts, world-class cuisine seen to by executive chef Seth Shipley and staff, and the green, pink and white-striped rooms that take visitors back to the best of Old Florida.
For more information on Boca Grande, go to bocagrandechamber.net.
Visit Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890, is a popular site to visit at the south end of the island. The lighthouse is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday from November through June. The months of June through October except August when it is closed and major holidays hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 941-964-0060 for more information.