Gasparilla Island is one of a string of barrier islands found along the southwest Gulf Coast, between Fort Myers and Tampa. According to folklore, Gasparilla Island gets its name from the legendary pirate, Captain Jose Gaspar, who held his base on the island, where he hid his incredible treasure. You don’t have to be in search of buried gold to find something to covet on the island. Surrounded by the turquoise waters of the gulf and neighboring harbors, Gasparilla rewards fisherman with plentiful catches of grouper, mackerel, snappers and more. In fact, its largest community, Boca Grande, earned the distinction as “The Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.”
Exuding laid-back Southern ambience of a bygone era, Boca Grande sits in the center of the island. The prestigious destination has attracted names like DuPont and Vanderbilt since the historic Gasparilla Inn opened in 1913. and was even frequented Katharine Hepburn, many summers ago.
The 1890 lighthouse and museum at the southern end is a popular site and shelling is a must, with an assortment of prized shells, such as sand dollars, starfish and conchs. Gasparilla Island State Park, situated just south of Boca Grande, is a bird paradise: home to a wide variety of feathered friends, including pelicans, ospreys, great blue herons, white ibis, and palm warblers.
Just north, you’ll find Little Gasparilla Island, one thing you will not find is a bridge. Once there was a bridge connecting the northern end of the island, but after it fell victim to a hurricane, residents decided they preferred the seclusion. Now, Little Gasparilla is accessible by boat or water taxi only.
Little Gasparilla offers seven miles of immaculate beach, untouched by either high-rises or seawalls, offering privacy and tranquility along with a rare sense of peace, not commonly found in many vacation spots. Many a days, particularly during the off-season, you can roam the beach for hours without seeing another soul. However, those you do encounter are likely to greet you with a smile and offer a helping hand.
WHERE TO EAT
Enjoy fabulous waterfront dining at South Beach Bar & Grille and dig into fresh seafood and sip on cocktails well into the sunset.
WHAT TO DO
Whether your water activities include sailing, eco-tours, fishing or spotting dolphins, Blake Tours makes a day on the water unforgettable.
PLACES TO STAY
The Gasparilla Inn & Club is a classic “old Florida” resort offering guests a variety of amenities from a full spa and salon to an 18-hole championship golf course.