In my last blog post, you read about the start of my island hopping adventure with the Freedom Boat Club. We began our day at the Cape Haze Marina and voyaged to a very enchanting Useppa Island. Now, we continue the journey on to two nearby barrier islands.
Beloved Boca Grande
Within fifteen minutes of our departure from Useppa, we were floating through the captivating canals of Boca Grande, the charming community on Gasparilla Island.
We floated by the breathtaking 18-hole championship golf course – part of the The Gasparilla Inn & Club.
Seven miles long and only one mile at its widest, in Boca Grande you’ll find exquisite homes combined with idyllic streetscapes, tropical vistas, an old Florida character, and a quaint village central to the island.
We had lunch at a diner-style joint, a local favorite called The Innlet. Docking our boat right outside, we entered through the patio.
“It’s not really the luxury element,” he explained. “It’s the down-to-earth people you run into every day. It’s the local store owner who is a successful business man but enjoys spending his afternoon helping to bag your groceries.”
Furthering this simple truth, once lunch was over Kevin confided in me that an Egyptian princess (!!!) had just sat at the table next to us. I am not joking. Royalty dined beside us while were munching on our French fries.
Castaway on Little Gasparilla Island
Perhaps the most surprising (and therefore most treasured) part of my day was our tour through Little Gasparilla Island, a community only accessible by boat with no cars or commercial development.
Cone Darnell, a third generation island resident and agent with Michael Saunders & Company, met us at her dock.
On sturdy golf carts we trekked from the south to north end along dirt roads with lush canopies.Its atmosphere of off-the-grid meets Caribbean Island provided something of a true castaway-like experience.
Most of the island offers tropical-style single-family-homes. Several multi-family complexes exist but zoning regulations no longer allow them as new construction. Residents want to preserve their way of life, which has gone mostly unchanged for generations.
Community events bring people together at the island’s unofficial hub – The Hideaway, where the beach and bay are only moments apart. According to Cone, “This area is party central; everything ends at this point.”
A classic chapel offers non-denominational services. Cone explained that with no overhead lights inside, Christmas is never more magical as it is in the chapel amidst glowing candles and holiday lights.
As we made it back to our boat for the last leg of our daytrip, it occurred to me that Little Gasparilla Island is someplace truly memorable. It’s hard to explain, but the island’s determined character mixed with its appreciation for simplicity made me excited to have stumbled upon it. I consider myself a city-girl, but my brief view of this rustic, distinctive island left me positively giddy. Nowadays, with so many cities and streets looking like the other, I suppose I can appreciate a piece of paradise that can’t be found anywhere else.
Read more about Boca Grande from this blog: 9 Reasons Why There’s No Place Like Boca Grande