Boca Grande Florida is a hidden gem located in Southwest Florida. It’s charming, pristine, and filled with all sorts of wonderful treasures! Check out the top 9 things to see and experience while you are there!
Within our first few weeks of moving from San Deigo, California to the Sarasota area in Southwest Florida, we were told by a new friend about the “perfect day trip” we should take with our family to Boca Grande Florida.
Having grown up in the “midwest”, in northern Indiana to be exact, I’ve had my fair share of trips to Florida for pretty much every Spring Break and a sprinkling of vacations during the winter holidays and summer too!
Florida is the “go-to” spot for Hoosiers needing some sun and beach time!
So I assumed that I had seen all that Florida has to offer.
Miami – Been there!
Key West – Done That!
Orlando – Me & Mickey are basically Besties.
Cocoa Beach, Siesta Key, Panama City, Ft. Lauderdale – yep, yep, yep, & yep
I really thought I had done it all…but oh, silly me….little did I know that Boca Grande even existed!
To say that my expectations were pretty darn low would be an understatement…which, let’s be honest is the best way to enter into any new adventure.
And boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Located a little off the beaten path on Gasparilla Island (about 60 miles from Fort Myers), the sweet little town of Boca Grande was waaayyyyy more than I ever expected and truly a special and unique day that my family will always remember and cherish!
Originally known for being a fishing village, Boca Grande has now evolved into a breathtaking resort town famous for its world-class fishing and white sugar sand beaches… it’s the perfect Old Florida getaway location rich with beauty and lots of history.
If you are on the SouthWest gulf side of Florida and are thinking about venturing to Gasparilla Island, I have a few tips, tricks, and suggestions to make it an epic trip you won’t forget!
It’s a favorite among the rich and famous, and once you’ve visited, you’ll understand why!
The Top 9 Things To Do In Boca Grande Florida
1. Rent a Golf Cart
First and foremost, regardless if you are staying on the island for only a day or for a week, a golf cart tour is a MUST!
This is the mode of transportation that most people use to get around the island because…
Fun Fact #1…There is NO GAS STATION on the island.
So exploring the island by bike or golf cart is optimal!
We rented ours from Gasparilla Adventures for 2 hours which was plenty of time to explore the island for day-trippers like us!
If you are planning to go to Boca Grande Florida during peak season, you may want to make reservations in advance. We visited in October which is the slow season so there was plenty of availability.
Here is the website for Gasparilla Adventures where you can learn more info:
They have 4 seater golf carts and 6 seater ones, so keep that in mind when booking your reservation.
At Gasparilla Adventures, they also have bike, kayak, and paddleboard rentals if you are wanting to try some other types of activities on the island.
One thing I loved about the golf carts for rent was that each were given a “punny” name like “The Cod Father” and we ended up with “The Tug Life”.
Fun Fact #2 – Gasparilla Island has a 6+ mile paved bike path known as the “Boca Grande Bike Path” that runs the length of the island, so if biking is your thang’, this is a great option to explore the island…and get some exercise!!
2. Banyan Street
Gasparilla Adventures is located on one of the main streets in downtown Boca Grande, on Park Avenue, so with only two hours and a whole island to explore, we headed out first to see Banyan Street which was nearby.
We were lucky that it wasn’t busy the day we were in Boca Grande Florida because we were able to literally park right in the street and take a few family selfies amongst the banyan trees.
They were absolutely gorgeous and the perfect backdrop for some photos! It truly feels like you are on a movie set it looks so picturesque.
3. Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse – AKA Gasparilla Island Lighthouse
On our way to the beach at Gasparilla Island State Park on the southern tip, we spotted a lighthouse.
Not to be confused with the other lighthouse on the south end of the island near the Boca Grande Pass, this lighthouse is located alongside Gulf Boulevard between Wheeler Road and Seabreeze Court.
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse dates back to 1881 and is one of the most historic places on the island. When phosphate rock (used as a fertilizer) was discovered along the banks of the Peace River it would be transported by barge to Port Boca Grande making this lighthouse a vital part of that process.
Although it is no longer used for this purpose, it is now known as the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse and is still maintained to help the US Coast Guard.
4. The Beach at Gasparilla State Park
At the southern tip of Gasparilla Island is the State Park and several beautiful beaches. If you have more than just a few hours in Boca Grande Florida, this is a spot where you might want to spend a little more time for some R&R!
On the day that we were there, a sign was posted warning of dangerous currents, so please be aware of any danger advisories.
Also, remember to bring some cash with you because there is a self-pay station to get into the park. It’s a very small entry fee, but they only accept cash (exact amount, no change given) at this pay station.
5. Boca Grande Lighthouse
While you are at the state park you will find the second lighthouse on the island known as the Boca Grande Lighthouse.
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was built in 1890 originally was used to guide ships safely into the Charlotte Harbor.
Now it is a museum and is one of only 6 lighthouses in Florida that is open to the public, and the only lighthouse on the west coast of Florida where you can get a tour.
Sadly, the day we were there it was not open because we visited on a Sunday. So be sure to plan in advance the day and time you are going to be visiting Boca Grande.
You can find more info about their operating hours at the Florida State Park website here:
6. Gasparilla Inn & Golf Club
At the heart of the island is the Gasparilla Inn and Golf Club. And it is truly one of the cutest places I have ever seen…it is absolutely a “must-see” in Boca Grande.
Outside you will see a row of golf carts available for hotel guests to use to explore the island.
I mean, how “perfect” does it all look? Simply AH-MAZING!!
Fun Fact #3 – Well, it’s amazing enough for former President George W. Bush and the Bush Family who have frequently stayed and golfed there!
While you are there, be sure to drive by the golf course…it’s as eye-appealing as the rest of the property.
Also, it probably comes as no surprise, the Gasparilla Inn is not for the faint of heart when it comes to the cost…so if staying on the property is out of your budget, you can find more affordable hotels and accommodations off the island in Englewood, Punta Gorda, or Port Charlotte.
7. Historic Downtown Boca Grande
The downtown area of Boca Grande Florida is filled with adorable boutiques, restaurants, and shops, and is definitely worth a little time window shopping or REAL SHOPPING!
Heck while you are there, pop in the local Real Estate firm (which is as cute as the rest of the darling town), and purchase yourself a multi-million dollar home nearby! (and then give me a buzz to come visit you!)
8. Whidden’s Marina
Although we did not see Whidden’s Marina, it is a well-known local historic spot that has been run by the Whidden Family since 1926 and continues to run fishing charters (Fun Fact #4 – Boca Grande Florida is the tarpon fishing capital of the world!) if you are looking for a place to charter a boat!
It is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and rumor has it that they also have a pig and goats you can see! So be sure to check it out!
9. Adorable Houses
I know technically “adorable houses” is not A THING to see, but it is one of the most enchanting things about Boca Grande…the AHH-DORABLE houses! So it certainly deserves a spot of its own on my list!
I literally spent almost the whole two hours of our golf cart excursion oohing and aahing over the eye appeal of the local home architecture.
I truly have never seen so many charming and captivating abodes in one location in my entire life!
And here’s just a sampling…my camera roll is FILLED with one dreamy dwelling after another!! #dreamhousegoals
Honorable Mentions (AKA Other Things to See):
When I was researching things to do in Boca Grande Florida, several lists mentioned how pretty the library was…while we were there, it was not open so we only got a photo of the exterior. It’s definitely on my list of things to see next time we visit!
There are many beautiful places of worship on the island that certainly fit in with the picturesque vibe of the homes and businesses.
The most popular with the tourists is Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church which is simply lovely and worth stopping by for a few photos!
Because we were only on the island for an afternoon, we did not get to fully explore all the eats available!
One of the most popular places on the island is nearby the Garspailla Inn called the Pink Elephant. When we drove by on our golf cart it was HAPPENING with lots of people enjoying a meal there!
Another local “hot spot” is The Loose Caboose. Insiders say that their ice cream is particularly good there!!
If you are staying in Boca Grande for more than a day and are looking to grab a quick casual bite to eat, Hudson’s Grocery also offers food items. With picnic tables outside, (and a pink pump for some Insta-worthy pics) it’s a great place for a snack or a meal on the go!
We wanted to be near the water so we opted to have our lunch at Eagle Grill/Miller’s Dockside.
You can tell it was a local favorite because their business was booming! It didn’t hurt that it was in an awesome location right on the water!
Other places you may want to check out that I read about prior to our day trip that we weren’t able to see due to time constraints are The Temptation and South Beach Bar & Grill. Also mentioned was The Inn Bakery for quick breakfast items!
Special Notes When You Visit Gasparilla Island in Boca Grande Florida:
A. Island Fee
There is a $6 bridge fee to enter Gasparilla Island as you cross the Boca Grande Causeway.
Some people are a bit turned off by this toll, but honestly, it’s such a small price to pay to enjoy a memorable day in Boca Grande Florida.
B. Operating House:
Be sure to plan your trip for when local attractions will be open! We were a bit bummed that several things were closed while we were exploring the island. Although we had the benefit of fewer crowds when we were visiting, we also missed some of the fun!
To help you arrange your game plan…be sure to check out the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce website which will have updated hours of operations of local establishments and any exciting upcoming events!
C. Local Wildlife:
Although Gasparilla Island is home to all sorts of wildlife including opossums, bats, rats, mice, raccoons, squirrels, snakes, osprey, skunks, alligators, armadillos, and even feral hogs. A special note of interest is that the island has also struggled with an iguana invasion which has caused a bit of controversy over the years of what to do with the exploding population of reptiles!
While we were there we saw them ALL OVER THE PLACE. So be on the lookout for these critters while you are there! They may be a nuisance for the local residents, but they certainly are great for some photo ops!
All in all, our day in Boca Grande Florida was nearly perfect in every way… my only complaint is that we didn’t have more time!
Until next time, cheers to exploring hidden gem islands, and cheers to you!
Want more travel blog posts?
Check out these other places we loved visiting!