Welcome to Boca Grande

Get to know the most iconic neighborhoods in Boca Grande.


HISTORY OF BOCA GRANDE

Nestled off the southwestern coast of Florida between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Boca Grande is the  town on Gasparilla Island. This seven mile long barrier island is located between the Gulf of Mexico and Charlotte Harbor. 


Popular nearby communities on the mainland are Placida, Englewood, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, North Port and Venice. 

The History of Boca Grande

Charming Small Town

Boca Grande is a charming small town that works to balance its natural waterways and preserves with its seafaring past. Located between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Boca Grande is located on Gasparilla Island, a barrier island off the southwestern coast of Florida that straddles the border of Charlotte and Lee Counties. 
The Calusa Native Americans were the first to live on the island. The Calusa territory reached from Charlotte Harbor to Cape Sable, present-day Charlotte and Lee counties.  
While local lore says that the island is home to the treasure of the pirate Jose Gaspar aka Gasparilla, anthropologist Andre-Marcel d'Ans suggests it was actually named for a Spanish missionary named Gaspar or Gasparillo because the name appears on maps pre-dating the buccaneer. ​​​​​​​

Discovery of Phospate Rock

In 1885 phosphate rock was discovered on the banks of the Peace Rive just above Punta Gorda, located east of Gasparilla Island from Charlotte Harbor. Phosphate is used to make fertilizers and other products around the world. The southern-most part of the island, called Boca Grande Pass, is one of the deepest natural inlets in Florida and not only established the town, it also became a major deep water port for the distribution of phosphate which was barged down the Peace River and loaded into schooners for worldwide distribution.
Looking for a more reliable way to ship the phosphate, the harbor was dredged and in 1905 a Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad line was built connecting Boca Grande to the outside world. During this time Gasparilla Island became a capital for phosphate shipping and would remain so until the 1970s.

Banyan Street

The island was also landscaped during this time and this is the birth of the now famous section of Second Street called Banyan Street. Banyan Street is a historic part of the village of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, located just south of the Downtown Boca Grande Historic District. The street may have been designed in a 1914 master plan by landscape architect Carl Rust Parker, and one block is lined with a graceful alleé of banyan trees. The street runs perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico, and the unique tunneled space the trees create frames views of the evening sunsets. It is a fixture of many photos taken by tourists and artists who visit the area.

Tarpon Capital of the World

The blue waters off Gasparilla Island team with tarpon, snook, redfish, grouper and trout, making it a sportsman’s paradise and recognized as the ‘Tarpon Capital of the World.’ To meet this increased demand the famed Gasparilla Inn opened in 1911 and the island became a highly regarded vacation destination for Tampa and Fort Myers society. After the railroad was completed several wealthy families from the Northeast such as the Francis B. Crowninshield and Harry F. DuPont families purchased land and built winter residences.

Boca Grande Causeway

By the 1930’s the Inn’s luster was dimming and Barron G. Collier purchased it. Later it was auctioned off to a group headed by Bayard Sharp who became the sole owner and in subsequent years it has been regularly renovated and modernized to serve the strong influx of tourists to the area. 
The railroad stopped running in 1958 when the Boca Grande Causeway opened. The train depot was restored in the late 1970s and has become a destination for shopping and dining. The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association transformed the old railroad track bed into the bike and golf cart path.

Today in Boca Grande

Today’s residents and visitors can enjoy the slower paced island lifestyle with the sparkling blue Gulf waters and a pristine shoreline ideal for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, birding and other nature study a rewarding pastime. Winter residents benefit from excellent shelling and an escape from the brutal cold in the Midwest and East Coast. There are ample walking and bicycling paths around the island and most cars are stowed in favor of golf carts which are the preferred method of transportation. 
The West coast of Florida is enjoying a resurgence of interest. In 2010, The Wall Street Journal selected Gasparilla Island as one of the 10 Best Places for Second Homes and the new construction and historic homes are in demand as more look to discover the charms of Gasparilla Island once again.

Boca Grande Through the Years


​​​​​​​1400-1600
EXPLORERS

Gasparilla Island is 3500 years old.​ The Calusa tribes, the natives of the island, began using the island’s resources about 2000 years ago. These Native Americans hunted, fished, collected shells and cared for the land.

When the Spanish explorers came to Florida in the 1500s,​ the Calusa people began to vanish from the land.
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When the Spanish fisherman came to Gasparilla in the 1600s,​ they discovered the real treasure of Charlotte Harbor, the rich fishing grounds. Cuban/Indian “fish ranches” were set up by the Spanish to harvest fish to sell to markets in Cuba.


​​​​​​​1880
FISHING COMMUNITY

In the 1870s a permanent fish camp called Peacon’s Fish Ranch was set up at the north end of the island. This was the first pioneer settlement on the island.

Sport fishing has been a part of Gasparilla Island since the 1880s. Today many local fishing guides can trace their ancestry to the commercial pioneer fishing families in the area. The Boca Grande Pass is world renowned for its Tarpon Fishing.
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The phosphate business began in Gasparilla Island in the 1800s. In 1890 the Boca Grande Lighthouse was constructed to be a valuable aid for the ships entering Charlotte Harbor. The naturally deep water in the Boca Grande Pass made it easy to ship heavy commodities in large vessels. It was the deepest harbor in Florida.


​​​​​​​1900
RAILROAD AND COMMUNITY

In 1905 a workforce of laborers landed on the island and began the construction of the railroad which enabled the transport of phosphate. From 1905-1912 railroad tycoons began to build passenger trains to bring more people to Gasparilla Island. Grand hotels and town designs were erected. Peter Bradley brought both the railroad and the Gasparilla Inn to the island.

The Red Gill Fish House was built in 1909 and in 1926 became Whidden’s Seafood and Market. Whidden’s is still in business and one of the island’s most historic monuments.
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Louis du Pont Crowninshield, an important philanthropist for Boca Grande helped establish the community with the opening of the island’s Mediterranean style school and the Boca Grande Health Clinic in 1949.

Explore Boca Grande Neighborhoods

Island Architectural Styles

Mediterranean

Stucco walls, tiled, low-pitched roofs, tile capping, symmetrical and large facades, arches, and door detailing with wrought iron touches on balconies and windows.

Spanish

While it may have the same stucco walls and low pitched roofs as its Mediterranean cousin, the Spanish style also has flat roofs, terracotta accents, and clay tile. In Florida unique features include combined touches from Spanish Baroque, Moorish Revival and even touches of the American Arts and Crafts movement.  

Coastal Contemporary

With high ceilings and open floor plans, these homes are light and airy retreats. Mostly found along the beachfront, these homes maximize natural light and often feature floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing spectacular views.

Ranch

These single level homes often have attached garages or carports at one end. They are ideal for remodeling projects like additions and three season screened porches.

Historic

Learn more by reading the Design Guidelines Manual for the Boca Grande Historic District, click here.

The town of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island flourishes with beach homes, quaint boutiques and the freshest seafood dining. Prestigious families such as the Duponts, Vanderbilts, and other elite visitors have been vacationing in Boca Grande since 1913. Islanders and visitors alike use bicycles and golf carts as means of transportation

Landmarks

Banyan Street

Banyan Street is a historic part of the village of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, located just south of the Downtown Boca Grande Historic District. The street may have been designed in a 1914 master plan by landscape architect Carl Rust Parker, and one block is lined with a graceful alleé of banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis). The century-old allée originally consisted of 26 trees in two rows of 13 trees in each row planted 25 feet on center and 38 feet apart on opposite sides of the street. The street runs perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico, and the unique tunneled space the trees create frames views of the evening sunsets. It is a fixture of many photos taken by tourists and artists who visit the area.

Boca Grande Community Center

Built in 1929, the Boca Grande Community Center is located in the heart of town. It served as the Island’s school until the Causeway was built and led to the island’s youngest residents to the mainland for education. In 2007, The Island School was built next door to the Community Center building where today it serves children in grades K thru 5. The facility is also home to the Royal Palm Players, and island production group, the Gasparilla Island Conservation & Improvement Association (GICIA), and serves as a hub for community events.

Hudson’s Grocery

Freshly made foods, an on-site butcher shop and ripe produce make Hudson’s Grocery a hub for Boca Grande visitors. From picnic supplies to snacks, locals and visitors can find everything they need at this picture perfect shop. 

Railroad Depot

No train service also left the Railroad Depot without purpose and it sank into disrepair. During the 1970’s the Depot was re-imagined as an office building with dining. Today’s visitors can indulge in homemade ice cream, their signature Key Lime Pie, or an item from their breakfast, lunch or dinner menus

Gasparilla Inn

On February 21, 1909, officers of the Boca Grande Land Company decided to construct a resort hotel on the island. Originally designed in a simple Frame Vernacular style it was remodeled a year after it was completed and Queen Anne style architectural elements were added. Today the Inn consists of 137 rooms, 63 in the main Inn and 74 in the surrounding cottages and is open from October through the end of Spring. From exciting theme weekends to a wide-array of athleisure options including an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet field, fitness center, marina access and daily programming for guests of all ages. The Gasparilla Inn & Club continues to be known for its impeccable service and its unique historic old Florida feel and atmosphere today. 

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum

The Boca Grande Lighthouse, located at the very south end of Gasparilla Island, was built by the United States Lighthouse Service in 1890. It marks the location of the Boca Grande Pass into Charlotte Harbor from the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of six lighthouses in Florida that are open to the public. The lighthouse is located in Gasparilla Island State Park.
Today visitors can step inside to learn about the cultural and social history of the island complete with a “please touch” area for younger visitors and a gift shop.

Gasparilla Island Lighthouse

This tall, tubular structure light serves as a navigational light for ships in the Gulf and Charlotte Harbor. Like many of the visitors to the island, the range light was built in Delaware in 1881 and relocated to Boca Grande in 1927. While the Barrier Island Parks Society owns the land the light sits on, the light itself is owned by the Coast Guard. Recent renovations are helping visitors to participate in more park and light engagement.

The Johann Fust Community Library

Through the generous efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Armory, the Johann Fust Community Library first opened its doors in 1950. The library offers world class reading, a rare book collection, and exceptional garden views. It also has a unique museum feature and is utilized as a local program hub and event locale.

Bicycle Trail

When phosphate rock was discovered nearby the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad line was built in 1905 to expedite global distribution. The railroad stopped running in 1958 when the Boca Grande Causeway opened. The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association transformed the old tracks into one of Boca Grande’s most popular features, the bicycle path.

The Boca Grande Swing Bridge & Causeway

Spanning two 80 feet channels, the bridge is over 200 feet in length and holds the record as the largest “swing bridge” in Florida, as well as the continental United States. It is also the only land link from Charlotte County to Gasparilla Island.

Marinas

Uncle Henry’s Marina

Located at the north end of Gasparilla Island, this 58 slip Marina can accommodate velles up to 80’. Located near restaurants, a grocery store, and the private Boca Grande Club, Uncle Henry’s is south of the Boca Grande Swing Bridge. Overnight and long term options are available for rent and slips are for sale.

Whidden’s Marina

Located south of channel marker 7, this Marina has been family owned since the 1920s and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also home to the Gasparilla Island Maritime Museum which depicts live on the island during the 1900s.

Boca Grande Marina

The Marina is within walking distance to Historic Downtown Boca Grande, restaurants, galleries, shopping and the Gulf Beaches. Golf cart rentals are available on-site and the full service Marina can accommodate boats up to 100+ feet.

Inn Marina

The Gasparilla Inn & Club’s full service marina is open to the public and is located on the bayou behind the Inn. It is a premier Mercury Service Dealer with fully certified Mercury technicians on-site daily for boat repairs and other services. Fuel, bait, clothing and miscellaneous boating supplies are offered in the ship’s store.

Gasparilla Marina – Located just off the island in Placida

This is the area’s largest deep water Marina offering access to the Charlotte Harbor, the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Grande Pass. There is an on-site restaurant, boat rentals, a fuel dock, bait shop, ship’s store, 24-hour security and on-site service.

Guided Fishing Trips

Boca Grande has been called the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World” and a sportsman’s paradise since the late 1800s. But the area also has a rich fishing legacy dating back to the time of the island’s first inhabitants, the Calusa Indians. Below are a few well known local companies who lead fishing expeditions, contact them directly to learn more.

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Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association

Tennis Court

Boca Grande Pass Club - South Beach

There are seven lighted clay courts for members of the Boca Grande Pass Club and court fees. 

The Gasparilla Inn & Club

There are seven clay courts for members and guests of the Gasparilla Inn & Club and court fees can apply. 

Boca Bay Pass Club - North

There are two hard courts for members of the Boca Grande Pass Club and court fees.

Golf Course

On Island

Off Island

Shopping

Aqua Boutique

421 Park Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921

An eclectic and fashionable boutique specializing in bohemian casual clothes, gifts and home decor.

Boca Grande Outfitters

375 Park Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921
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A one stop shop for the angler at heart.

Barnichol Hardware

380 E. Railroad Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921

The island's choice for hardware, housewares, garden supplies and gifts.

Fugate’s

428 4th Street W, Boca Grande, Florida 33921

This store offers an eclectic mix of shoes, games, one of a kind gifts and sourvenirs for men and women.

The Palm on Park

444 4th Street, Boca Grande, 33921
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This stylish shop in the heart of Boca Grande features Florida fashions at their finest and specializes in Lilly Pulitzer fashions for men, women and children.

Special Effects - Gasparilla Outfitters

431 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
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Specializing in travel, outdoor and resort clothing for women as well as unique jewelry and home decor.

Dining

Casual

The Outlet at the Innlet Restaurant
1251 12th Street East, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
A favorite for breakfast and lunch with outdoor dining.

The Loose Caboose
433 West 4th Street, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
A selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner items from classic egg sandwiches to burgers and homemade ice cream that can be enjoyed in casual attire while appreciating the splendor of the former Railroad Station.

Eagle Grille
220 Harbor Drive, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
A casual spot for lunch and dinner specializing in fresh seafood with a full bar and children’s’ menu. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Bayou while dining above the Boca Grande Marina.

South Beach Bar & Grill
760 Gulf Blvd, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
This casual eatery serves lunch and dinner, has a full bar, and offers an incredible view of the Gulf of Mexico’s pristine sandy beach.

Third Street Café
310 E. Railroad Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
Enjoy contemporary cuisine or a craft cocktail in the secret garden while soaking up the relaxed tropical elegance.

Formal

The Temptation Restaurant & Bar 
350 Park Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921
Take a step back in time to enjoy the murals and “Old Florida” supper club feel but brace yourself for innovative culinary creations highlighting local seafood.
 
The Pink Elephant 
491 Bayou Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921
This charming restaurant’s reputation for great food, signature drinks and refined service have made it a top destination for over 60 years. It is open year round.

Scarpa’s Coastal
321 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, FL 33921
Scarpa’s Coastal expands on the idea of fresh Florida seafood with an Italian flair that has become synonymous with the Scarpa’s name. Service breakfast & dinner. Live music most nights.

The Main Dining Room at The Gasparilla Inn & Club
500 Palm Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
As the fine dining and ‘jackets required’ dinner destination on Boca Grande

Prepared and Takeaway

The Pink Pony
471 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
Cups, cones or sundaes, fresh fruit smoothies, shakes, floats, slushies, and espresso drinks, EVERYONE visits The Pink Pony.

The Inn Bakery
384 E. Railroad Avenue, Boca Grande, FL 33921
The place for your morning coffee, tea or smoothie and pastry to a variety of sandwiches, wraps and sides at lunch. Open daily.
 
Hudson’s Grocery
441 N. Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
From groceries to grab and go meals, Hudson’s is a food landmark for anyone who visits the island. 

Newlin’s Gourmet
446 4th Street, Boca Grande, Florida 33921
A great spot for prepared food, take out entrees and not-to-miss lobster rolls and key lime pie!

Calendar of Events

January

Annual Food and Wine Weekend at the Gasparilla Inn
​​​​The Gasparilla Inn & Club invites gourmands and wine enthusiasts to the most anticipated culinary event of the season, our Annual Food & Wine Weekend. During this exciting weekend, guests learn the cooking techniques of leading chefs, taste wines from the world’s most famous regions, and experience delectable cuisine.

February

Boca Grande Film Festival
3 Days | 8 Movies
Awards and closing ceremonies follow the final screening. 
Takes place at the Community Center: Auditorium located at 131 First Street West, Boca Grande, FL 33921

Taste of Boca Grande
Put on your best Island Casual attire and come enjoy food & drinks from local restaurants and fabulous music while benefitting the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

March

Boca Grande Masters Art Festival
Limited to just 50 select artists from across the country, the festival presents high quality artwork and broad variety for guests to enjoy.

Annual Bike Path Parade and Spring Fair
For over 30 years, Boca Grande has celebrated the beginning of spring with an annual Fair and Bike Path Parade, sponsored by the Boca Grande Woman’s Club and the Lee County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Annual Strawberry Festival
​​​​​​​Hosted by the United Methodist Women, the event will include the popular bargain and boutique shops, homemade baked goods, Dazzling Digs, where visitors can scoop for lovely pieces of jewelry, the Book Nook, fun events for kids and a furniture sale. The silent auction includes fishing trips with some of the island’s top guides, dinners at local restaurants and in the homes of island “chefs,” paintings, crafts, jewelry and much more.

June

Annual Tarpon Festival
This weekend event centers around the Annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and the Annual Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival.

December

Annual Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Walk
Stroll down the luminary-lit town to visit with the local businesses and get a jump on your Holiday shopping. Santa Claus will come to town on the Boca Grande Fire Department Fire Truck to visit with all of the good boys and girls! The annual boat parade is a must-see event.

Lighting of the Lighthouse
On one special night a year the lighthouse beacon shines into the night sky, surrounded with thousands of beautiful holiday lights and merry cheer.

Rich Taylor has specialized in the luxury real estate market of Boca Grande, Fla., since 1995. He joined Gulf to Bay Properties as a sales associate and began building long-term relationships with his clientele based on integrity and dedication.