Gasparilla Island is the perfect antidote to the flash and dash of Miami Beach. A barrier island of the southwest coast of Florida, it is a time capsule of an old Florida town from the 1930s. That’s when far sighted island inhabitants passed zoning laws that restricted the unregulated and haphazard development that was occurring in most of the state.
The result? A small enclave in a pristine island setting, replete with a beautifully restored Inn and miles of barefoot wandering along the beach. The few roads lead to a small village with an inviting array of shops and eateries, both
upscale and casual. Flowers everywhere, of course.
The island was originally developed for fishing and elite tourism, but with the discovery in 1900 of potash nearby, a railroad was built from the mainland and bisected the island from north to south to ship to potash around the world. After the industry died out in the 1970s, the island was refocused to tourism, and the railroad bed was converted to a bike and golf cart path, both major means of transportation around the island and also one of its major attractions. At six and one half miles long, completely flat and smooth, and affording views of both the sound and the ocean as well as peeks at the stunning estate gardens, it’s just about perfect!
The Gasparilla Inn is the jewel in the crown of the island. Like most historic hotels, it has a long and varied history. The current restored and expanded version, is refined, designed and sublime.
Oh yes, and pricey.
If you’re in Florida and looking for a day or weekend getaway, pack up your bikes, your swimsuits and maybe your white croquet costumes and head for Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande.
Judy Bereza is a retired interior designer/kitchen expert, constant walker and “Nana” to four adorable grand children. She and her friends have hiked in Wales, Cornwall, Switzerland, Smokey Mountain National Park, Ireland and California.
Occasionally she veers off the trail to explore a different kind of travel adventure that includes her husband..