Float plane & Luxury Fishing boat The Lady Di – a 74 footer at Boca Grande.
Boca Grande Florida is the upmarket holiday resort on Gasparilla Island in the Gulf of Mexico. B.C. became known when The Presidential Bush family purchased property there. The homes are palatial water edge properties boasting all day sunshine and sparkling blue water. One home I noticed had everything, almost everything anyway: open the front door step into the pool, exit the pool and board your yacht moored at the gate, say good morning to the Manatee or the Dolphins swimming past and perhaps chase the tall White Heron out of your pool. This is Boca Grande – – I didn’t stay there – I cruised past!
Nearby is a lesser known holiday destination… Little Gasparilla Island where I did stay.
The island is 7 miles long but less than a mile wide and home to perhaps 60 permanent folk. I spent Spring Break on this charming strip of low lying land. To get there entailed a 10-12 hour road trip but that is another story!! We co-habitated with with a few old Gopher tortoise’s, many Osprey busy feeding their very demanding chicks on clumsily built stick nests, Dolphins and Manatee, Egrets, Herons and an assortment of fish. Snook, Mangrove Snapper, Reds, Garfish, Sea Trout, Catfish, Tarpon etc.
Above: White Heron and Colby aged 9 with a Snook he returned as under sized!
The signs on the Channel markers say “Slow Zone Manatee”, and almost all the harbour markers are home to an Osprey nest. Osprey mate for life and return every year to the same nesting site. The Tarpon are seasonal and the largest ever caught is well over 250 pounds! This region is considered the Tarpon capital of America! People travel from all over the US to catch Tarpon. I didn’t see a snake or any other nasties; no mosquitos, no ‘no see ums’ the only danger seemed to be the hot sun baring down trying to turn us all golden brown!
In the mornings folk walk the beach, there are no cars ( transport is by golf cart) and only walking tracks on this rustic island. The homes battered by winter storms are not like those on Boca Grande, they are mostly in need of repairs and are nestled amongst trees cheek by jowl facing either the ocean beach or the more tranquil inner harbour.
Above: a standardised Bourganvillia and typical ‘old school’ rustic beach houses.
A few houses have no view but regardless a 3 minute walk in any direction and you’re at the waters edge. The white sandy beaches are in places dotted with weather worn tree stumps adding an eeriness to the beach scale. Sharks teeth wash up on the beaches, hundreds of them every day! Small brown teeth perhaps 1 cm long. A few sand dollars and other shells make beach walking interesting and of course the water temperature is perfect for swimming.
The chap who created the Eifel Tower (above) was 50 ish and works as a Warehouse manager in Indianna, this is his holiday relaxation.
Some people spend their time creating sand sculptures, others laze away the time drinking margarita’s, reading or fishing. This is a family destination and soon you will have met everyone on the beach, they come from states such as Indianna, Georgia, Carolina etc.
Arriving on the island by boat means packing the minimum, there are no cocktail parties here, jandals, swim togs, hats and cover ups…that’s all you need – oh and that book you’ve been wanting to read! . There are no shops; most folk hire a boat for the week so popping into Eldred’s Marina across the bay is the big outing… They sell fish hooks and shirts, caps and candy. They also have large tanks of live fish bait such as pin fish or the favourite live shrimp bait. They don’t take credit cards but do have an ATM with a maximum withdrawal of US$120.00. Such is life on Little Gasparilla Island. So if you are looking America as it was 40 years ago this is the place to come. Enjoy, I certainly did.
Above: A Long horned cow fish
Below: The owner of Eldred’s Marina shop.
Once You Have Slept on an Island
Once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same
You may look as you looked before
And go by the same old name
You may hustle about in street and shop,
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll forever see blue water
And wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with neighbors
Of this and that.
And close to the fire keep,
But you’ll hear ships’ whistles
And lighthouse bells
And tides beat through your sleep.
And you won’t know why
And you can’t say how
Such a thing upon you came.
But once you have slept on an island
You won’t be quite the same.
– Rachel Fields
Sunset at Little Gasparilla Island, Florida.
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