Friday, January 27, 2012

Boca Grande - SW Florida Weekend Retreat

Where To Go For A 'Grand' Weekend - Boca Grande

Boca Grande Village on Gasparilla Island in Lee and Charlotte counties, on the Gulf coast has been the home to the wealthy for decades. The village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

It's reachable by boat or via the $5 toll bridge connecting the island to Charlotte county's mainland.

Visitors and residents agree that the charming island is a bit of paradise just miles from Fort Myers and Port Charlotte. The island has no stoplights or franchise food outlets. Structures are limited to two stories in height. There was no road access until 1958 when the bridge was built.

From a small fishing village in 1870 to a booming commercial port in the early 20th century, Boca Grande is now a tourist destination and second home for hundreds of millionaires.

Many structures are now placed on the National Register of Historic Places including the rail station, lighthouse, Gasparilla Inn, and marina.

There are quaint shops, two grocery stores, two banks, a school, and hair salons. There is no gas station or chain stores. A bike path runs most of the length of the island and golf carts are the preferred method of transportation.

Visitors are free to use wire-less internet at the Community Center 24/7 or the Johann Fust Library. The Boca Grande Reference Room at the Center has automated book check out as part of the Lee County Library system.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club has had guests including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and the George H. W. Bush family, as well as many other notable celebrities.

At the southern tip is Gasparilla Island State Park, a popular beach location and home to one of six Florida lighthouses open to public.

Visitor Tip: Pick up an excellent free Visitor's Guide published by local newspaper the Boca Beacon for everything one should know about the island.

From the video:

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Keeper's House Museum - Built 1890
Amory Memorial Chapel - once the Shiloh Baptist Church for the African-American community
Pilot's House - About 1898, now privately owned residence
Boca Grande School
Boca Grande Community Center - auditorium and community meeting place (author Amy Bennet-Williams giving a talk about the Caloosahatchee River)
Banyan Road
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church
Hudson's Grocery's Pink Gas Pump
Whidden's Marina - Built 1926, former dance hall now a small museum. Pet goats.

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