Travel Destinations

Boating Destination: Gasparilla Island & Boca Grande, FL

Gasparilla Island lighthouse | Credit Ebyabe on Wikimedia Commons

Boca Grande is a small town at the southern end of Gasparilla Island, one of Florida’s many barrier islands. A secluded, long-time escape of the country’s social elite, Boca Grande is one of South Florida’s hidden gems.

Gasparilla Island is idyllic for visitors who want a relaxing vacation. Steeped in Old Florida charm and seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world, Boca Grande truly runs on island time. The historic downtown is well preserved and dotted with Spanish colonial-style community buildings. The oldest lighthouse on the island, Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was completed in 1890 and is open for tours at the southernmost end of the island in Gasparilla Island State Park.

The best way to explore the island is by bike or golf cart, both available to rent, on the paved path that runs six and a half miles, end to end. Free of chain restaurants and shrouded in preserved landscapes, Boca Grande visitors often feel like they’ve stepped back in time. Learning about the island’s history is easy with museums at the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and historic Whidden’s Marina.

Gasparilla Island State Park offers four beach access points to the powder soft sand. These beaches are accessible and outfitted with grills, showers, parking and shade canopies. Between the amenities and the clear blue waters, Boca Grande is every beach-goer’s paradise. The shallow Florida waters are a great place to snorkel, but Gasparilla Island is better known as a world-famous tarpon fishing and angling site.

When visiting the beaches, be sure to keep your eyes peeled. Gasparilla Island is a treasured shelling location, revealing beautiful seashells and fossils such as shark teeth. All the island’s beaches tend to be laid back, but if you are looking to add a day trip to your itinerary, Caya Costa, the island state park across the strait, is another exceptional beach option.

On the east side of the island, just north of the golf club, is the Boca Grande Bayou, home to the famous Gasparilla Inn & Club. The bayou is perfect for exploring by kayak or paddleboard, especially in the morning. Whether you come here for fishing, the beautiful Florida waters, the privacy or the Old Florida experience, Gasparilla Island will delight and surprise you. Embrace your escape; enjoy Boca Grande.

Where to Dock

Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tarpon Tournament - Credit - Christopher Harrison on Flickr

Boca Grande Marina


This marina accommodates vessels up to 130 feet. It’s a full-service, pet-friendly place with free Wi-Fi, restaurants and golf cart rentals that also offers the only roadside gas pump for vehicles on the island.

The Inn Marina


Available to guests of the Gasparilla Inn & Club, this marina is located on the Boca Grande Bayou and offers wet and dry storage, as well as an extensive marina store. As a full-service, certified green marina, it has on-site technicians.

Whidden’s Marina


As one of the area’s oldest marinas, this family-owned facility has been serving the Boca Grande community since 1925. The historic establishment offers overnight slips, gas, bait and tackle and onsite fishing charters.

Where to Dine

The Pink Elephant


Located in a historic building on the Boca Grande Bayou, The Pink Elephant is part of Gasparilla Inn & Club. The second floor accepts reservations and is somewhat formal, but the first floor, known as “The Pink” is a casual and popular watering hole with a seafood-forward menu that includes surf ‘n turf and comfort foods.

The Temptation


An extremely popular eatery known for fresh seafood, The Temptation has been around for 75 years, still maintaining its original retro vibes. Often called “the fish house of your dreams,” it has a stocked wine cellar and chefs will cook your catch of the day.

The Outlet Restaurant at the Innlet


Start your day right with a hearty breakfast and a lovely waterfront view at The Outlet. Open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the kitchen dishes out comfort foods from omelets and French toast to po’ boys and paninis. Box lunches for day trips on the water are available if you call in advance.

Eagle Grill & Miller’s Dockside


Located at the Boca Grande Marina, this pair of restaurants can accommodate any whim or budget. Miller’s Dockside on the bottom level has a lively sports bar vibe with good pub fare. On the second floor, Eagle Grill presents fine dining in a calm setting with a gorgeous view of Charlotte Harbor.

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