Fun in the Sun
I've been seeing Boca Grande pop up a lot recently on advertising campaigns, like the recent J. McLaughlin ads, and on other bloggers' pages as they discover this lovely little slice of paradise. I have mixed feelings because part of me is happy that this place seems to be becoming more well-known and part of me wishes I could keep it a secret for a little longer. I grew up coming to Boca Grande, also known as Gasparilla Island, which is a great spot on the Southwest coast of Florida about 45 minutes from where I live. The beaches are soft white sand, the water is clear and warm, and there is every manner of wildlife from manatees to stingrays. In fact just this past year I was stung by a jellyfish for the first time while paddle boarding off the beach. It took me by surprise although I've heard dangerous wildlife has become regrettably more common. I also happen to have awful luck, as you may know, so of course if anyone were going to get stung it would be me.
By far the best place on the island is the Gasparilla Inn & Club, a gorgeous historical hotel at the very end of the island with the most quintessentially preppy Floridian decor you've ever seen. It's so charming I always try to stop by even if I'm just going to the beach that day. My favorite restaurant on the island, and one of my favorites in the entire area, is called the Pink Elephant and it's owned by the Gasparilla Inn. You cannot go wrong with the grouper tacos and a refreshing mojito. The inn also has a beach club, which, fun fact, is one of the places I attended prom in high school. I distinctly remember it being so humid that everyone was miserable in their dresses and tuxes and when the party bus we'd rented picked us up, everyone was all too happy to change into lighter attire. It's still one of the best places on the beach if only for its great yellow-striped umbrellas. Another awesome place to stay is the Boca Grande Club, where we usually rent a condo to stay for a long weekend or a nice summer week staycation. It's further down the island so you may want to rent a golf cart or bikes, the major modes of transportation there, to get around. For more dining options try The Outlet at the Innlet (a great spot for breakfast) and the Sisters Italian Restaurant. There are some cute boutiques in town selling everything from cashmere wraps to designer sandals to cheesy mugs and towels. It's also so much fun to rent paddle boards, kayaks, or even jet skis and make your beach day a little more adventurous.