This afternoon we are off to our one and only island in Florida...
There are quite a few islands in Florida that are perfectly lovely family vacation spots, but I chose Gasparilla because it is one of the only ones that hasn't fallen prey to over-building and commercialism. That, and that fact that the pure white sand beaches on Gasparilla are absolutely gorgeous.
You may not have heard of Gasparilla Island before - it isn't quite as recognizable as the other islands on my list. Or, you may have heard it referred to by the name of the only town on the island - Boca Grande. Gasparilla Island lies off the west coast of Florida, just north of the better known Sanibel and Captiva Islands. It was originally developed in the early 1900's by wealthy northerners who came down on their private railroad cars to stay at the luxurious Gasparilla Inn, built in 1911, for the winter. Despite it's relative obscurity, it is known among fishermen for some of the best tarpon fishing in the world.
Go fishing - either for Tarpon in the Boca Grande Pass during the 80 day Tarpon season or, the rest of the year, in the mangrove islands and tidal creeks for snook, redfish and sea trout. Many of the charters available from the marina allow young children their first salt water fishing experience.
Search for the abundant sea shells, particularly sand dollars, along the pristine white sand beaches.
Enjoy sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Stroll through the quaint little town of Boca Grande, along streets lined with gorgeous Banyan trees and charming boutiques.
Go off island to Fort Myers to a Boston Red Sox or Minnesota Twins spring training baseball game or a minor league game in the summer.
The Temptation - Great seafood and cocktails in an old time Florida atmosphere...it seriously hasn't changed since the Mad Men era...and that is a good thing.
The Pink Elephant -
otherwise known as "The Pink" is owned by the Gasparilla Inn...casual food and great drinks on the patio.
Loose Caboose -
GREAT ice cream and sandwiches inside the old train depot.
Gasparilla Inn and Club -
A grand old resort where you still have to dress for dinner (jackets for men) during the "social" season...very clubby and luxe with golf, tennis and croquet. Stay in one of the Inn rooms or one of the cottages dotted around the property. The beach club is the place to be for sunset cocktails.
Or, rent a condo or home through Parsley Baldwin or Boca Grande Vacations - I really like the "Sea Oats" condominiums - particularly the ones directly on the gulf.
Next up...another old school island...Mackinac Island, Michigan