Boca Grande is a charming little town perfect for a weekend visit with your friends or family. Where is Boca Grande? It is located on Gasparilla Island, which is part of the larger Boca Grande barrier island chain on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The best time to visit this place is during the fall or winter months.
There are many things to do in Boca Grande – you can spend your weekend exploring different historic places in Boca Grande downtown, go fishing or kayaking with your friends and family, or leisurely spend your day at the beach.
Where to Stay in Boca Grande?
This classic hotel at the corner of Fifth Street and Palm Avenue is a historic landmark on the island, built-in 1913. Gasparilla Inn offers a true taste of “old Florida” with its Victorian-style roofs, wooden frame, and majestic views of the Gulf of Mexico and Charlotte Harbor. It opens seasonally from October to July and is now proudly awaiting its 109th season.
Staying at Gasparilla Inn gives you the chance to experience Florida as it was meant to be. You can choose from various accommodation options, including luxury suites, beach cottages, villas, sharp houses, and accessible rooms. You can also enjoy the private beach or services of the spa, salon, beach club, and various restaurants. Its proximity to the best shops to visit in Boca Grande, Florida, also makes it one of the top accommodation options in town.
Where to Eat in Boca Grande?
The inn bakery is a casual café located in the main village of Boca Grande, just a short distance from The Gasparilla Inn. It’s open from 6:30 am to 2:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday and offers a wide range of morning pastries, desserts, snacks, and coffee. This delicious food is prepared by the culinary team of The Gasparilla Inn & Club. The inn bakery is a popular breakfast spot in Boca Grande and also offers lunch fare.
Owned and operated by the Gasparilla Inn, Pink Elephant is a casual island restaurant that is decades old. It is located in a gorgeous historic building across the street from the Boca Grande bayou, and guests can enjoy their food either in the pub downstairs, upstairs dining room, or on the patio outside. The menu offers simple fare like steak, traditional salads, seafood appetizers, and fish.
Temptation Restaurant is one of the most popular places in Boca Grande to enjoy seafood. Some daily specials include pompano, grouper triple tail, or redfish, prepared in bronzed, blackened, or piccata style. The bar area of the restaurant is locally known as the ‘temp.’
If you are craving classic Italian pizza, Sisters Restaurant is one of the best places to visit in Boca Grande. Sisters Restaurant is at the corner of 5th Street and East Railroad Avenue and offers mouth-watering Italian cuisine made from fresh, premium ingredients at affordable prices. It’s open Monday – Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm.
Located at the historic train depot in downtown Boca Grande, Loose caboose is one of the best places to visit in Boca Grande, Florida if you are craving fish. It is a family-owned eatery that serves fresh local fish in a cozy atmosphere.
The Outlet Restaurant at the Innlet
The Outlet is a restaurant managed by the Innlet on the Waterfront. It’s well-known in Boca Grande for its delightful food and beautiful views. The Outlet serves breakfast and lunch from 7:00 am until 2:00 pm. Packed lunches are also available with advanced notice.
Miller’s Dockside is an ideal spot for a casual diner overlooking the boats at the marina. Burgers, salad, fried fish, and shrimp baskets are some of the most popular menu items at this restaurant.
What are the Best Things to do in Boca Grande?
1. Explore the Island
It’s true that Gasparilla Island is a tiny barrier island, but it’s full of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. Tourists visit the island for its stunning white-sand beaches, historic downtown, and top-class fishing. You can rent a bicycle or golf cart to travel around the town and admire the scenery. You can also hire a boat to explore the waters around Boca Grande.
2. Soak up the Sun
What’s good in an island vacation if you don’t take time to leisurely soak up the sun? Gasparilla has some of the most beautiful beaches in southwest Florida. Many of the beaches are secluded. You can visit one of these and spend the whole day relaxing and soaking up in the sun. No one will disturb you!
3. Go Tarpon Fishing
Boca Grande is considered one of the premier spots in the world for tarpon fishing. Each summer and spring, there are schools of massive tarpons weighing up to 200 pounds moving through the Boca Grande Pass. But remember, tarpons are protected fish. Once you catch them, you must release them back to the water unharmed.
4. Go thrift shopping
Don’t forget to visit the thrift shops in Boca Grande and help the local economy and residents. Boca Bargains is one of the best shops to visit in Boca Grande, Florida. It’s a thrift store located at the corner of Palm and Banyan Streets. Boca Bargains started as a rummage sale. Today, its housed in two small buildings and offers clothes, jewelry, shoes, artwork, housewares, furniture, games, and toys. The proceeds from the sales go to Scholarships and Community Grant Programs.
5. Get Ice cream at the Pink Pony
Popular with both locals and visitors alike, the Pink Pony is a family-owned ice cream shop in downtown Boca Grande. If you make one visit to Pink Pony, you will definitely keep visiting it every day during your holiday to taste the best ice cream in the world!
6. Rent a golf cart
Golf carts are one of the main modes of transportation on the island. Since they are smaller and quiet, they are more suited to explore the island than cars. In fact, Boca Grande is one of the few places where you can drive a golf cart on the road with bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians. Anyone above 14 can drive a golf cart, and there is no need for a driver’s license.
There are several places to rent a golf cart. The Gasparilla Inn, Kappy’s Market, and Gasparilla Adventures are three such places. Most of these places rent carts by the hour, day (half day or full day), or week.
7. Visit the Banyan Trees
To see these majestic banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis), you have to visit Banyan Street in the historical district just south of downtown. The street is lined on either side with Banyan trees that run perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico, creating a massive canopy and a tunnel effect. It was designed by landscape architect Carl Rust Parker in 1914, and the plants are said to be planted by the staff of Boca Grande Land Company.
These thirty one banyan trees have stood for more than 100 years and have gone through numerous tropical storms and several major hurricanes. They have also undergone high winds, salt spray, as well as unusual freezing temperatures.
8. Visit the Catholic Church
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church is one of the best places to visit in Boca Grande, Florida if you have time to spare. This is one of the most beautiful places on the island, built in the style of a 17th-century Spanish mission church by architect Francis Burrall Hoffman around 1949. If you want to attend the mass, there is a daily mass at 8 am. There is also a special Saturday mass at 5 pm and two masses on Sunday at 9 am and 10.30 am.
9. Take a golf cart to see the lighthouses
Did you know that this small barrier island is home to two historic lighthouses? The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was lit in 1890 and is one of the oldest structures on the island. It was built to light the way into Charlotte Harbor and played a major role throughout the island’s history, particularly during World War II. Now, it’s been declared a part of Gasparilla State Park and houses a museum.
The Historic Gasparilla Island Lighthouse was brought onto the island in 1927 and was lit in 1932. It helped ships sail through the Boca Grande Navigational Channel to Charlotte Harbor. Both lighthouses are open daily, and you can easily rent a golf cart, the primary mode of transport on the island, to visit them on the same day.
10. Go shelling
The sandy beaches of southwest Florida are renowned for shelling, so don’t forget to take a mesh shelling bag with you to the beach. The water in Boca Grande beaches is often clear, and it’s easy to find unique seashells and sand dollars. In addition to shells, you can also lookout for prehistoric shark teeth that wash ashore in this beach area.
If you haven’t tried out these 10 best things to do in Boca Grande during your weekend, your visit might be just incomplete!