Located just west of Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island State Park provides visitors with coastal adventures steeped in rich history. Those seeking a diverse beach experience will find a variety of adventures await in this Lee Island Coast destination. Although a small park (about 125 acres), it is tucked away at the end of residential development and offers some rewarding coastal activities worthy of considering if visiting the area.
It is rumored that the infamous pirate, Jose Gaspar and his band of men settled on the island in the 1700’s and used it for a hideout between raiding forays and is the namesake for the island. Although not documented, the story adds flavor to the historic character of the island as does the wooden lighthouse on the southern end of the island build in 1890 as a guide to the Charlotte Harbor. The lighthouse includes a small museum / gift shop and is open on an irregular schedule, so calling ahead is advised if more than an exterior view is desired.
The Gulf of Mexico beaches provide year-round swimming and excellent saltwater fishing in the relatively warm Gulf waters adjacent to the park and in the deep waters of Boca Grande Pass. The fish and shellfish resources of the surrounding waters are among the richest in the state of Florida and provide ample shoreline fishing opportunities for the angler.
Beachcombers will find excellent shelling opportunities along these gentle Gulf coast waters of this casual barrier island. Winter time is often considered the best shelling season and generally yields impressive collectibles with a short stroll along the sandy beach. Shells encountered often still contain their current residents and should be returned to the water if encountered since live shelling is prohibited in addition to being a smelly and messy activity.
Those seeking to observe native Florida wildlife will find gopher tortoise, bald eagle, osprey, least tern, royal tern, sandwich tern, and black skimmer some of the local feathered inhabitants common to the area. A leisurely walk along the nature trails provides the opportunity to see many additional species of birds, including several rare and endangered, that visit the island in the spring and fall, as they stop during their migratory journeys. Some of these species use Gasparilla Island’s natural ecosystems for their nesting activities. Along the protected eastern shoreline West Indian Manatee and dolphins are commonly observed in the Gasparilla Sound estuaries.
The park provides basic amenities for beach activities including covered picnic pavilions, showers, restrooms and trails for off-shore naturalist activities. Visitors to the island can also locate parking aside from Gasparilla Island State Park at four public parking areas: Range Light, Sea Grape, Dunes, and Seawall. Each of these parking areas offer access to these beautiful gulf beaches although without the amenities found at the state park.
Links are provided below for your conveience to assist in further research about this Lee Island Coast destination:
|Gasparilla Island State Park
880 Belcher Road, Boca Grande, FL