When that recurring itch to travel becomes too prominent to ignore and the next Caribbean adventure is a ways off, RumShopRyan and I do the next best thing–ROAD TRIP!!
To get away from the everyday mundane routines of life, we do what I like to call “exploring your own backyard.” We find destinations nearby and spend the day enjoying new restaurants, new beaches and new towns. NEW! NEW! NEW! It really helps refresh your mind and soul.
Florida has so much to offer and many of the state’s scenic gems are only a few hours away from us. It would be a shame to not experience them.
A sleepy little beach town called Boca Grande had been on our “JustGo” list for a while so we picked a date and made a date. With a historic (retired) train station in the middle of town, unique shops, banyan trees and hibiscus bushes around every corner, you definitely get a taste of that old Florida charm.
Exploring Boca Grande
Before we dive into out favorite things to do on Boca Grande, I thought this video does a good job of setting the seen of what Boca Grande is all about.
Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was one of the main attractions we wanted to see. The lighthouse sits on the southernmost point of Gasparilla Island. You can see Cayo Costa and Pine Island from across the way.
On our way to the Boca Grande Lighthouse we actually came across another lighthouse we weren’t even aware of, the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse is currently under construction and being restored so visitors can eventually climb up it. We will have to make a second trip for that!
We walked the beach and took some pictures where Gasparilla Lighthouse resides. During our walk we stumbled upon a heart constructed from shells that a former beachgoer had made. Just one of the many things I love about the beach. You never know what little treasures you will find.
We enjoyed our unexpected stop at the Gasparilla Lighthouse but it was time to get back on our original course to see the Boca Grande Lighthouse.
It was a 10 minute drive through the quaint little town until we arrived to our destination, Gasparilla Island State Park. We grabbed our gear and proceeded to soak it all in. More new stuff to see!
The sun was shining bright but it was another blustery and chilly day (chilly for my thin Florida blood anyways). This type of weather is becoming a trend in our ventures. I guess it will only make us well seasoned travelers–Capable of handling anything that comes our way.
The waves were rockin and rollin in the gulf and grains of sand were pelting my shins like little BB’s. We had to laugh at the all too familiar surroundings.
As we strolled along the coastal landscape, making our way towards the lighthouse, I saw something in the water from the corner of my eye. It was close to shore and at first I thought it was someone swimming. That seemed crazy though because the water was so cold and the waves were so rough, why would anyone be swimming in those conditions?! Was it someone in distress?!
I saw the dark formation come up again. This time it was bigger and didn’t look human. It had a rubbery look to it. Maybe it was an old tire that someone dumped into the water?! Nope, wasn’t a tire either. When it came up for the third time I could finally make out what it was…IT WAS A MANATEE!!
There were two of them swimming casually along the shoreline. They didn’t seem to mind the onlookers taking pictures as they came up for air. Dolphins began to emerge and birds dive bombed the water for fish as we continued to watch the gentle giants mosey on by. Nature was putting on quite a show that day and I’m thankful we had front row seats for it.
I could have stayed and watched the marine life all day but we had other things to see. With a little nudge from Ryan, we kept walking until we came up to the Boca Grande Lighthouse.
This lighthouse has a store inside and also a museum with indian artifacts on display. We did not go inside but we did take some pictures of the beautiful beachscape around it.
Boca Grande South Beach Bar& Grill
Morning explorations can really work up an appetite. With our stomachs growling, it was time to feed our faces, have a drink and relax. South Beach Bar and Grill was the perfect place to do just that. Good timing was on our side as we beat the lunch hour rush. We were already enjoying our conch fritters while everyone else piled in around us.
The restaurant sits right on the beach so pull up an adirondack chair, open up a cold one and enjoy the view!
Gasparilla Inn & Club
After lunch it was time to head back to the heart of town to see the historic Gasparilla Inn & Club. This classic resort has been in business since 1913 and has accommodated some well known names from the past and present.
Rumor has it, people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Jimmy Buffett (a Castaway favorite), Harrison Ford and even former president George H.W. Bush have stayed at the inn.
With history and names like that, why wouldn’t we check it out?!
Doormen were eager to greet us as we walked into the main lobby. Hardwood floors and palm frond wallpaper helped set in that old Florida charm once again. We had a drink and enjoyed chatting with the bartenders at BZ’s which is on the main floor.
After our beverage it was time to say goodbye to Boca Grande and head back home.
As we were leaving Gasparilla Inn, Ryan was recognized by Castaway Tim Martin who was working the front desk. I like to call these encounters “RumShop Sightings.” So there you go, just one more famous person to add to the guest list at Gasparilla Inn & Club. Haaaa! Just kidding. I don’t think you can put travel bloggers in the same category of fame as Jimmy Buffett or Harrison Ford, but it’s a nice thought.
It’s fun to be recognized, but our main goal is to help you have a better vacation and find the best a destination has to offer. In this case it was Boca Grande, other times it’s the Caribbean.
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Boca Grande is a beautiful place to visit and we highly recommend it. We also recommend that you do a little exploring in your own back yard and not miss out on wonderful places your location has to offer.
Never stop exploring.
– Castaway Crystal
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