Skip to main content

Gulf & Main Magazine

Beautiful Boca: Truly like time travel, short ride from Fort Myers

Dec 30, 2017 07:26PM

Boca Grande/Gasparilla Island are about water, from pirates to a tarpon fishing mecca, to generational families still making this place their home. It never gets old. Photos by Capt. Brian Holaway.

Gallery: Boca Grande - January/February 2018 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

I love Boca Grande. It’s like stepping back in time. 

Boca Grande (Spanish for big mouth) is on Gasparilla Island, the southern half is Lee County, the northern half Charlotte County. The history of Boca Grande has revolved around water. The southern end of the island was a major shipping port from the early 1900s until the 1970s. Phosphate was discovered along the Peace River in Charlotte County and moved by barge in the 1800s to Boca Grande. It didn’t take long before transporting phosphate was made to the deepwater Port Boca Grande by way of railroad in 1907.

With the railroad came more people and amenities to this Southwest Florida barrier island. A person could hop on a train in New York City and arrive in Boca Grande within 24 hours. It was booming times when the railroad came to town. 

But the train also brought avid sportsmen to fish for the silver king. Tarpon have been a big part of the history of Boca Grande for over a hundred years. Fishing families have generations of knowledge of the area and many families still guide sportsmen today, just as their forefathers did before them.

Here are a few of my favorite places at Boca Grande 

Temptation Restaurant is an institution. Not much has changed in over 70 years. Local fishermen sit in the kitchen where they slide in the back door to eat lunch. My favorite table is the booth facing the kitchen to see them through the swinging door’s porthole window. The seafood is always fresh, and desserts come from a long tradition. Pulling open the old green screen door and walking into this place, it feels like you are walking into a time portal.

The Johann Fust Library is also a favorite seaside library. It was built in 1949 with funding from Roger and Louise Amory of Boston. They were winter residents and later donated their home to the Village of Boca Grande. You are greeted at the library by ancient steps and carved cypress doors. Among the special collections is a page from the Gutenberg Bible printed in 1454, a clay tablet with cuneiform script, a page from the Book Of The Dead copied onto papyrus dating to the 1st century AD.  The Amorys used their boat, the Papyrus, to ship books and items from Boca Grande to Captiva and other barrier islands as a library on the water.
 
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse is another place I love visiting. You always come away with some new insight. It was lit on Dec. 31, 1890, and served ships coming from and going to Cuba. The Boca Grande Lighthouse has a great museum with a history of the boats, people and industry making this a unique place.  

In this modern world with everything at the touch of your phone,  I like to visit Boca Grande and think of the cattle being boarded for Cuba at the south end of the island, or the Amorys loading the Papyrus with books to take to Captiva. I love Boca Grande.

Written by Captain Brian Holaway, a Florida master naturalist and has been a Southwest Florida shelling and eco-tour guide since 1995. His charters visit the islands of Pine Island Sound, including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Pine Island and North Captiva.

 

Travel vacations things to do january-february
  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    01/23/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • December 20, 2017 – February 16, 2018 Opening Reception: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6pm-8pm...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/23/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Surfside Sunset Market

    01/23/2018
    01:00PM — 06:00PM

    The Surfside Sunset Market is located at The Shops at Surfside. From November through April, the ...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    01/23/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/23/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/23/2018
    07:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • Noises Off

    01/23/2018
    07:30PM

    “Noises Off” is a laugh-out-loud farce surrounding an opening night performance of a play called ...


  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    01/25/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • December 20, 2017 – February 16, 2018 Opening Reception: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6pm-8pm...


  • Medication Q&A

    01/25/2018
    11:15AM — 12:15PM

    Join American House Ft. Myers at the University Grill for an interactive and informational Q&A se...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/25/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    01/25/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/25/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/25/2018
    07:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • Noises Off

    01/25/2018
    07:30PM

    “Noises Off” is a laugh-out-loud farce surrounding an opening night performance of a play called ...


  • 16th Annual Caloosahatchee Celtic Festival

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 10:00PM

    Fort Myers Recreation Division and Celtic Heritage Productions invite you to “Don your Tartan” an...


  • 16th Annual Caloosahatchee Celtic Festival

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 10:00PM

    Fort Myers Recreation Division and Celtic Heritage Productions invite you to “Don your Tartan” an...


  • ArtFest Fort Myers

    02/02/2018
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    ArtFest Fort Myers is best known for its annual juried fine art festival, which nurtures the arti...


  • ArtFest Fort Myers

    02/03/2018
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    ArtFest Fort Myers is best known for its annual juried fine art festival, which nurtures the arti...


  • ArtFest Fort Myers

    02/04/2018
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    ArtFest Fort Myers is best known for its annual juried fine art festival, which nurtures the arti...


  • December 20, 2017 – February 16, 2018 Opening Reception: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6pm-8pm...


Proudly Brought To You By These Community Sponsors