If you are really looking for somewhere to get away from it all, then Gasparilla Island State Park is a terrific option.
Detached from the mainland by the stunning Pine Island Sound and scenic Charlotte Harbor, the remote island forms part of a network of barrier islands on the Gulf Coast.
Nestled on the southern end of Gasparilla Island, along the Boca Grande Causeway, it is accessed via a private toll road along Placida and County Road 775.
This Florida state park is renowned for being a tranquil nature spot for swimming, paddling, scuba diving, fishing and hiking. All of which can be accessed via any one of its five parking lots. However, its main centerpiece has to be the stately and recently restored Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, which was originally built in 1890.
There is no camping available here, but that is ok because that is part of its charm. Campers just bring extra people and the whole point of coming here is to get away from them in the first place!
Guests at the park are able to enjoy its tranquil surroundings and stunning scenery in several ways.
Here are some further details about the activities you can partake in while you are there.
Lighthouse at Gasparilla Island State Park
The main drawcard on Gasparilla Island is the majestic Boca Grande Lighthouse.
Originally built in 1890, the U.S. Coast Guard operated it until 1966, whereupon it lay in a state of abandonment for close to 20 years.
After a major renovation in 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now under the ownership of the state, it possesses a public museum and visitor center that highlights both its history and that of the Boca Grande.
Boating at Gasparilla Island State Park
If you bring your own kayak, canoe or SUP with you to the park you will be able to enjoy taking to the water in these vessels near the Gulf of Mexico.
The views of the shoreline and surrounding expense of water are enchanting. So don’t be surprised if you spend quite a bit of time out there.
Swimming at Gasparilla Island State Park
Throughout the park, swimming and sunbathing are enjoyed by many people.
Along the island’s gulf side you will find four parking areas that provide direct access to its beaches. This includes Sea Grape, Range Light, Seawall and Dunes.
During the cooler winter months, shelling is a well practiced activity. However, the taking of live shells is strictly prohibited, so please leave them on the sand.
Should you require a beach wheelchair, they are available to use for free at the park on a first come, first served basis.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling at Gasparilla Island State Park
If you bring your own equipment to the park with you both scuba diving and snorkeling can be engaged off the beaches.
The pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico are teeming with marine life, so you should be able to see a diverse range of species.
Fishing at Gasparilla Island State Park
For those who enjoy fishing the beaches around the Gulf of Mexico provide fantastic saltwater fishing all year round in the Boca Grande Pass and the Gasparilla Sound.
Should you wish to cast a line, you may need a fishing licence, depending on whether you do it on the shoreline or via a boat or watercraft.
Regardless, you will need to abide by all rules and regulations with respect to number, size, season and the way they are captured.
Hiking at Gasparilla Island State Park
If you prefer land over water then you’ll want to check out the park’s nature trails.
Several of them cut a swathe through the park, highlighting the diverse range of flora and fauna you can see within this stunning barrier island.
This includes the likes of seasonal and permanent resident birds like the southern bald eagle, sandwich tern, royal tern, least tern and the American oystercatcher.
It also incorporates wildlife like the West Indian manatee and gopher tortoise.
Picnicking at Gasparilla Island State Park
For those who want to enjoy a picnic at the park there are two main areas you can do this at.
These areas come with shaded tables and also have restroom facilities attached. They also offer tremendous views of the surrounding waterscape.
Pets at Gasparilla Island State Park
Visitors are allowed to bring their pets with them to the park. However, they are not allowed in the Boca Grande Lighthouse or anywhere on the beach.
At all times, pets must be kept under control on a handheld leash of at least six-feet in length.
It is also forbidden for them to be taken into restroom facilities, onto playground equipment or left unattended for more than just a few minutes.
Camping at Gasparilla Island State Park
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the way of overnight accommodation at the park.
Also as it is situated in a fairly remote location, there aren’t all that many camping options available either, within the immediate vicinity of it.
For those with an RV or trailer, the closest campground is the Harbor Lakes RV Resort which is about a 30 minute drive away. A massive campground, it features 525 sites – many of which come with full hookups for water, electricity and sewer.
In terms of amenities, visitors are spoilt for choice as this caravan park has everything from hot showers, flush toilets and laundry to a swimming pool, whirlpool/spa/hot tub and a games room.
Should you not have an RV or trailer, the town of Placida provides a handful of small motels, high end resorts and Vrbo style accommodation options.
Gasparilla Island State Park
880 Belcher Rd
Boca Grande, FL 33921
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Gasparilla Island State Park: