Banyan Street is a historic part of the village of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, located just south of the Downtown Boca Grande Historic District. The street may have been designed in a 1914 master plan by landscape architect Carl Rust Parker, and one block is lined with a graceful alleé of banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis). The century-old allée originally consisted of 26 trees in two rows of 13 trees in each row planted 25 feet on center and 38 feet apart on opposite sides of the street. The street runs perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico, and the unique tunneled space the trees create frames views of the evening sunsets. It is a fixture of many photos taken by tourists and artists who visit the area.
When phosphate rock was discovered nearby, the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad line was built in 1905 to expedite global distribution. The railroad stopped running in 1958 when the Boca Grande Causeway opened. The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association transformed the old tracks into one of Boca Grande’s most popular features, the bicycle path which spans a great length of hte island and is frequented by bicycles and golf carts as the primary mode of island transportation.
On February 21, 1909, officers of the Boca Grande Land Company decided to construct a resort hotel on the island. Originally designed in a simple Frame Vernacular style, it was remodeled a year after it was completed and Queen Anne style architectural elements were added. Today the Inn consists of 137 rooms, 63 in the main Inn and 74 in the surrounding cottages and is open from October through the end of Spring. From exciting theme weekends to a wide-array of athleisure options including an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet field, fitness center, marina access and daily programming for guests of all ages. The Gasparilla Inn & Club continues to be known for its impeccable service and its unique historic old Florida feel and atmosphere today.
No train service left the Railroad Depot without purpose and it sank into disrepair. During the 1970’s the Depot was re-imagined as an office building with shops and a restaurant. Today’s visitors can indulge in homemade ice cream, their signature Key Lime Pie, or an item from their breakfast, lunch or dinner menus.
Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum
The Boca Grande Lighthouse, located at the very south end of Gasparilla Island, was built by the United States Lighthouse Service in 1890. It marks the location of the Boca Grande Pass into Charlotte Harbor from the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of six lighthouses in Florida that are open to the public. The lighthouse is located in Gasparilla Island State Park. Today visitors can step inside to learn about the cultural and social history of the island complete with a “please touch” area for younger visitors and a gift shop.
Gasparilla Island Lighthouse
This tall, tubular structure light serves as a navigational light for ships in the Gulf and Charlotte Harbor. Like many of the visitors to the island, the range light was built in Delaware in 1881 and relocated to Boca Grande in 1927. After many years of perseverance, Barrier Island Parks Society officially signed the licensing agreement with the US Coast Guard transferring the light and the land to BIPS care and protection. Recent renovations are helping visitors to participate in more park and light engagement. Call ahead to reserve your spot during one of the scheduled climbs during the year at 941.964.0060.
The Johann Fust Community Library
Through the generous efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Armory, the Johann Fust Community Library first opened its doors in 1950. The library offers world class reading, a rare book collection, and exceptional garden views. It also has a unique museum feature and is utilized as a local program hub and event locale.
Boca Grande Causeway
The Boca Grande Swing Bridge & Causeway Spanning two 80 feet channels, the bridge is over 200 feet in length and holds the record as the largest “swing bridge” in Florida, as well as the continental United States. It is also the only land link from Charlotte County to Gasparilla Island.
Boca Grande Community Center
Built in 1929, the Boca Grande Community Center is located in the heart of town. It served as the Island’s school until the Causeway was built and led to the island’s youngest residents being educated at schools on the mainland. In 2007, The Island School was built next door to the Community Center building where it serves children in grades K thru 5 today. The facility is also home to the Royal Palm Players, and island production group, the Gasparilla Island Conservation & Improvement Association (GICIA), and serves as a hub for community events.