What to do in Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area

Legend has it that Gasparilla Island was named for the infamous pirate, Jose Gaspar, who reportedly settled on the island in the 1700s with his band of men. According to legend, Gaspar and his men used the island as a hiding place between forays until the United States carried out a campaign to rid the waters of their presence. Whether true or not, the legend adds to the colorful history of the island.

Gasparilla Island is one, in a chain of barrier islands, extending along the Gulf coast of Florida. It is separated from the mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. It is believed the Calusas were the first residents of the island, seeking the fish, turtles and shellfish that inhabited the Charlotte Harbor and Gasparilla Sound estuaries.

Commercial fishing has always been an important part of Gasparilla Island. The fish and shellfish resources of the surrounding waters are among the richest in the state of Florida.

One interesting feature of Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area is the wooden lighthouse on the southern end of the island. The U.S. Lighthouse Service first placed the lighthouse into use in 1890 as a guide to mariners seeking the entrance to Port Boca Grande and Charlotte Harbor. In 1966, the Coast Guard closed the lighthouse down.

The Federal Government donated the lighthouse to Lee County in 1972 and by 1980, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Department of Natural Resources (today the Department of Environmental Protection) assumed ownership of the lighthouse in 1985 and spent a year restoring the complex. The light was relit in November 1986.

Swimming and fishing are very popular activities at Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area, along with shelling and picnicking. Two picnic areas, with covered tables, are located in the park which offer scenic views of the surrounding water.

Shelling is particularly good during the winter months, however, visitors are reminded that the collection of live shells is prohibited.

The Gulf of Mexico beaches provide year-round swimming and excellent saltwater fishing in the waters adjacent to the park and in the deep waters of Boca Grande Pass.

Visitors to this barrier island enoy picnicking, swimming, viewing fabulous scenery, viewing a historical site, and saltwater fishing. Beachcombing is also enjoyed. Special events take place seasonally. Contact the park office for their latest schedule of events.

Gasparilla Island is a barrier island on Florida's southwest coast. Access to the island is via the Boca Grande Causeway at County Route 775 and Placida.

The climate in southern Florida is subtropical, with mild winters and hot, wet summers. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with averages reaching above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging above 64 degrees Fahrenheit (above 18 Celsius). Yearly precipitation for the southwest area is more than 56 inches. Lightweight clothing for hot temperatures is suggested. Long sleeves, pants, sturdy shoes and bug repellent are recommended if hiking.

P.O. Box 1150
Boca Grande, FL 33921

Phone: 941-964-0375

  • Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area Travel Q&A