Today is my last day as VISIT FLORIDA's Off the Beaten Path Insider as a new writer joins the team on Monday.
I've chosen the Historic Village of Boca Grande as my last feature. Located on an island between Sarasota and Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf coast, its seven miles of shell-lined beaches surround the lush community. Privacy and exclusivity draw guests, as the island was once accessible only via railroad and is still somewhat of a secret gem just off the mainland.
Old Florida flourishes here – no stop lights, billboards, high-rises or fast-food chains disturb the ambience. Instead, boutiques, small cafés, galleries and fine dining establishments provide all kinds of distractions in the charming Main Street district.
Boca Grande is also a lovely place for a destination wedding, a family reunion or an extended season's stay. Dignitaries and celebrities alike enjoy the ambience – and the locals’ customary discretion. Artists have long enjoyed the island’s picturesque scenery, with historic coral rock buildings and a thick canopy of trees.
Fed by the Myakka and Peace Rivers, the region is one of the most productive in the world for fishing. In fact, Boca Grande has an extremely deep natural channel, which may explain the extraordinary turquoise color of the Gulf here. Tarpon congregate around Charlotte Harbor to feast on the abundant nourishment in these waters. Afterward, they leave the pristine environs to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico.
At Whidden's Marina, locals in the know drop by in the late afternoon for freshly-caught fish and prawns as big as a man's hand.
Quality of life is of paramount importance to the community, which seeks to protect its unique atmosphere while fostering controlled growth in tourism. Residents are fiercely proud of the town and its many features.
I certainly enjoyed my stay, both on Boca Grande, where Old Florida endures, and writing this blog. I am grateful to have shared many of Florida's treasures with readers. Thank you for joining me on this two-year journey, and for the many encouraging comments posted to my stories.
Until we meet again!