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.
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.
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.
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.