Island History

Gasparilla Island has a vibrant history that began more than 2,000 years ago when the Calusa Indians first inhabited the tiny island and made Charlotte Harbor the center of their empire. By the mid 1700s, the tribe had all but disappeared due to clashes with European explorers.

In 1885, phosphate rock was discovered east of Gasparilla Island across Charlotte Harbor along the Peace River. This discovery turned the south end of the island into a major deep water port and eventually led to the development of Boca Grande. Phosphate, a valuable mineral for fertilizers and other products, was shipped worldwide from Port Boca Grande until the 1970s when the line was abandoned.

In 1907, Charlotte Harbor was completed, as was the Northern Railroad, which linked Gasparilla Island to the mainland. The railroad brought wealthy visitors and, just three years later, Boca Grande Pass had established itself as a world-class tarpon fishing destination. Soon, the village of Boca Grande was developed, and winter residences were built for upper class families from the northern states.

When the Boca Grande Causeway was opened in 1958, the railroad was closed and its old bed was turned into Boca Grande's popular bike path. Gasparilla flourishes today as a prized retreat for tourists and fishermen who appreciate the island’s "Old World" Florida charm.

For information and reservations, please call 941.964.4600.