Out & About

Beau­ti­ful Boca

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS -

Ilove Boca Grande. It’s like step­ping back in time.

Boca Grande (Span­ish for big mouth) is on Gas­par­illa Is­land; the south­ern half is Lee County and 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. In 1907 the trans­port­ing of phos­phate to the deep­wa­ter Port Boca Grande was by way of rail­road.

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 more than 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.

HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FA­VORITE PLACES AT BOCA GRANDE

Temp­ta­tion Restau­rant is an in­sti­tu­tion. Not much has changed in the last 70 years. Lo­cal fish­er­men sit in the kitchen where they slide in the back door to eat lunch. One would never know they are there ex­cept for when the kitchen door swings open for a brief mo­ment. 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.

The Jo­hann Fust Li­brary is also a fa­vorite sea­side des­ti­na­tion. It was built in 1949 with fund­ing from Roger and Louise Amory of Bos­ton. They were win­ter res­i­dents and later do­nated their home to the Vil­lage of Boca Grande. You are greeted at the li­brary by an­cient steps and carved cy­press doors. Among the spe­cial col­lec­tions is a page from the Guten­berg Bi­ble printed in 1454, a clay tablet with cu­nei­form script, a page from the Book of The Dead copied onto pa­pyrus dat­ing to the first cen­tury. The Amorys used their boat, the Pa­pyrus, to ship books and items from Boca Grande to Cap­tiva and other bar­rier is­lands as a li­brary on the wa­ter.

The Port Boca Grande Light­house is an­other place I love vis­it­ing. You al­ways come away with some new in­sight. It was lit on Dec. 31, 1890, and served ships com­ing from and go­ing to Cuba. The Port Boca Grande Light­house has a great mu­seum with a his­tory of the boats, peo­ple and in­dus­try that made this a unique place.

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. Cap­tain Brian Ho­l­away is 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.

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.

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