The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Boca Grande

Published by Forbes Travel Guide. Written by Alisa Marie Coccari.

GASPRewind back to a graceful and oh-so-relaxed Old Florida era simply by crossing over the three causeway bridges from the mainland to The Gasparilla Inn & Club on Gasparilla Island. As charming as sweet tea, the stately property sits in the historic and quaint barrier island town of Boca Grande. The largest and oldest-surviving resort hotel in the state, this gem was originally constructed as the Hotel Boca Grande in 1911, 1912 and 1913. Established as The Gasparilla Inn & Club in 1913, 2013 marks its 100th season. Throughout the years, the resort has welcomed the most elite guests through its doors, such as J.P. Morgan, Henry du Pont and legendary Florida railroad tycoon Henry Plant. It is no wonder the du Ponts and Rockefellers still own property on this posh island — you’re so close to the mainland, but feel transported to another time and place.

But you don’t need to be a Rockefeller or du Pont to enjoy the amenities at this Florida Gulf Coast hotel. It offers something for every guest: a Pete Dye-designed signature golf course overlooking the Charlotte Harbour, a heavenly spa, a beach club and private sliver of sand, a family-friendly pool and adult lap pool, tennis, a croquet lawn, children’s activities, dining options that range from a fine-dining restaurant to a bakery, and a full fitness center overlooking the glorious Gulf of Mexico. Even pets get star treatment; the resort’s four-acre fenced-in doggie park faces the water.
GASP GOLFThe Gasparilla Inn & Club is located in Boca Grande, along the Florida Gulf Coast. Boca Grande is at the midway point of Gasparilla Island, one of a chain of breathtaking barrier islands off of Southwest Florida’s coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. You can get there via the Boca Grande Causeway, a series of three bridges that lifts you over each barrier island but also provides astonishing glimpses of ospreys nesting, dolphins swimming in the wakes of boats and pelicans dipping into the water.

The luxury hotel is only a 75-minute drive from either the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers or Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in Sarasota. The Gasparilla Inn & Club guests also have access to the privately owned Coral Creek Airport and The Boca Grande Jet Center, which is located just two miles northeast of Gasparilla Island.
The hotel sits nestled within the quaintly residential community of Boca Grande, hailed for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters and serene atmosphere. Once situated at the inn or in one of its many onsite private cottages or villas, everything you could desire is a walk, bike trip or golf cart ride away.

GASP POOLYou can’t help but notice The Gasparilla Inn & Club’s design style when you arrive and see its stately Neo-Classical façade, complete with impressive white columns. A duo of doormen welcomes you at the grand plantation-style porch, which is dotted with white rocking chairs meant for sipping lemonade and relaxing into a quieter pace. The foyer is superbly fragrant with the scent of mandarin oranges and citrus swirling up to the tall antique ceilings. A grand staircase, reminiscent of bygone days, leads upward to the resort’s suites, while downstairs, a formal sitting room, parlor, gentlemen’s lounge, game room and restaurant brim with fresh orchids. There is a resident floral designer on staff who cares for the magnificent arrangements of blooming orchids. Some of the inn’s original furniture has been carefully restored, painted a crisp white and upholstered with punchy, bright fabrics in lemon yellows, minty greens and hibiscus pinks. The colors resemble the Lilly Pulitzer preppy palette. Original antiques fill this historic inn — from near the entryway to the parlors — but it still manages to exude a casual-chic atmosphere.

GASP LOBBYThe Gasparilla Inn & Club offers 66 elegantly appointed rooms and suites, as well as a grouping of 18 quaint, comfortable private cottages and villas that are fully equipped for families, reunions and wedding parties. The pet-friendly cottages and villas can be configured to one- to four-bedroom units (making the resort’s total room tally 142). Crisp white linens paired with bright pillows and candy-colored fabrics accent rooms with charming white wooden furniture. Spring-green lattice-designed carpets are soft under bare feet after a long day on the beach. The pastel-hued palette sets the scene for an easy casual elegance. The smell also helps set the scene — you’ll likely get a whiff of a citrusy fragrance. The luxury hotel uses a light orange scent throughout to relax its guests.

The private cottages and villas, located a hop-skip across the street from the main inn, have a series of bedrooms, baths, kitchens, living rooms (some with fireplaces) and screened and lanai porches. They are great for families who need to sprawl out on vacation. Their Old World charm and simple grace are matched with technology and modern conveniences, including flat-screen televisions, wireless Internet, private temperature controls and comfortable Tempur-Pedic beds.

GASP ROOMThe best time to visit The Gasparilla Inn & Club is between October and July, when it’s open for the season. The 2013-2014 season kicks off October 10 for the quiet respite; the time of year offers idyllic weather for tennis, golf, croquet and the beach. The winter also welcomes the official social season and the holidays, when the resort bubbles with socialites and families who visit for Old Florida traditions such as afternoon tea (gentlemen must wear coats during social season), sandcastle-building contests, game nights, children’s outdoor movie nights and the Gasparilla Kids Krewe programs. In January, the Florida Gulf Coast hotel hosts the annual Food & Wine Weekend with master chef Peter Timmins and other culinary notables.

When the weather turns warmer, sportsmen arrive at the inn. They come out for the Boca Grande Fishing Classic in May and tarpon-fishing season in May to early July. The warm temperatures, beach and sand also draw in families who vacation at the kid-friendly resort during spring break. Another event that draws in people is the B4 – Beach, BBQ, Bourbon and Beer Weekend held in June, which offers cooking demonstrations and tastings with plenty of food and libations. The Fourth of July

GASP COTTAGEis also a popular time for families to visit. The luxury hotel is decorated with patriotic bunting and fills the holiday week with activities, barbecue cookouts, croquet, golf and tennis. As it celebrates America’s birthday, the resort also marks the closing of its season.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club offers five restaurants for guests visiting the Florida Gulf Coast hotel. You’ll find classic American cuisine in the Inn’s Dining Room, which is decorated with fresh orchids and bamboo-caned furniture patterned with ferns. Breakfast and four-course dinners are served daily throughout the social season (December through March) in this Wine Spectator Award-winning restaurant. In addition to top-notch wine, expect entrées such as potato-crusted grouper, Black Angus beef tenderloin, traditional Dover sole with seasonal vegetables and mushroom Wellington for vegetarians.

For a casual, chic atmosphere, try The Pink Elephant (locally known as The Pink). It also was a proud recipient of the coveted Wine Spectator Award in 2012, and it features a diverse, creative seafood menu with dishes such as pretzel-crusted snapper as well as lobster and shrimp with braised bacon, truffle cream and Parmesan dumplings. Grab light poolside lunches at The Beach Club and The Gasparilla Golf Club Gazebo. Kick off a lively happy hour or top off the day with a mojito or the planter’s punch at BZ’s, a charming bar located on the main floor of the luxury hotel. Its new Inn Bakery is located offsite in the heart of Boca Grande village, but it’s an easy three-minute walk. The café serves up artisan French pastries (such as chocolate éclairs), coffees and light lunches (signatures include blackened tuna niçoise and spicy shrimp salad) in a relaxed setting near all of the town shops.

Don’t miss breakfast or lunch at The Outlet at the Innlet. While you nosh on banana pancakes or biscuits and gravy in the diner’s patio, you’ll be about 10 feet from the bayou and can watch the manatees and dolphins swimming by.

View the entire review published by Forbes Travel Guide: http://www.forbestravelguide.com/florida-gulf-coast-florida/hotels/the-gasparilla-inn-club

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  • © 2012-2013 Alisa Marie Coccari All Rights Reserved

    All writing is copyright of AlisaCoccari.com Permission to use any such content will be both requested/granted in writing. Photography will only be used with written permission from the photographer and/or source. Alisa Marie Coccari has also been published under the nom de plume, Alisa Bowen.
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