Head to points known and unknown on these sun-splashed islands dotting the Gulf of Mexico. All are open to visitors, but each has a curious way of giving you something entirely new to discover.
Clustered around the old train depot that connected industry to the southern tip of Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande has evolved into an illustrious playground for dreamers and explorers alike. The community exudes a relaxed and barefoot elegance, the result of life moving no faster than a bicycle or golf cart. Get carried away to fine beaches and miles of bike paths on the western part of the island.
Offshore, teal waters hold some of the best-kept secrets in Florida. With no bridge access, the outer islands attract curious boaters of all abilities. Hop on a rented boat, take a ferry, or head out on an island-hopping tour. More than 100 islands punctuate Pine Island Sound, Estero Bay and Charlotte Harbor offering cultural and natural experiences not to be missed.
North Captiva is popular for natural beaches and secluded shelling surrounding a collection of large rental homes and for the famous black beans at Barnacles restaurant. Useppa Island stands firm in the water as the perfect stopover on a Captiva Cruises tour. Eat lunch at the exquisite Collier Inn, step back in time at the Barbara Sumwalt Museum, or simply enjoy the stunning botanical walk.
Cabbage Key is a dream away from the rest of civilization – a world-famous cheeseburger and seafood joint with spectacular views nestled by cottages. After a casual lunch, climb the water tower for a spectacular view of surrounding waters and islands.
Cayo Costa boasts an experience like no other. The barrier island is a majority state park land, featuring sweeping beaches, tent campsites, picnic tables, primitive cabins with bunk mattresses, bathrooms, showers and rare, beachfront seclusion. Limited numbers of people mean abundant bird and wildlife watching in the purposely-preserved landscape, as well as an abundance of fresh shells.