The wonders of nature here in South West Florida truly cease to amaze me. I can’t leave home on my bike and not witness her splendor. Whether it’s the hundred different varieties of shore and marsh birds or just the huge cumulus cloud formations. White Egrets bursting from the marsh like huge flowers. The Peace River, Charlotte Harbor, and the Gulf of Mexico are all along the many routes that I travel. I love it. You want to plan a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida, we ride 12 months.
A favorite destination is Boca Grande. The round trip from my house is approximately 70 miles. It’s usually a Sunday ride and after the wheel to wheel pace line riding and sprinting I do on Saturday I seldom have the legs for 70 miles on Sunday. A lot of folks just drive out to the Cape Haze Trail Head for this ride. There is plenty of parking, decent facilities, a pavilion, and a water fountain. The route here begins and ends at a strip mall on route 41. I’m off to a bad start already after bragging about natural scenic Florida, but hang with me, it gets better.
Route 776 will take you all the way to the Cape Haze Trail. 776 is a big road with a shoulder. Now I didn’t say a nice shoulder, but it’s OK. Once over the Myakka River look for a right turn onto Sailer’s Way @ M8.6. This will remove the left turn across 4 lanes of traffic and take you straight across onto route 771. Turn right almost immediately at the big sign for the Cape Haze Trail. Follow the trail for about 7 miles. It’s the old Northern Railroad Line that connected our destination to the outside world. Towards the end of the trail you will find yourself on a gravel path looking at a golf course over your right shoulder. This comes out onto Gasparilla Rd. You want to go right. There is a multi-use path to ride on but it becomes a side walk, suit yourself. Gasparilla Rd. becomes Placida Rd. which takes you to a left unto Boca Grande Blvd. To cross the causeway onto Gasparilla Island will cost you 2 bucks, same price for a tandem. Beginning in October 2012 the price increases to $5.00 / bicycle, something about a new causeway which by the way at this time, July 2012, is under construction.
Gasparilla Island is one of the many Gulf Coast Barrier Islands. It was an important stop for phosphate shipping, and would remain so until the dredging of the Port of Tampa in the 1970s. According to Florida folklore, the island gets its name from the legendary pirate captain Jose Gaspar (“Gasparilla”, c. 1756–1821), who had his base on the island and purportedly hid his fabulous treasure there. Some say it’s was a yarn spun to make the place interesting, a lot like all the stories of Ponce De Leon in Punta Gorda. I like these tall tales, if that’s what they are, and it does add to the local flavor. The Island is a world onto its own. There are no chain restaurants or big box stores. My map uses the streets because it’s easier to draw that way. Multi use paths and a running paths run parallel to the roads thru out. Ride the paths or the roads, what ever makes you smile. The multi-use paths are Stop as Yield, very interesting, there is hope after all. They’re also used by golf carts which I find unfriendly, but……….. it’s not my island.
Boca Grande is a small residential community known for its charming authentic downtown, sugar sand beaches, blue water, and world class fishing. Old Florida style homes pop up within beautiful flower gardens. The old lighthouse that you go by is a landmark, and dates back to the rail road days. At the southern tip of the island is the Boca Grande Light House. Here you are looking out over Boca Grande Pass, famous for Tarpon fishing. The land mass just south of here is Cayo Costa Island.
Looking at the map you will notice that there are streets and loops that are not part of this route. With only one road on and off the island you can’t get lost so I encourage you to explore. The route I’ve drawn takes you back from the light house, goes east past Whidden’s Marina, night spot, restaurant and dance Hall since 1926, (actually those are the bye gone days. it’s just a marina these days), along a golf course and right by the Gasparilla Inn. The Innlet restaurant located at 1251 12th St. makes a nice breakfast or lunch stop. It’s big enough for a group of about 10 to sit together.
Leave the island the same way you came. Riding back to the strip mall is just the reverse of the ride out to the trail head. My last trip out was in June 2012 and I’m planning to go back in July or early August. Like I said, there is a lot more to see in the area than I laid out here. Riding on trails and multi use paths with 2 way traffic slows me down. The slower pace allows me to see and enjoy this bit of paradise and snap some pictures.
Anyway, in the drops or on the hoods enjoy the time you spend on your bike. Keep in touch and thanks for the great comments. I look forward to them.