Visitors come to Gasparilla Island for its soothing beaches, upscale eateries, shopping and the history in and around Boca Grande. You, too, can sample these amenities up and down this paved 6-mile trail, known locally as the Boca Grande Bike Path. Credited as Florida's first rail-trail, the path travels the length of the Gulf Coast barrier island, offering a host of activities, from sunbathing to state park rambles. Remember to bring your sunscreen and your wallet: While use of the trail is free, the causeway crossing and sites along the route charge fees.
If you start from the south shore, consider paying the state park entrance fee to visit the museum, which chronicles the island's history and fishing industry. Two miles north lies the Range Light Beach Access and its namesake squat historic lighthouse.
Those who start from the north will have their pick of beautiful overlooks of Gasparilla Sound. Also watch for the iguanas (non-native) that have successfully inhabited this lush, palm-covered island, as well as gopher tortoises. This end offers a separate jogging track.
Whichever direction you choose, the beautifully landscaped and well-kept trail soon reaches central Boca Grande, just south of the trail midpoint. The old Boca Grande Depot has been converted into an upscale commercial center, and behind it lies a section of preserved track. Surprisingly, golf carts harmoniously share the trail with other users, showcasing a unique blend of Southern hospitality and practical transportation for residents and visitors alike.
After exploring the Boca Grande Bike Path, check out the nearby Cape Haze Pioneer Trail, north of Gasparilla Island.
To access the northern trailhead from Port Charlotte, take State Route 776 south to SR 771, which accesses the island via the Boca Grande Causeway (toll). The trailhead is on the left, just past the causeway.
To reach the Range Light Beach access, follow the above directions onto the island, but continue on SR 771 south. The access point is on the right, within sight of the old lighthouse.