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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.
The scenery, with its many ocean views, make this short trail very pleasant, and the little town of Boca Grande is very quaint. There are several places where one can have a bite to eat and do a little shopping. This trip is best suited for fat tire beach cruisers and not so much skinny tire road bikes. The bulging roots of the pine for trees that line some of the trail make for a fairly bumpy ride. This bikepath should really be called a golf cart path. Many people use their golf carts to get around the island instead of using cars. During my ride, there were at least twice as many carts as bicyclists. Some of the golf carts were going in excess of 20 miles an hour with some very young drivers. Most of the drivers were courteous and moved over, but one should exercise extreme caution due to the speed at which the carts travel. In conclusion, the scenery makes the ride worthwhile, so bring your fat tire bike and be wary of the carts.
The Boca Grande Bike Trail is nice for a leisurely ride on a less crowded Florida island. It doesn’t have the heavy tourist activity of most of the other islands. The town, Boca Grande, is a nice quaint town about in the middle of the island. It is possible to park for free in the town and ride each way from the town. It will cost $6.00 to drive on the causeway to the island.
The island is long and narrow. The trail is only 8 miles long. The lighthouse, the beach, the fishing pier and the state park are located on the southern portion of the trail. There are sone historical buildings in the town. Locals also use golf carts on the trail but everyone was courteous on our ride.
While I agree that the trail is short, it is still a nice trail that offers pretty scenery. Boca Grande is not a large place, and because of the $6 toll fee (as well as $3 parking fee), it is not heavily inhabited by visitors. That makes it a little less crowded. This is more a trail for people who want to bike for fun and exercise, rather than die hard bikers. Not many places can you ride your bike and stop and stroll on a nice beach, and this is one. Yes, you have to share the road with golf carts,but the ones I have passed seemed to respect the other people on the trail and did move over.
It is the beginning of 2013, and unless you are a well seasoned biker who rides in the worst of traffic, I would not suggest biking over the bridge at this time. There is a lot of road and bridge work being done and the cars/trucks barely have room to pass each other, much less allow for a bike rider. So just beware, and be careful. But this is not the case once you are on the Island.
I recommend this trail and look forward to my next ride.
In 2011 a bridge across Coral Creek was added to the Cape Haze Pioneer trail, so now you can cross the causeway ($3) and connect with the Cape Haze trail to make a total of 15 miles. The causeway is not currently bike-friendly, but traffic moves slow.
"The only problem w/ this trail is that it's too short!
I should also warn you that this rail-trail, FLA's 1st, was built and is maintained by a pvt develoment company for the use by its rich client's kids. You see, this rail-trail, although it allows cyclists & runners, is designed for 14 yr old golf cart drivers! We saw a sign that said you had to be 14 to drive, but we saw some definete 12 yr olds behind the wheel.
Other then that, the lighthouse at the end of the trail is pleasant & the ice cream @ the ice cream store (only one) in town was the BEST.
Oh, also be advised that the one bicycle repair shop in town can rent crappy bikes & fix flats, & that's about it."
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