Looking for a little bit of Gasparilla year-round? Then check out Gasparilla Island State Park in Boca Grande, Florida.
If you’ve never heard of Gasparilla, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is one of the largest annual events held in Tampa and includes a land and boat parade in addition to several other events. Due to this rich history, and the opportunity to see Florida lighthouses, Gasparilla Island State Park was on my list to visit for awhile and it didn’t disappoint!
Gasparilla Island State Park – The Basics
Gasparilla Island State Park is a 127-acre park located on Gasparilla Island featuring a lighthouse museum and 1-mile stretch of beach.
Getting there: The address is 880 Belcher Road Boca Grande, Florida 33921
- Approximate driving distance from popular destinations
- Fort Myers: 1.5 hours
- Tampa/St. Petersburg: ~2 hours
- Naples: ~2 hours
- Orlando: ~3 hours
- Miami: ~3.5 hours
- Hours: 8 AM until sundown, 365 days a year
- Fees: $3 per vehicle
- This fee can be paid at the park entrance or any of the 5 parking areas for beach access. Your pass will be good for the rest of the day.
- Activities: Biking, fishing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, swimming/beaches
- No bike, kayak, or canoe rentals are available
- Pets: Allowed in the park, but not on the beaches or in the lighthouses
In addition to the park entrance fee, be prepared for the Gasparilla Island Toll Bridge which allows you to drive onto Gasparilla Island. The fees are listed below and bring cash as SunPass is not accepted.
- Cars/pickup trucks/motorcycles: $6
- Commercial trucks/RV/camper/buses/trailers: $5.50 per axle
- Bicycles: $3
How many lighthouses are on Gasparilla Island?
TWO! I really wanted to visit Gasparilla Island State Park because it features two lighthouses! There are 30 lighthouses in Florida and after this trip I have visited 5 of them with plans to visit more.
The first lighthouse is the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse which is 105-feet tall and you cannot miss it. There is a parking lot right beside the lighthouse that also provides beach access.
Can I climb to the top of the lighthouse?
The lighthouse was not open to the public to climb during our visit in September. Typically, the lighthouse is open on select days for climb tours from October through July, but the dates and times vary.
I recommend utilizing the Barriers Island Parks website to see when the lighthouse is open for climb tours. There is also an additional fee to climb the lighthouse, but I think the view will be well worth it!
Once we viewed the lighthouse, we explored the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse Trail. This is a short 0.4-mile loop and it begins right next to the lighthouse. The trail is mostly shaded s you walk through mangroves and there are a few side trails that will lead you to the beach. We followed one of the side trails which made for another great photo op of the lighthouse.
Where is the second lighthouse located?
Approximately 2 miles south is the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. Just before you get to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse you will see the Gasparilla Island State Park sign. If you haven’t already paid your fee at one of the other beach access points there is a collection box there as well.
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse is much shorter standing at only 44-feet and has been listed on the National Register of Historical Places since 1980.
What else can I do at Gasparilla Island State Park?
A fun thing to check out while you are there is the museum which is located inside the Port Boca Grade Lighthouse. The museum is free with entrance fee to the park. However, it’s important to double check and ensure the museum will be open before making the trip. It is closed for the month of August.
The listed hours on the Florida State Park website are below:
- November through May:
- Monday-Saturday 11 AM to 4 PM
- Sunday 12 PM to 4 PM
- June through October:
- Wednesday-Saturday 11 AM to 4 PM
The museum includes four different rooms to explore and explains the history of the lighthouse starting in 1890 up until 1998. There are also maps of what Florida was thought to look like back in the 1600’s and so much more.
Additionally, my favorite room included animals, plants, and shells commonly found on the island and a “please touch” area which is perfect for families!
Once you are done taking the tour of the museum there is a small gift shop you can check out before leaving. I bought a cute ornament of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse there. I like buying ornaments as souvenirs because every year when I put up my Christmas tree it brings back memories of places I have traveled to.
Can I walk between the two lighthouses?
If you plan to visit when the weather is cooler there is a paved trail, the Gasparilla Island-Boca Grande Trail, and you can bike or walk between the lighthouses. Be prepared to walk ~2 miles one way. The trail actually starts at the beginning of the island and runs 12.8 miles out and back, but you can access it right across from the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse. Unlike the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse Trail, there is very little shade on this trail which is why we chose to drive between the lighthouses in the 90-degree weather.
What about the beach?
After exploring both lighthouses I highly recommend relaxing on the beach! There are five different access areas with parking and they did not appear to be too crowded even on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Due to dangerous currents some areas are not open for swimming so be sure to check any posted signs. The Range of Light Park and Sea Grape parking areas provide beach access to areas where public swimming is available year-round.
The water is a deep blue and the island has some of the best shelling particularly in the winter months. If you pack your lunch there are pavilions with picnic areas near the parking at both lighthouses.
Final Thoughts on Gasparilla Island State Park
Overall, the lighthouses and museum were the highlight of our trip to Gasparilla Island State Park. Because this park is a little bit further out of the way it wasn’t too crowded. If you enjoy seeing Florida lighthouses and secluded beaches you should definitely put this park on your list!
Information above was accurate at the time of publishing to best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to check out Gasparilla Island State Park, I recommend utilizing Florida State Park website to verify information in this post to help you plan your trip.
Looking for more south Florida adventures? Check out my post on Florida National Parks.