Palm Island, Florida
By Betsy Ross, Contributing Writer
A beautiful sandy beach, a good book and a cold cocktail: the mixture for the perfect beach vacation that awaits you just two hours aboard a direct flight from Cincinnati.
For a new change of pace, set aside the beautiful beaches of Naples and Siesta Key and set your sights toward the barrier islands of Boca Grande and Palm Island along Florida’s Gulf Coast, where the vibe, and pace, are on island time, literally.
First, a little geography: Palm Island and Boca Grande are between Sarasota and Fort Myers (two areas vacationing Cincinnatians are certainly familiar). The expansion of Allegiant Air and its discount flights from Cincinnati to Punta Gorda allow easy access to the Gulf Coast. From CVG to your beach villa, you can be there in as little as three hours, factoring in the obligatory stop at the grocery and liquor store.
Palm Island is a series of interconnected bridgeless barrier islands flanked on the north by Manasota Key, and on the south by Boca Grande. The islands are comprised of – from north to south - Thornton Key, Knight Island, and Don Pedro Island, and at the southern extreme, Little Gasparilla Island. The northern group is referred to collectively as Palm Island.
Getting to Palm Island requires taking the ferry to the Palm Island Resort where your car stays in the parking lot—rental golf carts are the only wheels allowed (besides bicycles for rent). On a recent trip to Palm Island while we were aboard the ferry, our car was flanked by the long-time U.S. Senator Connie Mack from Florida and an SUV with a St. Xavier High School bumper sticker.
Palm Island Resort amenities are plentiful featuring Rum Bay Restaurant serving fresh seafood and a lively atmosphere. A general store offers all the sundry items and ice cream that you will need. Activities such as tennis lessons, yoga classes and massages are also available.
Vacation rentals are available at the resort but it’s always a good idea to book early. Here is an example of a two bedroom, two bath beach villa available to rent year round.
The Gulf Coast offers a number of activities from deep sea fishing trips to day-long boat excursions to other islands like Useppa Island and Cabbage Key. The concierge at Palm Island Resort can direct you to several sources to booking these with a local boat captain.
A day trip to Boca Grande, a popular vacation spot for U.S. Presidents from Kennedy to the Bush family, is definitely worth the time to visit the sandy beaches and beautiful historic homes. Shoppers will want to hit the boutiques on the main drag of Park Avenue: Boca Grande Outfitters, Fugates and Palm on Park are a few to hit for the latest in beach wear and hand crafted souvenirs.
Also, make time for lunch or dinner at South Beach Restaurant at Boca Grande. Try the fresh catch of the day or the popular Grouper sandwich. Outdoor seating directly on the beach is available for a lazy day of lunch and cocktails.