By Guest Blogger Julie Wagoner
Our idea for Spring Break 2016 actually occurred during Spring Break 2015. We took a trip to New York, which was wonderful, amazing, exciting and…COLD. While we were all bundled up in winter coats, scarves and hats we looked at each other and decided that next year, we were headed south.
Time passed quickly as always and soon it was time to book a trip for our 2016 Spring Break. My husband was in charge of booking and I had three “requirements” for him. I wanted to stay on the Gulf Coast of Florida (I had heard so many wonderful things and had never been before,) I wanted to go far enough south that the temperature was at least 80 degrees during March/April and I wanted it to be relaxing. I run my own business and my husband’s job as an engineer had required lots of regular travel in the past year. With three girls at home and all their activities, it had seemed to be a particularly crazy busy year. I’m sure many of you can relate. So when my husband sent me a list of potential bookings for Spring Break, the condo on Little Gasparilla Island, Florida caught my eye.
Little Gasparilla Island is a very small tropical barrier island located just off the Southwest Coast of Florida. The most unique feature of Little Gasparilla Island is that there is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland. You can only arrive by boat and once on the island, there are no cars or roads, only sandy paths and golf carts. There are no vehicles, no restaurants and no stores on the island. After a brief thought of, “Can we make it a week on this island as a family?” I decided that if I was looking for peaceful and relaxing, I could certainly find it here. We booked a condo through VRBO and began counting down the many days until the trip.
As Spring Break finally arrived, we traveled the long journey through Easter weekend traffic all the way to south Florida. My trusty minivan was packed full with my husband and myself, our daughters (Stella, 8; Claire, 11; and Grace, 15) and Grace’s friend Emma. To say we were excited to finally see the sign for the ferry that would take us over to Little Gasparilla Island was an understatement!
We stayed at the Hideaway Bay Beach Club condos on the island. We choose to rent one of the condos as opposed to a house on the island because the condos came with use of their private ferry that runs several times a day from the island to the mainland. Otherwise, you would need to own a boat or hire a water taxi to get to the island. The ferry provides these large wheelbarrows that you can use to load all your stuff for the ride over and the walk to your condo. This is helpful because when coming to the island, you must bring EVERYTHING you need for your stay (groceries, sunscreen, even toilet paper!) as there is no store on the island to pick up something forgotten. After a short five minute ferry ride and a short walk to our home for the week, we were ready to begin relaxing!
Even after specifically planning a “relaxing” vacation, I was still a little concerned that we would be bored on this tiny island with no excitement for the kids. But as the week passed, we found plenty to occupy our time. Golf cart driving was a huge hit with all kids and after checking with the local police riding their own golf carts around the island, we were told that as long as they were being responsible, anyone could drive the cart through the sandy island paths. Lots of time was spent by all the girls taking turns driving around at top golf cart speed.
Little Gasparilla Island was also a fantastic place for shelling and wildlife watching. We found a countless number of shells, sand dollars and shark teeth throughout the week. Every day we checked in on the huge osprey nest at the condo and were so excited when we were able to catch a glimpse of her babies.
During the day the water was calm and the beaches were not crowded. The condo community also had a pool if a change of scenery from the ocean was needed. On the one rainy afternoon during the week, the condo was stocked with board games and books (and cable TV too, of course!)
Each evening after dinner, we would head over to the beach to watch the sun set over the water.
We did venture off our little island a couple of days during the week. I took the teens outlet shopping one day while the younger girls visited a park to see manatee and a butterfly sanctuary. Also, one morning we all took a kayak/paddle board excursion with a tour guide.
If you are looking for action and adventure, Little Gasparilla Island, Florida is likely not your ideal vacation spot. But for a busy family looking to really relax, reconnect and spend quality time together, it was just what we needed. While I’m already busy thinking ahead to possible spots for Spring Break 2017, I do hope to one day make it back to this tiny island where the only roads are made of sand and the only road signs are nailed to a tree.
Julie Wagoner lives in Winston Salem with her husband and three daughters. She is a professional photographer specializing in newborn and family photography. Her studio, Uppercase Photography, is located in the heart of historic West End in Winston. Visit Julie’s website at www.uppercasephotography.com or reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.