Cities Near Naples, Florida » Boca Grande, Florida
Boca Grande is a small residential community on Gasparilla Island, in southwest Florida. Gasparilla Island is a part of both Charlotte and Lee Counties, while the actual village of Boca Grande, which is home to many seasonal and some year-round residents, is entirely in the Lee County portion of the island. It is part of the Cape Coral–Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area. Boca Grande is known for its historic downtown, sugar sand beaches, blue water and world class fishing.
Its name – Spanish for “Big Mouth” – comes from the mouth of the waterway, called Boca Grande Pass, at the southern tip of the island. The pass was used as a busy shipping point for many years as the waters in the pass are naturally deep. Processed phosphate from the Bone Valley region was loaded onto waiting ocean-going cargo vessels via the Seaboard Air Line Railroad at the dock located on the southern tip of the island. Shipping business to the island declined in the late 1970s as it was no longer cost effective to ship phosphate by rail to Boca Grande when it could be loaded at Tampa. The phosphate plant at Boca Grande was old and its tons-per-hour rate was slow. Therefore, it made economic sense to discontinue the operation. Evidence of the island’s industrial past can still be seen.
Gasparilla Island’s first known inhabitants were the Calusa Indians. They were living on nearby Useppa Island by 5,000 B.C. and on Gasparilla Island by 800 or 900 A.D. Charlotte Harbor was the center of the Calusa Empire, which numbered thousands of people and hundreds of fishing villages. The Calusa were a hunting and fishing people who perfected the art of maritime living in harmony with the environment. They were a politically powerful people, dominating Southwest Florida during their “golden age”. Since the Calusa had no written language, the only record of their lifestyle and ceremonies comes from the oral history of the (much later) Seminoles, from written accounts of Spanish explorers, and from the archaeological record. The first contact the Calusa had with Europeans came during Spanish explorations at the beginning of the 16th century. By the mid-18th century, the Calusa had all but disappeared, the victims of European diseases, slavery and warfare.