Finding Treasure in Boca Grande, Florida

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Golf Carts Site Outside Loose Caboose Restaurant, Boca Grande, Fla.

Golf Carts Sit Outside Loose Caboose Restaurant, Boca Grande, Florida Sept. 6, 2010

Yesterday being Labor Day, I had the day off from my “real job” and although I should have stayed home to catch up on blog posts, I skipped out to Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande to snap some photos. Being September, the community was a ghost town. Many businesses are closed for the month of September and the primary mode of transportation is by golf cart.

The Loose Caboose Restaurant was open and as you can see in this photo, a fleet of golf carts is parked out front with drivers and passengers enjoying a leisurely lunch. A brief trip to the beaches was made but the biggest treasure I discovered was Whidden’s Marina. Want to see Old Florida when visiting Southwest Florida? Well, it’s definitely here.

I found the marina by accident. After living more than two years in the area, I decided to take a drive and see what I could find. Driving down First Street led me to Whidden’s Marina where a sign read something drive slow because there were children and dogs playing. Then I saw an old row boat converted to a flower planter indicating I was at Whidden’s Marina.

Whidden's Marina, Boca Grande, Fla.

Whidden’s Marina, Boca Grande, Florida, Sept. 6, 2010

Out at the docks, two distinct sailboats bobbed on the water while fishing boats were tied up to other docks. I spotted a pair of pink plastic flamingos which lead me to a maritime museum. Boca Grande is the Tarpon Capital of the World, meaning it’s THE place to fish for tarpon, and angling was important in founding Boca Grande. Fishing guides can be chartered, boats can be rented, dockage is available as well as fuel.

Sail Boats at Whidden's Marina, Boca Grande, Fla.

Sailboats at Whidden’s Marina, Boca Grande, Florida

The museum was air conditioned (thank goodness, it was another sticky Florida day) and while not large or fancy, it’s jammed-packed with fishing artifacts, photos and journals. It definitely portrays a history of fishing in the area. A box accepts donations.

Whidden's Marina, Boca Grande, Fla.

Whidden’s Marina, Boca Grande, Florida, Sept. 6, 2010

Heading out I needed something to quench my thirst and popped into the marina store. Walking in, front paws of a yellow Labrador retriever pounced on my chest. His tongue and tail wagged simultaneously.

“Good puppy!” I said while petting his head before the owner called him off me.

Inside was more stuff but more essentials for fishing, especially provisions for a fishing trip such as snacks and cold beverages. The walls, doors and shelves were all old. Reminded me of the Olsen’s Mercantile from Little House on the Prairie.

Most memorable was the woman who assisted me with my purchase. She sat in the middle of the store in an over-sized reclining chair and was munching on boiled shrimp and dipping them in cocktail sauce. I wondered if those shrimp were meant to be shrimp bait to catch fish. After all, shrimp for all purposes come from the same place. And I remember my co-workers in the Everglades would eat the bait shrimp.

Anyway, I wondered how she was going to maneuver from her comfy settings to the counter because all I had was a $20 (I dropped my $5 bill in the donation box for the museum). Without barely moving, she pulled out a zippered pouch and handed me my change. Clever.

Whidden's Marina, Boca Grande, Fla.

Whidden’s Marina, Boca Grande, Florida, Sept. 6, 2010

I now have a place to introduce my parents and anyone else to come visit. I know they’ll get a kick out of seeing this piece of Old Florida still alive and thriving.

Whidden’s Marina
190 1st Street E
Boca Grande, Fla. 33921
Tel: (941) 964-2878
Open daily.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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3 Comments

  1. The Gasparilla Island Maritime Museum, located at Whiddens Marina, is not affiliated with the Guides Association. Thank you for your wonderful take on Whiddens and the museum. It’s always a treat to visit.

  2. Thank you for the clarification, I’ve updated accordingly. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for giving Whidden’s Marina its due. The place is one of the last bastions of Old Florida. Stepping inside the place is like stepping back in time. Here are a couple of other signs I’ve seen out front and on the bait tank. “Drive slow. If you can’t drive slow, keep out.” And my favorite,”Boca Grande is on the Upp and Upp. Air conditioning and Sears-Roebuck for your comfort.” When it was written by Sam Whidden in the 1930s, the Sears-Roebuck catalogue was “for your comfort” because it was the toilet paper in the old outhouse. How about this one regarding Sam Whidden’s pet monkey, “Monkey bites. Keep away.” Then there’s the sign for the old dance hall that was the place to be on Boca Grande on a Saturday night in the 1940s and 50s. “Dance Hall: Ladies Free. Gentlemen 50 cents.” Whidden’s is a one-of-a-kind place and a reminder of what Florida used to be like. You did a fine job on the story and really captured the essence of the place. Thanks for the memories.
    David Futch, fourth generation Boca Grande fishing guide, retired, and currently a California journalist.

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