I visited in early November, before the start of the hectic social season, staying overnight at the Anchor Inn, in Boca Grande, within walking distance of the small-town downtown.
The Anchor Inn is only two blocks from the main street in downtown Boca Grande.
The inn was built in 1925, and looks from the outside like a traditional bed-and-breakfast. However, as we all know, looks can be deceiving. It is managed by a real estate company, has no innkeeper on-site and provides no breakfast. The inn has four units, each with its own entrance – a studio, a one bedroom and two townhouses with two bedrooms. Each unit has a full kitchen.
The accommodations are comfortable, but the No. 1 reason to choose the Anchor Inn is definitely its location – two blocks from Boca Grande’s main drag, Park Avenue, where you can shop and eat out and pick up groceries and ready-made dinners at Hudson’s. Just across from the Anchor sit the cottages of the famed Gasparilla Inn & Club.
Less than a block away, I discovered Newlin’s Gourmet, which sells all kinds of prepared foods – chicken salad, tuna salad, crab cakes, fresh soups and more – perfect for a beach picnic or eating in during your visit. I didn’t get to taste what Newlin’s offers, but a Yelp review says “the food is to die for.”
I knew before traveling to Boca Grande that the Anchor Inn was not a traditional bed-and-breakfast, but it was the closest thing I could find on Gasparilla Island. I figured, unless there’s a fire, I can manage without an innkeeper for one night, and with my own kitchen I can make my own breakfast.
I was told my studio would be open when I arrived and my key would be inside. I arrived at the Anchor on a Sunday evening, tired and hungry after spending the day touring the island.
The door of my unit was locked. A lockbox was hanging by the door and I could hear a key rattling around inside it. My neighbors were also standing outside; they were locked out, too.
I called the realty office and left a message, and it wasn’t long before someone called back with the lockbox combination so I could get inside my unit. I credit Danielle at Parsley-Baldwin Realty for acting quickly to resolve the problem (and extending my checkout the next day until 3 p.m.)
After that, everything went smoothly. My room was big enough to spread out in, with a queen-sized canopied bed, sitting area and kitchen. The back door opened up onto a small pool and deck.
The kitchen was equipped for a long-term stay, with full-size refrigerator and freezer, small stove and oven, microwave, dishes, pot and pans and coffeemaker, plus a breakfast bar. A washer and dryer are also available on the property.
The inn is a particularly good choice for those seeking privacy, but I missed the personal touch offered at a B&B, where your innkeeper works to ensure that every guest has a positive experience, not only at the lodging but at the destination.
Luckily for me, a friend met me in Boca Grande and acted as my tour guide. She used to live in Englewood, the town just across the $6 toll bridge.
A few of the sights I enjoyed that you shouldn’t miss:
The Boca Grande Bike Path, a paved six-mile trail for golf carts and bikes that runs the length of the island.
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890, and the Boca Grande Entrance Rear Range Lighthouse, built in 1927.
Banyan Street (Second Street), where interlaced banyan trees shade an entire block. Local legend says couples who walk down the street will stay together forever. A favorite spot for weddings.
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, built in 1950. Contains beautiful stained-glass windows and early artwork from Peru, Spain and other countries. The sanctuary was open when I was there.
Gorgeous beaches, of course, which weren’t even crowded at the beginning of November.
I couldn’t begin to do justice to the shops in an overnight visit, but we did stop in Boca Grande Outfitters, which has great active wear, and Fugate’s, which my friend informed me was a favorite store of the late Katharine Hepburn. I can see why. You could spend some serious cash in there.
That brings me to my warning: Don’t plan to visit Boca Grande on the cheap. Lunch for two at the marina was $75. Renting a golf cart from Boca Buggies for a day was $85.
Despite the cost, I recommend renting a golf cart. (Shop around for a lower fee.) I rode from one end of the island to the other – on the bike path or the road – taking in all the sights, including the huge mansions of the rich and famous.
My studio at the Anchor Inn wasn’t a bad deal, cost-wise, considering the location – $175 a night, plus a $35 cleaning fee and taxes, for a total of $233. The rate rises to $200 a night during the high season, Nov. 20 through April 30, and so, I’m sure does the cost of most everything else on the island.
While I was there, I had a chance to tour one of the two-story units, a great choice for two couples or a family.
Upstairs are two bedrooms – one with a king bed and the other with two twins – and a separate full bathroom. Downstairs is furnished with a large sectional sofa and an entertainment center with a tiny TV. There’s also a half bath.
The kitchen has a dining table on the end and a door opens onto the deck and pool.
The unit appears comfortable, with wooden floors throughout and modern furnishings.
The Anchor Inn certainly lacks some of the main qualities I look for in a bed-and-breakfast: the antique furnishings that complement a historic structure; the insight and attention gained from an on-site innkeeper; and that special morning meal where guests get acquainted and share their vacation experiences.
However, considering the alternatives on the island, and the inn’s central location and appeal, I would return.
(Note: As always, I accepted no compensation in exchange for writing this review, and did not reveal my intentions.)