Palm Island: Florida’s Last True Island
Palm Island, Florida
Is this heaven or what?! The allure of vacationing on an authentic barrier island with palm trees swaying gently in the soft breeze off the Gulf of Mexico as osprey, bald eagles, sandpipers, blue herons, tree frogs, anoles, and leatherback turtles are free to roam without fear of being run over by an automobile.
Palm Island Birds
Who would not crave for days that distance you from cars, crowds and the other stresses of civilization? Where romantic memories will linger, forever recalling the many hours of painting, photography, hiking along two miles of a private unspoiled and shell-laden beach, fishing, tennis, swimming, biking, canoeing, star gazing and watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets, or just lounging lazily in a comfy lawn chair and reading a favorite novel.
A place so exotically remote, that in order to reach it, you will have to take a 5-6 minute car ferry ride, and once you arrive at your destination, you are obliged to leave your car in the resort’s parking area. In fact, once you park, the only means of transportation within the island will be your feet, bikes or golf carts.
Now you are probably muttering give me a break, this sounds too good to be true! My wife Lily and I were pleasantly surprised when we discovered probably Florida’s last true out island resort – Palm Island and the Palm Island Resort, located along the intra-coastal waterway on Florida’s southwest gulf coast, west of Charlotte Harbor, and forty-five miles south of Sarasota.
The island was not always known as Palm Island, and in fact it used to be called Knight Island, a name still used on nautical maps. In 1979, brothers Gar and Dean Beckstead purchased the land where the Palm Island Resort is now located and renamed it Palm Island. Built in stages, today the resort comprises 160 privately owned luxurious vacation villas with one, two, or three bedrooms, as well as 21 one individual homes.
Featured in each spacious villa are fully equipped kitchens, living and dining rooms, laundry facilities, and a screened porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. There are five good-sized swimming pools with hydra spas.
Appreciation of Nature
Reflecting old Florida style, the villas’ architecture is a kind of spiritual approach to design. The resort and island living are harmoniously, blended with the awesome natural surroundings. It is little wonder that the resort deserves the kudos it has received from the most discriminating environmental groups, including the Florida Audubon Society, for the attention it has paid to the importance of environmental preservation. There is a feeling that you are in fact guests of the flora and fauna and not the other way around.
Between May 1st and Oct 31st, strict regulations are in force concerning the turtle hatching, such as not permitting flashlights on the beach at night. There is even a gazebo exhibition at the clubhouse on the north end of the resort displaying photos, samples and exhibits of the island’s native plants, animals and ecosystems.
The resort also offers weekly nature programs featuring presentations such as a sea turtle program, manatee awareness, and several more ecological subjects. It is this appreciation for nature that was the most powerful balm for our mind, body and spirit, in turn contributing to a glorious romantic getaway.
The Resort as a Wedding Destination
When we inquired if the resort is used as a backdrop for weddings, the reply was a resounding yes! After checking out the possibilities, Lily and I were very impressed with the many options, and the resort is extremely flexible pertaining to arrangements and menus.
For smaller affairs, you can rent a six-room villa with the Gulf of Mexico as your backyard. However, if your party is less than 150 persons, you can set up a beach tent with parquet floors. If you prefer an indoor celebration, the clubhouse is available for a more intimate affair. Ceremonies have also taken place on a private dock overlooking the intra-coastal waterway. Just think for a moment how awesome it must be to exchange vows on your own private island with a simmering beach rimmed by pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Resort’s Pirate-in-Residence
Redbeard the Pirate
This is probably one of the few resorts that can boast of having its own pirate-in-residence roaming the grounds and bringing laughter to all of its guests. Randy “Redbeard the Pirate” Matthews is the resort’s friendly pirate who is loved by all, particularly the kiddies. In fact, we were informed that some of the children prefer Redbeard’s entertaining singing with his scratchy voice than a visit to Disney! This friendly, wild-eyed singer with his tattooed huge arms and daggers in his leather boots can have everyone laughing and stomping their feet as soon as he commences his performance.
If you are not in the mood to eat in, you can try the resort’s Rum Bay Restaurant, or you can boat over to a Florida legend – Johnny Leverocks. Both offer great food with a casually elegant setting. However, what can be more hopelessly romantic than dinner by candlelight in an enclosed screened veranda, less than a few feet away from the cool breezes of the Gulf of Mexico, watching an awesome sunset? As I am married to a great chef, there is nothing that would convince me to substitute restaurant dining for Lily’s cuisine combined with a good bottle of wine and Palm Island’s romantic elements. As the French say, “chacun á son gout.”