Secret isle

Carolyn Gilbey savours the splendid isolation of Little Gasparilla

Many places profess to allow you to get away from it all, but few live up to that billing. Little Gasparilla, a seven-mile island off Florida's Gulf Coast, can genuinely claim getaway status. Apart from clusters of pretty beach houses on stilts, the island is practically deserted. With no roads, shops, cars, restaurants or built-up hotel complexes, this is Old Florida, where the pace of life is so slow that a gentle afternoon's fishing followed by a gin and tonic on the beach at sunset constitutes a busy day.

Many places profess to allow you to get away from it all, but few live up to that billing. Little Gasparilla, a seven-mile island off Florida's Gulf Coast, can genuinely claim getaway status. Apart from clusters of pretty beach houses on stilts, the island is practically deserted. With no roads, shops, cars, restaurants or built-up hotel complexes, this is Old Florida, where the pace of life is so slow that a gentle afternoon's fishing followed by a gin and tonic on the beach at sunset constitutes a busy day.

Located close to the picturesque town of Boca Grande, Little Gasparilla offers the chance both to escape daily life and to enjoy some natural treasures. Houses are available for rent on either the bay or the Gulf side of the island. But wherever you stay, it takes just 10 minutes to walk from one side of the island to the other. If the seclusion gets too great, it is possible to hire your own boat for jaunts to the mainland or organise a manatee safari or a deep sea fishing expedition with one of the numerous local sea dogs.

True, Little Gasparilla is not the easiest place to reach: a flight to Tampa, an hour's drive to Boca Grande, a supermarket sweep for a week's worth of groceries and a 15-minute boat ride before you arrive. But once you're relaxing on your beach-front terrace with only a squad of cavorting dolphins for company, you feel that the slog was well worth it.

WHERE TO STAY

Gasparilla Properties offers self-catering homes and cottages (001 941 964 5650; www.go2boca.com) for rent. If you're looking to be pampered, the 1912 Gasparilla Inn, 500 Palm Avenue, Boca Grande (001 941 964 2201) has been hosting celebrities for years and boasts golf course, beach, tennis club and spa. From $564 (£313) full board per person.

MORE INFORMATION

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, The Priory, Syresham Gardens, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH16 3LB (01444 414 188; www.FortMyers-Sanibel.co.uk).

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