History worth sharing

From vision to reality, Old Florida’s finest resort tells a colorful and successful story. The tale includes two brothers, a pirate, some tasty hot sauce and much more – all from a little slice of paradise renowned across the world.


  • Gar Beckstead purchases the world-famous Useppa Island Club for re-development.
  • Dean Beckstead enters the picture. Together, the Beckstead brothers envision an island resort like no other and purchase the necessary land.
  • Following the same traditions of the Useppa Island Club, the brothers seek to open Palm Island Resort as a place that will appeal to families, business meetings and anyone in search of relaxation.


  • Planning, permitting and engineering occur. Infrastructure is put in place.


  • Construction begins on buildings in the Palm Island Village 1 area.


  • A fire in May destroys two buildings, delaying the arrival of the resort’s first guests until December. During this time, owners and guests come to the island on a boat, docking on the south end of the property.

  • First Palm Island Tram is started on the resort.


  • Development continues on the island as well as mainland.


  • Harbortown Inn and Marina, an all-suite inn on the Intracoastal Waterway, is built.
  • Garfield’s Restaurant (now Leverock’s) is completed and overlooks the marina.

  • Island Harbor Resort launches regularly scheduled dinner cruises on a beautiful new 38’ Chris Craft. The privately catered charter takes guests to Useppa Island Club and north to the Captain’s Club Restaurant on Manasota Key

  • Island Harbor Resort unveils its new logo.


  • The Landing (now the Clubhouse building) opens, featuring a bar, deli, general store and conference room. It becomes the center of activity for rentals, serving as the arrival and departure point for the resort launch.


  • CATS, a piano room at Garfields, opens its doors. Dreamed up by Gar Beckstead, the new hot spot offers live entertainment, specialty drinks and a late dining menu.


  • Construction takes place on Rum Bay, with plans to open in spring.

  • New conference center opens. Reservations are accepted from travel agents, corporate meeting planners and executives looking for a discreet, full-service meeting location.
  • The Texas Rangers make Palm Island Resort (at this time called Sea Palm Resort) its home away from home. A longtime dream of local residents, the MLB team begins holding spring training in a brand new Charlotte County baseball complex.
  • Sea Palm unveils its new logo.


  • Expanded offerings become available, as the resort is built in stages from the south end to the north.


  • Beach Villas completed.

  • Rum Bay Restaurant and General Store open. Garfield’s Restaurant closes and becomes the resort’s reception center and reservations office on the mainland.


  • Land’s End Cottages completed.

  • The resort experiences even more growth. Dean Beckstead weighs in, saying, “Eight new homes may not sound like much. But when you consider the overall size of this project, eight homes continues a mini building boom.”
  • Golf cart rentals become available to guests, since no motor vehicles are allowed on the island except those needed to operate the resort.
  • Recreation Center and Rental Hut launch, offering guests of all ages with plenty of fun things to do.


  • Recreation Center moves to new location at Rum Bay Restaurant, now offering all rentals under one roof, including golf carts.


  • Beach nourishment.


  • Nature center officially opens.


  • Expansion of playground.

  • First single family home at Rum Cove.


  • Eco tours become available, offering guests a close-up view of the surrounding environment. Nature walks are guided by the resort’s own Master Naturalist.


  • The resort unveils its own 43’ catamaran, the Palm Island One. Transporting guests to and from the island, the new vessel carries up to 71 passengers with ease and comfort.

  • Business is good! With real estate sales exceeding $5.5 million, it’s the resort’s best year to date.
  • The bright orange trolley starts running!


  • Reception center and reservations office move to the island.
  • As an additional luxury, the resort begins transporting owners and guests to the island by car ferry.
  • Business looks even better! A fabulous start to another year with 7 sales in the first quarter.
  • Johnny Leverock’s Seafood Restaurant opens, overlooking the marina.


  • Redbeard the Pirate arrives! Englewood resident Randy Matthews dresses up as the soon-to-be-famous swashbuckler, starting one of Palm Island Resort’s greatest traditions.


  • Construction takes place on Bay Villas at Palm Island, with three buildings offering four villas each. Four units are already sold during pre-construction.
  • New fitness facility opens, featuring cardio interval classes, water aerobics, circuit training and more.


  • Rum Bay launches its award-winning Swamp Sauce. 12-ounce bottles of the envied concoction begin selling for $3.99 at the Rum Bay General Store (now Coconuts Café).


  • Palm Island Resort celebrates 20 years! To commemorate this milestone, the resort adds a new park area for quiet reflection and creates a time capsule to be opened in 2023.


  • Construction of new gulf villas.


  • The fourth annual Redbone Celebrity Slam Fishing Tournament nets over $72,000 to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Almost 200 fish are caught during the 2-day event.
  • Clubhouse gets a facelift.


  • Palm Island Resort partners up with Lemon Bay Conservancy: Palm Island raises $72,000 for the “Toast to the Coast.”


  • Yet another milestone as Palm Island Resort celebrates 30 years! The island paradise features 160 condominiums/villas and 21 homes, with many more to come in the next few years.


  • Coconuts Café is named!
  • Recycling comes to Palm Island.


  • Activities department is expanded, offering kayak tours, massages and family games.
  • First IPFW Students arrive for semester.
  • Coconuts Café expands menu, adding coffee and pastries.


  • Dr. Beach Visits Palm Island.
  • Palm Island Outfitters is added to the Activities department.


  • Rum Bay Gift Shop gets a facelift, remodel and refresh of merchandise, offering more beach attire and novelty items.
  • Dean and Gar Beckstead donate the piece of land at Thorton Key for environmental preservation.
  • First annual Owners Tennis Tournament.


  • Leverock’s outside dining refurbishment and inside bar expansion.
  • 20 year celebration of Tropical Nights.
  • Hidden Lake project for Lemon Bay Conservancy.
  • Clubhouse Courtyard is completed.


  • Solar golf cart testing introduced.
  • New massage room completed.


  • S.S. Red Beard removed.
  • Stump Pass and nourishment begins.
  • Long-term owners golf cart parking put in.


  • New Jamie B. barge added to the fleet for christening.
  • Water storage treatment tower removed – water coming from the mainland.
  • Fitness Center gets facelift.
  • Palm Island Resort unveils its newly evolved logo.



  • 35-year celebration of Palm Island Resort.
  • D.L. Beckstead tugboat added to the fleet for christening.