Judi Gallagher | My Suncoast

Typically reluctant to use trite phrases such as “a hidden gem,” I am called upon now, however, to describe Palm Island as just that, and a precious personification of beauty surrounded by water.

But hidden? Not really. The place is more of a beach and tree-laden mecca. The island is a lovely and relaxing, one-hour drive from Sarasota, Venice, North Port, and Charlotte – discovery is a word that comes to mind.

Just short of the bridge to Gasparilla Island, a small, throwback barge ferries a few cars with eager explorers routinely throughout the day and into the evening. The approximate 10-minute glide to the island is reminiscent of the ferry ‘period-pieces’ that dot Martha’s Vineyard.

A drive around the island blesses the visitors with tree canopied old-time roads, with curves that give glimpses to the ocean, invitations to pleasantly welcoming vendors, and views and vacancies in small, prideful “cabin” homes of respite — each landscaped to perfection.

On this visit, we were most fortunate to stay at Palm Island Resort, where old Florida meets Nantucket. From the moment of arrival, the Resort bespeaks relaxation and privacy. The 160 villas & cottages are unmistakably arranged so that each feels solo, roomy, private and accessible to the miles of ocean at their doorsteps. The quiet and pristine six swimming pools scattered logically and unobtrusively around the acreage add additional opportunities for relaxation and reflection.

The Resort’s pride and utter class can be traced to its 1976 origins and purposeful yet gentle growth over the past 40 years, the mantra being unspoiled and uninterrupted. Of course, the 12 tennis courts, four spas, two restaurants, two stores, fitness room and marina that unobtrusively semicircle the two miles of private beach provide a crescendo of comfort. Each accommodation’s balcony/porch, kitchen amenities and barbecue options add to the problem free pace.

And, it is this pace that highlights the Palm Island Resort. Although its eminence is manifested by the quality, cleanliness, and attention to detail, it is also a hideout that comfortably allows for fun. Witness the golf carts gingerly tooling around the resort, or the pure comfort of having a tasty burger and tomato salad in one of the restaurants overlooking the channel.

If water is your mecca, the peaceful, inviting channel can be used to rent a canoe, take a kayak, go fishing, tool over to the ocean side, or nap while cruising around the waterway.

Want to just cozy up in your villa or cottage? How about grilling some steaks, listening to the songs of the birds, gazing at the manicured Florida-natural’ greenery, watching the sunset or simply experiencing time unfold from your balcony that peers out to the ocean?