Once a year my parents, brother and brother-in-law, children and their spouses, grandchildren, my boyfriend and I come together for a few days. It’s the annual Marshall trip with 14 people from four states spanning four generations. With ages ranging from 4 to 76 and interests all over the map, choosing the right location is key to a successful, stress-free memory making trip. This year we chose Palm Island Resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Perfect.
Palm Island Resort
Palm Island Resort is located on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast approximately fifty miles north of Fort Myers. The island is seven miles long and 700 yards wide at the largest point and is comprised of Knight, Don Pedro and Gasparilla Islands. The resort occupies a two-mile portion of the island. Brothers Gar and Dean Beckstead opened Palm Island Resort in 1983. They sought to create a place that would appeal to families, a place for relaxation.
My family isn’t new to the island as it was an annual destination for us when my children were in their teens. Driving the short road from the ferry stop to the parking lot just outside of the resort, memories surrounded me. My daughter (now 32) reminisced about her visits here with friends when they hijacked our golf carts. My son (now 35) recalled hours of fishing in the island surf and somehow managing to snag a stingray. We had many years of memories in this place and were ready to make more with the newest generation.
Palm Island Resort has one, two and three bedroom villas available, each with a fully equipped kitchen and full laundry room. All are privately owned so décor varies, but each has a screened terrace overlooking the pool and the Gulf of Mexico. The two-story buildings of four or eight villas each are arranged in clusters. Each cluster of villas has a heated swimming pool, a Hydra Spa and gas barbecue grills.
Golf carts and bicycles are the main modes of transportation on the island and can be rented from the recreation center. Additional rental items include kayaks, canoes, boogie boards, rafts, snorkel sets, fishing equipment, beach umbrellas and tennis equipment. The resort has 11 tennis courts. Lessons and clinics are available with the resort’s tennis director. Family adventure packages can be arranged through several independent companies for fishing, sightseeing, sandbar eco-adventures and wildlife viewing. Resort guests also have golf privileges at nearby courses. Strolling the shell-laden beaches searching for the perfect treasure or maybe a fossilized shark’s tooth was always a favorite pastime for my children when they were young – and now the grandchildren are enjoying the same lazy day pastimes.
Pirate Red Beard
One morning I gathered the grandkids (my little pirates) for a visit with the island’s resident pirate, Red Beard. Formerly a Nashville music personality, Red Beard gave up the hustle and bustle of the travel associated with a music career to settle in southwest Florida. He was fortunate to be shipwrecked on Palm Island where he began performing shows for resort guests. Pirate Red Beard always makes time for the little pirates to make sand art, pirate beads and to share stories of his fights with the evil Pirate Black Beard. It took a little coaxing to get Red Beard to talk about that fight, but my grandson Marshall followed him around begging for the story until he finally agreed.
Something for Everyone
Our group has early risers and others who stay up late and sleep in. Some want a fitness center for workouts, some go fishing and others just want to laze around by the pool with a book. The beauty of a resort like Palm Island is that you can do as much as you want or nothing at all. We spent time together at the pool, on the beach and exploring in the golf carts. Sometimes it was the whole group and at times just a few of us. We had one rule – we all met for dinner, which we took turns preparing.
With three little ones and varying tastes in cuisine, it was easiest to prepare our meals in the villas or on the barbecue grills. But if you choose to take a break from preparing your own meals, Rum Bay Restaurant is located on the island and offers reasonably priced dining options for lunch and dinner. Their dinner specialties include native grouper and baby back ribs. Johnny Leverock’s Seafood House overlooks the Palm Island Marina on the mainland and serves a variety of fresh seafood. A water taxi runs between the island and the mainland.
Every family is different, but for us Palm Island Resort was the perfect destination for our multigenerational trip. We had just the right amount of time together which was balanced with enough space to keep everyone sane. And most importantly, we made priceless memories. Oh, and we actually still like each other.