5 Hints of Old Florida on Useppa Island
For a place that’s seen its fair share of change over the years, Useppa Island still holds true to its Old Florida roots. Quite literally, too.
Even though these five photo-worthy features and historical sites can speak for themselves, they’re even more charming in person:
1. The Collier Inn
This turn-of-the-century property has a complicated history, which only adds to the area’s intrigue. In 1894, Chicago streetcar magnate John Roach bought Useppa Island and built the original inn two years later. Then, Roach’s friend – and the inn’s namesake – acquired the island in 1911, expanding the inn and its amenities before things took a turn.
After Barron Collier died in 1939, the property was closed during World War II, damaged by hurricanes in 1944 and 1946 and torn down promptly thereafter. In 1946, the island once again opened as a resort until it served as a CIA training base in 1960. The ’60s and ’70s saw four different owners before Gar Beckstead bought the island and ran it as a private resort. All was well until 2004’s Hurricane Charley wreaked havoc on the entire area, but the modern-day Collier Inn re-opened the following year.
Now, day-cruise visitors love to stop here for lunch in the courtyard, which overlooks Pine Island Sound. While you must be a member or a member’s guest to stay at the inn or its cottages, you can still satisfy your seafood craving and indulge in a slice of key lime pie before enjoying the sights you’ll read about below.
2. Croquet on the Sumwalt Lawn
Some aspects of Old Florida luxury go hand in hand with English influence, as evidenced by this popular – and unique – local pastime. Useppa Island Club members have loved the sport of croquet for generations on end, playing leisure games with neighbors and hosting exciting tournaments alike.
The best part is that members’ guests – and even day-trippers – can get out on the lawn, too, instead of simply spectating. And mallets and balls are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis.
3. The Barbara Sumwalt Museum
Detailing the island’s history as far as 10,000 years ago, this Old Florida cottage holds exhibits ranging from the Paleo Era to the time of the Calusa Native Americans to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to present day.
A $5 donation gives you access to a self-guided audio tour that offers interesting narratives to accompany what’s on display – all of which you can see in about 30 minutes.
4. White Cottages
Century-old architecture blends with new construction along the quiet coasts of Useppa Island. Here, you’ll find two- or three-bedroom cottages and single-family houses for members and their guests to rent.
Some are furnished simply, others offer more elegant accommodations, but all boast either a waterfront or beachfront location. And all don an iconic shade of white, a crisp contrast to the island’s abundant greenery.
5. Lush Landscapes
While mangroves guard Gulf shores, sea grape plants and palms grow thickly inland, providing both shade and seclusion to those escaping their everyday lives.
But, in terms of taking pictures, one particular banyan tree often steals the show. It arches right over the walkway that winds the length of Useppa – “the pink path,” as it’s fondly called. You’ll just have to explore the island for yourself to discover the century-old tree’s exact location.
Feeling inspired by Useppa’s Old Florida charm? Learn more about the island and its surrounding area before you plan your great escape.