Tag Archives: Sarasota

Palm Island Resort, an All-Inclusive Getaway

Palm Island Resort, an All-Inclusive Getaway With Something for Everyone

Palm Island Resort is a unique getaway destination located off Florida’s southwest coast between Fort Myers and Sarasota. It is accessible by boat or ferry. The Palm Island Resort is on the north end of the island. Private homes, many available for seasonal rental, are on the south.


Supplies must be carried in, so plan carefully, since the ferry ride is not cheap, even though the island is only100 yards across the Intracoastal Waterway that divides the island from the coast of Placida.

We’ve stayed at the Palm Island Resort twice and thoroughly enjoyed the experience both times. For those seeking privacy, I recommend Palm Island Resort Village 1, Unit #18. It is a duplex “cottage” on the edge of the property, offering three bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen and laundry directly on the beach. Bayside homesites are available, as well. Of course, as families with children return to the school year and legislators in Florida consider the value of standardized testing vacationing couples may prefer less spacious digs, so one and two bedroom units are available, as well.


Unlike the beach at Dog Island, in addition to two miles of pristine white sand beach, the Palm Island Resort offers several swimming pools, eleven tennis courts, and a fitness center. Deep sea fishing packages can be arranged for you on island. Several nearby golf courses are available to those so inclined, and for those interested in eco-tourism, there are miles of nature walks.

Palm Island Resort Amenities

Palm Island Resort offers numerous amenities, from a small shop for souvenirs and sundries, to rentals for everything from golf carts to snorkeling gear. You can eat the food you bring in, or the resort offers two restaurants that feature island drinks and a menu that is heavily slanted to seafood (one off island, the other is located on the resort grounds) as well as a coffee café as dining options.

For those interested in destination weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats or small business conferences, the Palm Island Resort clubhouse can accommodate up to 120 guests, but larger events (up to 450 people) can be held in a tented facility. Planning, decorating, and catering is seen to by an attentive staff attuned to attention to the smallest detail.

Expect an unhurried pace, plenty of entertainment, and, yes, even a little family harmony as the kids clamor, “Please, Mom and Dad, take us to Palm Island Resort!”.

Nick and Matt at Palm Island

Or Not.

Nick at Palm Island #1

There’s no doubt…the Palm Island Resort means great fun!


Confederate History of The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

Confederate History of The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park: Blockade Runners and an Escaping Secretary of State

Confederate history buffs will find a story of interest at the Gamble Mansion, but at the time of the Civil War, it was kept from public knowledge.

The owners played a pivotal role in the Civil War Confederate history of the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park. By 1865, the Gamble mansion was owned by Civil War blockade runner Archibald McNeil, who helped to keep the commerce shipping lines open during The War of Northern Aggression. Judah Philip Benjamin, secretary of state for the Confederacy and advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, asked for McNeil’s help after Confederate surrender. Benjamin, a prominent New Orleans plantation owner of Jewish decent, was on the run. A $40,000 bounty was on his head for allegedly arranging Lincoln’s assassination.

Helped by Confederate supporters as he moved around in disguise, Benjamin evaded capture, crossing the Suwanee River and eventually arriving at the Gamble Mansion. McNeil secreted him away on a boat bound for Bimini, slipping down the Manatee River, past watchful eyes along the blockade. After a trip through the Caribbean, Judah Philip Benjamin eventually arrived in London and became a well-respected barrister there.

The Homes at The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

There are two homes on the property, the 1844 mansion itself and nearby, the Patten House. The Patten home was built fifty-one years later, when the new owner thought the mansion too far gone to disrepair for his family to live in. The Gamble Mansion, dilapidated and useless, became a storage facility for fertilizer, aka manure. The United Daughters of the Confederacy rescued it in the early 1900s, brought it back to its former glory. Today it is owned by the state.

Gamble Mansion #1For those interested in exploring more about Confederate history of The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, visit the mansion and the grounds  in Ellenton, Florida on the Manatee River. It is a short drive from nearby Sarasota and Bradenton to the south and Tampa and St. Petersburg to the north.

The grounds are open year round, from 8 AM to sunset. The mansion is open for tours Thursday through Monday, from 9 AM to noon and 12:45 to 5 PM. The Patten House is only open a few times a year, so it’s best to call the state park first at (941) 723-4536.

The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park: Plantation Operations

The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton, Florida, preserves a bit of antebellum history and offers up clues that reveal the challenges of homesteading and the politics of the day.

The Gamble Plantation operated because of slave labor, over 160 human beings at its height of operations. The Little Manatee River that runs through the property provided necessary water, diverted to the sugar cane fields through a series of canals built by the slaves. The canals provided easy boat transportation to and from the Manatee River and helped with flood control, as well. One of the original canals can still be seen along the edge of the property that remains.

Gamble Mansion #1

A cistern, seen on the right side of the home in this picture, collected rainwater from the roof for the home’s residents.  Unfortunately, the cistern also attracted mosquito larvae. To combat this problem, Major Gamble kept minnows in the cistern, to eat the eggs, an early form of purification. In addition to sugar, vegetables were raised and cattle were kept.

The plantation (citrus, olives, and grapes were also grown) only operated for twelve years. A crash in sugar prices led to its demise. Major Robert Gamble fell deeper in debt and was eventually forced to sell his property and slaves in 1856.

Gamble Mansion #9


Gamble Mansion #12

Destroyed by Union soldiers in 1864, the remains of a sugar mill are all that remain of the cane operation.

The cane reeds were fed between the sugar cane rollers, and juice was collected in large catch pans. Pure cane  juice is still sold at roadside stands in the Everglades.

The history involving The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park Gamble Mansion in 1865 will be discussed in the next post. Owner Archibald McNeil’s assistance in helping Confederate Secretary of State Judah Philip Benjamin escape prosecution after the Civil War was England’s gain.


Mothers Helping Mothers

Mothers Helping Mothers: a Low-Key but Effective Non-Profit Helps Floridians

Here on Finding Florida, I usually share points of interest that are tied to nature, of historical significance, or fun places to see, but today I take you a place that reveals Florida’s compassion, a place that appears a little seedy at first but soon reveals her true beauty…

I spent a few hours on Saturday morning volunteering at Mothers Helping Mothers (MHM), a non-profit, all volunteer organization in Sarasota that was created by one woman who saw a need and set about filling it. Her efforts have grown into a vibrant program that helps almost 3,000 families in need each year.

From the Mothers Helping Mothers website http://www.mhmsarasota.com/:

“ … providing basic necessities such as clothing and baby items free of charge to families in need … we offer emotional support and referrals to other agencies in the surrounding area … ”

Mothers Helping Mothers collects donations in big garbage bags and when one is full, it is stored in a closet for later sorting. When the door can no longer close, they put out the call to churches and other organizations, asking for volunteers to help sort.

It is all quite organized. Children’s toys, infant clothing, shoes, books, and baby supplies (everything from diapers and bottles to crib layettes, strollers, and car seats) are in one room, women’s clothing, older girls and boys clothing in the other. Seasonal clothing is put away for later, designer outfits and gowns (some with tags still attached!) went in the front window. Items needing laundering or mending went in a special basket and items too damaged to give away were put in a box for a man who bought the rags by the pound. Men’s clothing went into a bin to be given to a men’s shelter/help place. The smaller men’s clothing was kept for the boys.

Mothers Helping Mothers is open on Tuesday and Friday mornings. No one is turned away; all items are free. Parents do not need to prove financial need, but a photo ID is required. Limits are generous: up to 15 clothing items per person per household. Only new cribs are given out, free of charge, paid for out of financial donations from others.

We opened bags and put clothing on hangers, placing it on the correct rack. It was almost like having Christmas for somebody else! We tried to hang things attractively, arrange toys to appeal to kids, brush off the purses and hang them at a rakish angle…sort of like playing “store”!

MHM #1

Our morning ended with just a few containers left in the closet.

MHM #2

We would have gladly stayed and finished, but there was no place to put anything more! Every clothes rack was jammed full and the toy chests filled to the brim. No space was left unused: purses hung from the ends of the racks, belts snaked along the top.

On Tuesday morning, I thought of those families going in to see the replenished stock, of a young Mom finding that designer suit or her child’s eyes lighting up at the sight of a teddy bear mountain. And I felt good inside, knowing that I helped to improve my community by helping families to stand on firmer ground. It’s only a drop in the bucket, but when you get enough drops, that bucket can overflow.

I hope that each reader here will one day come find Florida and all her unusual spots, and I hope you include a stop at Mothers Helping Mothers, to see for yourself what one small but really good idea can do.