Saturday, May 16, 2009

Short Jaunt from Sanibel to Useppa Sure to Please

Though we have been coming to Sanibel for over a decade, much of our time spent on Island is devoted to sprucing up our vacation rentals.

Many of the site seeing possibilities on and near the Island have been relegated to "later" and we end up returning north before later arrives.

But the length of this current visit has allowed for a little more exploration than usual.

Yesterday, we caught a boat at South Seas Plantation and went over to Useppa Island.

Though we had been to Cabbage Key and enjoyed it, the difference between the 2 little islands is dramatic. Cabbage Key, funky and pretty much uninhabited, was fun. Useppa, perhaps even smaller than Cabbage Key, is pristine. It is a tiny tropical gem with lovely cottages and a beautiful Inn gracing the shores.

A private island, the visitor to Useppa only gets an infrequent and short lived glimpse by journeying to the Island for a lunch, look and learn. There, in the tiny museum, one can see history played out in the various exhibits and artifacts.

Continuously inhabited for ten thousand years, Useppa was home to nomadic peoples who roamed in search of food in prehistoric times. About ten thousand years ago, the Calusa civilization arose to become one of the most sophisticated native societies to have evolved in North America.

Centuries later, the waters around Useppa and the surrounding barrier islands are popularly thought to have been populated by fierce pirates seeking bounty and treasures. In one of the area's most important myths, legend has it that in the late 1700s, a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar kidnapped and imprisoned a Spanish princess named Joseffa de Mayorga. Gaspar the Pirate is said to have favored Joseffa over all the many women he had captured in his ocean conquests. When his attempts to capture Joseffa's heart were met with contempt, Gaspar used Useppa Island to imprison the proud princess, and the isle came to be known as "Joseffa's Island." Over many ensuing years, legend says that the changing local dialects gradually morphed "Joseffa" into "Useppa," giving the island it's unique name today.

All of this, truth or fiction, is fascinating, but not necessary to enjoying the island. It is a magical little place regardless of the veracity of the pirate myth.

Over the years, the island was purchased and developed by Barron G. Collier and utilized as a base for tarpon fishing and for entertaining the rich and famous. The island was later abandoned and used by the U.S. government as a base for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Today, it's a wonderful spot to discover during your stay on Sanibel. As you leave the South Seas Plantation pier aboard the Lady Chadwick, you will leave the current century. Arrival at Useppa takes you to a time of quiet reflection. The island's centuries-old tradition of gracious hospitality, and it's long legacy of historical significance await you.

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