RUSKIN, FLORIDA: Bahia Beach to Little Harbor
An excerpt from a book titled: Bahia Beach: Then and Now by Willard Dickman Miller, 1961:
“Responding to the call, thousands of people yearly are joining the ranks of boat owners. A new type of person is appearing at Bahia Beach. This new “invasion” demands comfort after a long or even short cruise… service for the boats at all hours and fine food. More and more these boat-minded people will invade the blue sheltered waters of Tampa Bay with its miles of connecting inland waterways. Bahia Beach is being prepared for this change and will answer the challenge.”
(Source: Hillsborough Community College Digital Library. The full book can be read here: http://purl.flvc.org/hccfl/fd/1961 Bahia Beach then and now).
Well, clearly the “invasion” to this area continues even today because, well, we live in an amazing place.
How to Spot a Ruskin, Florida Old Timer?
Most that live in the South Shore area are likely to know about the place we currently call Little Harbor – the resort, beach, restaurants, residential area and marina located at the West end of Shell Point Road. You may have dined at one of the local restaurants there or have taken your boat there and simply hung out on the beach.
What some people do NOT know is that until the early 2000’s the area currently called Little Harbor was known as Bahia Beach. So, if you meet someone who calls it Bahia Beach, you’re talking to a real-deal Ruskinite!
A Little Bahia Beach History
While there are not a lot of historical records to be found, I did uncover a few fun facts.
The area was originally settled by Caloosa Indians a long time ago. Then the Spanish came, but enough with the really old history…. moving forward.
In the early 1900’s bay steamer boats could be seen from the Bahia Beach area, traveling between Tampa and Bradenton. It was a full day trip with stops in St. Petersburg, Palmetto and Anna Maria Island. Bradenton was the layover point for the return trip the next day. (Oh, imagine the humidity on such a slow moving boat with no AC). Ugh.
Jump ahead a few decades. Paul and Lyle Dickman, one of the original families in this area, built the first resort at Bahia Beach, a 37-acre beach front getaway.
Next, in the early 2000’s the area was renamed Little Harbor by the corporation that owned the area at the time.
From there, Bahia Beach, now Little Harbor, has been growing and growing, like the rest of South Shore, with only a short break around 2008 when pretty much all growth came to a halt.
Little Harbor Today
With growth brings a bit of complexity, but here’s the abbreviated version of the Little Harbor area today.
There are various independent entities within the Little Harbor area including The Sunset Grill Restaurant, Hooks Restaurant, condominium residences, water sport rentals, new single family homes under construction, the marina, The Freedom Boat Club and The Little Harbor Resort, which includes The Harborside Suites at Little Harbor and The Inn at Little Harbor, both managed by Carter Hospitality, LLC.
We’ve Been Discovered
One of the biggest growth areas in Little Harbor has been The Little Harbor Resort, the umbrella to The Harborside Suites at Little Harbor and The Inn at Little Harbor: two not-so-well kept secrets for travelers.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Justin Rosales, Sales Coordinator for The Little Harbor Resort, a while back to learn more about the resort and its amenities.
The Harborside Suites are condo-style accommodations while The Inn at Little Harbor includes traditional hotel rooms. Both hotels are full-service and offer nightly, weekly and monthly reservations. The views of Tampa Bay are out of this world.
What’s really stunning? Just a few years ago getting a reservation at one of the hotels was pretty easy. Today, it’s best to book your room/suite about a year out.
Yes, folks, we’ve been discovered and, according to Justin, The Little Harbor Resort has about an 80% repeat guest rate. Folks come back year after year, and from all over the world, especially in peak winter season. Visitors love our area!
In the summer Justin says the resort welcomes lots of stay-cationing folks from the local area. So, if you’re looking for a quick getaway, head to Ruskin.
Bridal parties and weddings along with family reunions and special gatherings make up many of the special occasion bookings.
Justin says the guests just love this whole area. They love the beach, the fishing, the Manatee Viewing Center, the boating, and the mom and pop shops we still have. It’s still a bit of old Florida, outside the hustle and bustle.
Also, did you know The Little Harbor Resort has event spaces to rent? So, if you’re planning a special event, shower or dinner, check them out.
Finally, I asked Justin about The Little Harbor Resort’s future plans. Drumroll…. According to Justin, “There are some great future plans, but they’re secret for now.” Darn. He gave up nothing.
So, stay tuned folks. The Little Harbor Resort may be bringing more fun and if you’re still calling it Bahia Beach, good for you!
Details about The Little Harbor Resort
For information on booking a room or event space please connect with:
Justin Rosales, Sales Coordinator.
Telephone:813 922 6000 Ex:609
The Little Harbor Resort Website: http://www.staylittleharbor.com/
The Little Harbor Resort Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/harborsidesuites/
Special thanks to the Hillsborough County Digital Collections for sources and images included in this article.