Sebastian Inlet State Park is a state park located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, in Charlotte County. The park has more than 2 miles (3km) of beachfront and lies between Lake Sebago and Little Talbot Island State Marine Sanctuary. It also includes Camp Murphy Mountain Bike Trails. This park was named after the Spanish mission San Sebastián de la Gomera which translates to “San Sebastian of the Germs”.
The park features a long, sandy beach stretching northward toward Punta Gorda, interrupted by a large, grassy parking lot and several picnic areas. Visitors may also camp overnight in tent sites. The park is open from dawn to sundown every day of the year (including holidays). Amenities include a playground, bathhouse, volleyball court, basketball court, horseshoe pit, soccer field, softball fields, baseball diamond, and nature trail.
During the 17th century, this area was inhabited by Calusa, who were then a part of Spain’s colonial empire in North America. After three centuries under British rule, Americans from South Carolina established Fort Clinchfield in 1816. Two years later, American settlers began establishing farms along the river frontage. One such farm was owned by Colonel Orlando Rees, whose family arrived in the area in the early 1700s. When he died around 1770, his son John Mark Alexander Rees inherited the property. He married Mary Anne Williams and fathered nine children. Among them was a daughter named Angelica, or Ann for short.
On November 22, 1783, at age 76, John Mark Alexander Rees signed an agreement stating that he would leave all his lands, including those still under construction, to his son George Washington Rees upon his marriage. Four months later, on May 12, 1784, George Washington Rees signed another document stating that he accepted the terms of his father, making him a grandfather-in-law to seven children. At age 77, John Mark Alexander Rees married again, this time to Lucy Burrows, and they settled near St. Marks, Florida. Their home was called Homestead #2. They had four children together before she passed away in 1796. With her death, Homestead #2 became the property of their son John Moultrie Rees, Jr., known as Jack. He married twice, first to Margaret Bradshaw and then to Laura Sperry. Together they had five children. In 1900, Jack and his wife moved to Punta Gorda where he set up housekeeping with his new wife and two daughters from a former marriage. There he ran a popular inn until it burned down in 1910.
A year later, he opened a restaurant there, but closed it during World War II when gasoline rationing made it difficult to obtain supplies. Following the war, he bought the Golden Orb Hotel, renaming it Villa Rosa. It was one of the most upscale hotels in town, attracting many famous people like Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But, once again, gas shortages forced him into bankruptcy. Once back in private life, he struggled financially until his death in 1956, aged 93. His third wife, Ellen Jameson Rees, took over management of the hotel. She continued to operate it until 1963, when it burned down. Shortly thereafter, she sold its land to developers, who built Sea Oats condominium complex on the site. That development failed, and the condos are now being renovated as lofts. The hotel ruins remain visible off limits to visitors. The old hotel building can be seen from the path leading to the observation tower atop Camp Murphy Mountain bike trails.
- bird watching
- wildlife viewing
- horseback riding
- cross country skiing