Looking at Matlacha and Pine Island today the visitor sees what some have described as Florida’s “Art Mecca.” But just a little over 30 years ago, before 1995, Matlacha and Pine Island were among the largest fishing communities in Florida.
Fishermen and fishing families lived in the small “shacks” that lined both sides of Pine Island Road on Matlacha and are scattered around Pine Island.
Once the net ban was enacted in 1995, commercial fishing nearly came to an end and many fishing families left the islands. Many of the vacant “shacks” were taken over and remodeled by artists.
Today, the two islands are a mix of both worlds with fishing boats arriving daily and fishermen walking around in white rubber boots known as “Pine Island Reeboks.” Both islands offer a wide range of artists creating paintings in acrylic, oil, pastel, pen and ink and watercolor as well as art in every form imaginable.
Streets named after fish and exotic Florida fruits; carved mailboxes of seahorses, eagles, parrots and dolphins; and two General stores that remind you of “Old” Florida bring a peace and tranquility of being on Island Time.
Things to do
Take the ferry to Cayo Costa
Board the Tropic Star for a short ride to Cayo Costa. This small pristine island offers nine miles of beautiful beaches and acres of pine forests, oak palm hammocks and mangrove swamps. Visitors can swim or snorkel in the surf and may see manatees and dolphins. Cayo Costa is available only by private boat or ferry. The ferry, Tropic Star of Pine Island, departs from Jug Creek Marina in Bokeelia and requires reservations.
Visit Museum of the Islands
The Museum of the Islands is housed in what was once the island’s first public library, built by volunteers in the early 1960s. The Museum of the Islands (MOTI) is a museum dedicated to preserving Island history and lifestyle. Over the years, islanders have donated many interesting items for exhibit and there is much to see at MOTI. Today the Museum of the Islands is a major feature for visitors, tourists and Pine Islanders who love their past.
Winter Hours (Nov. 1 April 30)
Tuesday-Saturday: 11a.m. to 3.p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Mondays
Summer Hours (May 1 Oct. 31)
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Group Tours available by appointment.
Admission – $2 for adults, $1 for children
Visit Randell Research Center
The Calusa Heritage Trail is open daily for self-guided visits from sunup to sundown. Restrooms, book and gift shop, and classroom are open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours are offered to the public during peak season (January-April) on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Groups may also schedule guided tours at other times by calling the RRC at 239-283-2157.
Admission: Requested donations for visitors to the Calusa Heritage Trail are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children. Members of the Friends of the RRC are admitted free. Income from donations and memberships makes it possible for the RRC maintain this important archaeological site.
Bokeelia Fishing Pier
For more than 100 years people have enjoyed fishing from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. Located at the northern tip of Pine Island stretching into the waters of Charlotte Harbor, the Bokeelia Fishing Pier is known by many as the place to come for some of the finest fishing.
No license required! Just come and enjoy the fun. Rod and reel rentals available and pier fees are just $8 a day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Fishing the waters
The waters surrounding Pine Island San Carlos Bay, Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and Matlacha Pass offer anglers an abundance of opportunities to fish for snook, grouper, redfish, trout, mullet and tarpon. Visitors can rely on the many qualified charter captains for a great day fishing.
Kayaking and canoeing
Matlacha Pass National Wildlife Refuge offers some of the best kayaking and canoeing in the world. This aquatic preserve is the essence of the southwest Florida estuary teeming with life: ospreys, bald eagles, wood storks, sea turtles and manatees. There are several places visitors can rent a kayak or canoe.