Many visitors who come to Florida visit Orlando, South Beach, the Florida Keys and other popular sites. But if you’re looking for a less stressful visit to the “Sunshine State” there’s still “Old Florida” or what some call “Forgotten Florida.”
Forgotten Florida is a short drive from Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Driving over the “fishingest” bridge in the world along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico you’ll find much smaller towns, where the people are friendly.
From Matlacha Island to tha Calusa shell mounds Matlacha and Pine Island have much to offer visitors. “Island Time Begins Here” with no high rise buildings, billboards or stop lights. Everything moves at a slower more care-free pace. Where the gentle Gulf breezes give you a sense of timelessness. Where you are no longer tied to your iPhone, iPad or even your watch.
Pine Island Road runs down the center of Matlacha. The street is lined with small buildings in the most vibrant island colors and the primary business is art. Matlacha is now a highly-regarded artists community with art galleries, souvenir shops, and small seafood restaurants lining Pine Island road.
Pine Island is the largest island off Florida’s southwest Gulf coast. It is 18 miles long and 2 miles wide. From one end of the island to the other visitors will find mangroves, aquatic preserves, acres of palm, and tropical plant and fruit groves. The waters are filled with tarpon, redfish, sheepshead and snook and the restaurants some of the freshest seafood in the world.
Things to do
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.
Visit 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 a.m. to 7 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.
Visit 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.