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 Matlacha bridge, “the fishingest bridge in the world,” visitors will enter the quaint, quirky village of Matlacha. Pronounced “mat-luh-shay”. The island’s name comes from the Calusa word meaning “water to the chin.”
If Pine Island is one of the largest islands along the southwest Florida coast, Matlacha is certainly one of the smallest occupied islands. The weathered wooden sign “Island Time begins here” tells you your arrived at a special place.
Island time is where time seems to move more slowly. There are no stop lights and no billboards. Matlacha is just a quiet place where you are no longer tied to your iPhone, iPad or even your watch.
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.
From Matlacha Island to tha Calusa shell mounds Matlacha and Pine Island have much to offer visitors.
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 have the freshest seafood in the world.
PLACES TO GO
Visit the 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 Islander’s 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 (November 1 April 30) Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday: 1p.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 and $1 for children.
Visit the Randell Research Center
The Randell Research Center is a permanent facility dedicated to learning and teaching archeology, history, and ecology of Southwest Florida. Situated in the scenic community of Pineland on the western shore of Pine Island the RRC encompasses more than 60 acres. At the heart of this historic site is a massive shell mound site of the Calusa Indians.
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.
THINGS TO DO
Bokeelia Fishing Pier
For over 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 fisherman 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.