Pine Island: A taste of ‘Old Florida’
For anyone looking for a taste of “Old Florida” Pine Island and Matlacha are only a short drive on Pine Island Road from the bustling towns of Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
Before crossing the “fishingest bridge in the world” into Old Florida there is a sign that says, “Island Time Begins Here.” Island Time is where time seems to move more slowly and everything happens at a slower, more leisurely pace.
Matlacha, pronounced “mat-luh-shay”, is a quaint, quirky little fishing village of 900 people. The island’s name comes from the Calusa word meaning “water to the chin.”
Matlacha is a place where you could spend a leisurely day shopping and then dining at one of the many seafood restaurants.
Until the net ban 20 years ago Matlacha was a small fishing village with fishermen’s shacks lining Pine Island Road. Today, those shacks have been repainted in splashy bright colors that house seafood restaurants, island-wear boutiques and numerous art galleries.
Located in the heart of Matlacha is the Lovegrove Gallery and Gardens. This gallery is the international headquarters, artist studio, and gallery of southwest Florida’s most colorful artist Leoma Lovegrove. Be sure to visit the gardens in the rear.
Other galleries in Matlacha include Wildchild Art Gallery, Island Visions, Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery and Gift Shop, Trader’s Hitching Post and Frills.
Just a few miles to the west is Pine Island. Pine Island is the largest island off Florida’s southwest Gulf coast and filled with mangroves, aquatic preserves, acres of palm, and tropical plant and fruit groves.
There’s plenty to do on Pine Island. Starting in Pine Island Center you can visit the Museum of the Islands where the island’s history has been preserved. At the Randell Research Center in Pineland visitors can learn about the archaeology and history of the Calusa Indians.
The waters surrounding Pine Island offer sport fishermen an abundance of opportunities to fish for snook, grouper, redfish, trout, mullet and tarpon. You can fish from the “fishingest” bridge in the world (Matlacha Bridge), from the Pier in Bokeelia, or hire one of the many fishing charters.
Cayo Costa: Only a short boat ride away
A short boat ride away is the pristine island of Cayo Costa State Park, described by the state park’s system as an unspoiled Gulf Coast island that “evokes images of wind-shaped trees, dunes, beaches and freedom to explore.”
The island park known as one of the best shelling beaches in the world has 9 miles of beaches for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling and acres of pine forests for bicycling, camping, wildlife viewing, picnicking and touring.
Ferries from Pine Island or Captiva can take you to this former fishing ground of the Calusa Indians which also offers campsites and cabins are available for overnight stays.
Captiva Cruises is the Official State Park Concessionaire for Cayo Costa State Park, Gasparilla State Park, Don Pedro Island State Park, Stump Pass Beach State Park, Jug Creek Cottages and oversees all ferry services, special events and concessions. For more information call 239-472-5100 or 833-227-3886 or visit www.cayocostaferry.com .
Tropic Star Cruises also offers full and half-day daytrips to the Cayo Costa by reservation as well as similar excursions to Cabbage Key and Boca Grande. For more information call239-283-0015 or visit tropicstaradventures.com/Cruises for more information or to make an on-line reservation.
For those looking for a personalized tour opportunity, Sunset Cruises, at fortmyersboattour.com , offers a variety of options, including Sunsets, Dolphin tours, lunch and dinner restaurant destination cruises as well as Island Tours to Sanibel, Captiva, Cabbage Key, Ussepa Island, Lovers Key State Park, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach. Visit fortmyersboattour.com or call fortmyersboattour.com or call 414.305.5759 OR 239.220.1711 .