A Taste of Old Florida with a Small-Town Feel
Pine Island is easily one of the most unique destinations in southwest Florida. This 17-mile long, two-mile wide island with the small-town feel is filled with locals who have a heart for one another. From the Matlacha (most “fishingest” bridge) to the tip of Bokeelia or Saint James City, you will smell the salt-air as it wafts in from Pine Island Sound. Old Florida style is just one of the many distinctive qualities that make this island such a rare find. This once-upon-a-time commercial fishing village still boasts many daily deliveries from the sea to its family-owned and run eateries. Boutiques and art galleries line the road with sights that are likely to fill your day. When you’ve shopped, perused, and studied the various artistic expressions of the locals, let them fill your belly with fresh shrimp, grouper, or trout. If education piques your interest, some of these destinations should top your list.
• Randell Research Center, 13810 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia, 239-283-2157: The book store is now open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday – Saturday. 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 available by special request for family groups, with COVID protocols, dependent on guide availability. To request a guided tour, call the RRC. Visitors can tour this internationally significant site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment.
• Museum of the Islands, 5728 Sesame Dr., Bokeelia, located in Pine Island Center, is a working museum. This little gem’s exhibits include shells, dolls, household items, and fishing artifacts. The museum is housed in a former library building. It opened in 1989. Museum hours are: May-October, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. November-April, Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
• Pine Island Tropicals, 12870 Stringfellow Rd., Bokeelia, is a tropical plant nursery as well as an outdoor farmers market, specializing in organically grown plants and vegetables. Frequent visits to the nursery reveal the seasonality of the fruits and vegetables; therefore not all of the produce is available year-around. They continually do research and development of different plant cultivars to further not only their education but enhance the wide varieties they offer.
If artwork is on your radar, you may enjoy a visit to one or all of the galleries Pine Island has to offer.
• Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery, 4332 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, open Monday and Tuesday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m., is a charming historic cottage, overlooking Matlacha Pass. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the unique home decor, gifts, clothing, local and best-seller books, or shirts, hats and koozies. Many favorite local artists are proudly represented.
• Wild Child Art Gallery, 4625 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m, offers private classes and parties. It is a contemporary art gallery representing the works and the creations of 115 Florida artists. The original fine art, canvas art, paintings and jewelry have won many awards for the gallery.
• Island Visions Gallery, 4643 Pine Island Rd. #9782, Matlacha, open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., is an eclectic gallery of local art and curiosities from around the globe.
• Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, 4637 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, hours are seasonal and subject to change. This gallery presents colorful paintings by local resident artist Lovegrove herself in a brightly hued building with gardens featuring eclectic decor.
• Bokeelia Art Gallery, 8315 Main St, Bokeelia, hours are seasonal and subject to change. This unique Art Gallery set in beautiful Charlotte Harbor features many local painters, pottery, glass and jewelry.
Whether you’re here to shop, eat, or play, from Matlacha to Bokeelia and Saint James City, Pine Island has something for everyone. Enjoy your visit to one of the most extraordinary finds in Southwest Florida!
Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat. Located near marker 60 on the inter-coastal highway, this 100-acre island proudly features the well-known Cabbage Key “open air” restaurant with its “dollar bill bar” if you’re in the mood for a bite, or an historic inn and rental cottages for those who plan a longer stay than the average day-tripper. This is a great stop on your island-hopping tour, whether your interests are in fishing, reading with a water backdrop, or simply stopping for lunch.
Useppa Island is located near the northern end of Pine Island Sound. Currently the home of the private Useppa Island Club, this 100-acre, boat accessible, private-island is a destination for many who have a desire for security as well as privacy. Club membership as well as real estate inquiries invited. For more information explore the website at useppa.com.