«

»

Pine Island: A Hidden Paradise

It’s just a few miles from home (Cape Coral, FL), but once you cross the short strip of asphalt that connects Pine Island with the mainland you feel like you are entering a different world.

Pine Island (in Lee County) is the largest island (17 miles long and 2 miles wide) on the west coast of Florida, just 15-20 minutes from Cape Coral, 30 minutes from Fort Myers and one hour from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW).

Outside LoveGrove Gallery in Matlacha.

Outside LoveGrove Gallery in Matlacha.

A true diamond in the rough, the island is surrounded by mangroves and has three natural preserves.  It’s largely agricultural zoning and the fact that there are no beaches to attract large flocks of snowbirds  or locals has saved it from succumbing to the effects of modern development.  It remains frozen in time, with no tall buildings and no traffic lights.

According to Pine Island’s Chamber of Commerce website Calusa Indians inhabited the islands from about 300 A.D. until the Spanish conquered them in the 1700s. Except for the occasional pirate or fisherman, Pine Island was then basically uninhabited until 1873. Those hardy settlers who then arrived lived off the sea and land and carved out the paradise we now enjoy. Commercial fishing and farming of tropical fruits and palm trees became the main industries on the island— as they remain to this day.

Current legislation prohibits high density, high-rise development in the foreseeable future . . . designed to preserve Pine Island’s unique, rural island heritage for generations to come.

Matlacha

As soon as you cross the “World’s Fishingest Bridge” where anglers cast day and night, you find yourself in Matlacha (pronounced Mat-la-shay).  Dotted with small restaurants, shops, fresh seafood markets and quaint and colorful galleries, this historic fishing village and artist community reminded me a little of the Florida Keys and what they might have looked like 50 year ago.

We started our little island adventure by having an amazing breakfast at “The Perfect Cup”, a little restaurant famous for it’s excellent coffee and the best eggs Benedict you’ve ever had.  Being a fan of hollandaise sauce , I have to admit this is was one of the reasons we decided to drift away from our usual weekend plans of going to the beach or doing some other kid friendly activity.  The fresh crab omelets looked enticing but I had to go for the eggs Benedict which I have to admit where amazing.  The incredible coffee selection included African, South American Hawaiian and Middle Eastern.

After breakfast we walked up and down the road which doubles as main street and in most places doesn’t even have a sidewalk.  Artists, authors and musicians have made their home in Pine Island, and their artwork can be found in colorful galleries in shops and even on painted telephone poles.

Coconut Postcards

Coconut Postcards

Tropical murals of fish and other island scenes cover the outer walls of some of the shops and galleries and metal sculptures of turtles, lizards and other island animals greet you as you  walk by .  We strolled up and down the main street and visited the many colorful shops and art galleries filled with island souvenirs and whimsical bright colored art from the local artists. Our favorite the famous Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens where you can buy a painted coconut or paint it yourself to send to friends and family.   Who knew you could just put a stamp on a coconut and mail it?  How cool is that?The kids loved window shopping, there where so many fun things to see.

We stopped by Great Licks Ice Cream of Matlacha. Their ice cream is amazing and it’s made using all natural flavors and locally grown fruit. My husband liked the mango and I thought the blackberry was to die for while the kids went for the chocolate (with so many delicious flavors they had to pick chocolate again!). I also purchased some home made strawberry mango preserves to send to friends, which I ended up keeping for myself so I will have to go back for more.

We had originally planned to go only to Matlacha but we didn’t want to leave so we headed to Bookelia.

 

Bookelia

Bookelia Piers The original plan had been to go only to Matlacha but after seeing all the galleries we didn’t want to leave this paradise so we decided to go to Bookelia.  This community filled with cozy cottages, small hotels and  largest houses that looked like winter homes, was sparsely populated.  A couple of fishing piers reached into the water.

In Bookelia you will find tropical fruit farms and palm tree farms, an 18-hole golf course, fishing pier as well as several marinas offering service to the outer islands. This  is a true sport fisherman’s paradise with the best tarpon fishing in the world just north of Bokeelia in Boca Grande Pass.  No one in the family fishes, and the fishing piers didn’t allow small children so we just looked at pelicans diving for fish over and over again. We came back home feeling like we had traveled far, far away, even as though we has traveled a little back in time and again I felt so lucky to live in Southwest Florida, an area with so much natural beauty a great place to raise kids.

Island Architecture & Pelicans

Follow 365 Things to Do In Southwest Florida on Facebook for more great ideas, events and activities for the whole family.

 

 

 

Related posts:

About the author

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

Paula is a freelance writer, translator & marketer. She started her writing & publishing career as the editor of Bebé y Mamá, the first parenting magazine in Guatemala. She is the founder of www.GrowingUpBilingual.com and www.365thingsswfl.com and writes articles in Spanish and English for both magazines and the web on subjects ranging from travel and food to parenting and bilingualism. She enjoys traveling, good food and is always in search of new things to do and in Southwest Florida.

12 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

    I cannot wait to go back to Florida so that we can visit Pine Island! We visited Florida in September, and made a stop at a beautiful place called Yankee Town (on the east side of the state) on our way to Disney. My Mom spent many summers in Yankee Town while she was growing up, so she wanted to visit to see if it had changed. Luckily, it was still small and quaint. I love small little quirky towns! I suppose because I live in one here in Arkansas.

  2. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

    What a fun little place! My kids would love it.

  3. CesarD

    Really like Pine Island and it’s laid back atmosphere.

  4. Buy Chocolate, Buy Chocolate Online,Buy Dove Chocolate,Buy Dove Chocolate Online,Sell Chocolate,Sell Dove Chocolate

    My Dad recommended this site from a post he read the other day. I’m glad he did! Cheers!

  5. Sanibel Sam

    I’m staying on Sanibel Island for the next few months. Any suggestions for a first time day trip to Pine Island?

    Food & places to see.
    Thank you.
    SanibelSam2013@gmail.com

    1. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

      Breakfast at the The Perfect Cup they have the best lobster egg benedicts and amazing coffee. Walk along Matlacha’s main street and visit the art galleries, specially Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. Visit Bokeelia and take a day trip to Useppa Island and have lunch there, visit the Useppa museum or take a day trip to Cabagge Key. In Bokeelia have dinner at Red’s Fresh Seafood House & Tavern. The Tarpoon Inn in Bokeelia is also a great place to have lunch or watch the sunset and if you like fishing you can get a fishing charter from the Inn.

  6. Maria

    Are dogs welcomed on Pine Island? We are planning on spending two weeks at Cape Coral over Christmas and are bringing our little dog. Since this seems like an all day trip, we cannot leave her home alone that long.

    Thanks,
    Maria

    1. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

      Most establishments are pet friendly as long as you bring him on a leash, including some restaurants.

    2. Cheryl Gintof

      Hi Maria,

      Do you already have a place reserved for your stay in Dec. ?

      I have a house on Pine Island that I rent out and have time available in Dec.

      Dogs are welcome.

      1. Rhonda

        Dear Cheryl,
        My husband and I are retired and are looking for a place to rent from December 2016 through March of 2017. Our dates are flexible. If you are still renting your place would you please e-mail me with rates and specifics about your home. Thank you.
        Sincerely,
        Rhonda

  7. KBNYC

    Hi Cheryl-
    I may be interested in availability for places on Pine Island for December. Anthong open around Christmas? How many bed/bath and weekly price?

    Thanks,
    Kristi

  8. Vickie

    I’m planning a camping trip over Memorial weekend at Pine Island. I am bringing a small service dog with me and will be doing some shopping. Are there any suggestions or ideas for shopping or other places that I can go that I may include my traveling companion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge