<--- Matlacha Bridge.
Pine Island consists of Matlacha (Mat-la-shay), Pine Island Center, Bokeelia (Bo-keel-ya), Pineland and St. James City. Each community treasures its own distinctive ambiance.
Matlacha looks like an "old Florida" fishing village ("Matlacha Spoken Here"). It also has a growing collection of art galleries, gift and islandwear shops and boutiques, seafood restaurants, small motels and cottages.
The drawbridge over Matlacha Pass is known as the "Fishingest Bridge in the World," with anglers customarily fishing the bridge, night and day, in all kinds of weather (mostly sunny). There are plenty of bait and tackle suppliers and two full-service marinas that also rent boats, Olde Fish House Marina and Viking Marina
<---My bud Pedro, I'm taken the Pic while we freeze our butts off on the Matlacha Bridge.
“I think it has a reputation as a backwater, when in actuality it has more current and more moving water than anywhere else in the area,” Bowdish says.
That current is responsible for the huge popularity and stellar angling reputation of the Matlacha Bridge, called “the fishingest bridge in the world.”
Compared to most everywhere else, life moves slowly here on this out-of-the-way island with a colorful and fascinating history.
Pineland, one of the main sites of Calusa Indian mounds, boasts one of the country's smallest Post Office buildings and provides us with the island's only golf course at Alden Pines Country Club.
It is also site of Pineland Marina, a full-service marina. There are several water taxi, fishing charter and boat rentals services based at the marina, including the "Tropic Star" Cruiseboat. St. James City is Pine Island's most developed area with about two thirds of the island's population.
Most of its homes are located on canals with direct access to Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The canals at the southern tip of Pine Island are also home to Bob and Annie's Boatyard, York Road Marina and Fishin' Fever Marina.
Bokeelia is homeport for many of the island's commercial fishermen and the site of several historic buildings. Fishing charter services, boat rentals and water taxi services are also available at Four Winds Marina. In addition, the Useppa Island Shoreport is located at the Bocilla Island Club Marina.
Bokeelia is also the primary location of many of Pine Island's thriving, subtropical agribusinesses featuring mangoes, pineapples, citrus, row crops and a wide variety of exotic tropical fruits including the carambola, longan, papaya, lychee and loquat.
Pine Island Center is the only completely off-water community and the hub of the island's commercial activity. It "harbors" the main shopping center, a community park with pool, lighted tennis courts and ballfields, Pine Island Elementary School, the Museum of The Islands, a modern library, medical and dental offices and the island's main fire station, complete with EMS rescue and medical support services.
If you come here, be sure to stop by The Museum of the Islands for a visit. It is very small and cozy. You will get personal attention from the staff.
What to Expect on Pine Island It only costs a buck to enter, but be generous and make an additional donation. The museum has some GREAT books on Florida and some wonderful crafts for sale.
Don't come to Pine Island if you are looking for Disney.
They shoot mice here.
If your idea of a great day is to do some fishin', go kayaking, buy some mangoes, have shrimp and beer for lunch, or visit the museum or an art gallery, then maybe you will like it on Pine Island.
Don't forget your mosquito repellent during the rainy summer months, and watch out for the alligators and salt-water crocodiles. See you there....
The Pine Island Fruit Market attracts people from all over. Some are trying the various fruits for the first time, others are discovering that fruit they ate back in their home country can be found right here in Florida.
They sell many varieties of mangoes and lychees. They sell longans, sapodillas, mamey apple, tamarind, and various types of local bananas, just to name a few.
The market is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10am to 4pm during the June, July, and August. But you have to get there early Friday or Saturday morning to get the choice varieties.
The market is about two-and-a-half miles north of Pine Island Road, on Stringfellow, about where Stringfellow passes Valeria Road. The market is on the right side of the road. It's easy to miss.
See the official Mango Mania website at Mango Mania
The Tommy Atkins variety is the most common (I don't care for it), but if you are persistent you can find Julie, Kent, Keitt, Glenn, Carrie, Valencia and many of the Asian varieties of mangoes like Nam Doc Mai.
Mango season on Pine Island is usually July and August. While at the Pine Island fruit Market I met a guy who makes the drive from St. Pete every Friday for mangoes.
You don't even have to wait till you get home to start enjoying the mangoes. For about $3 they'll make you a fresh mango smoothie.
In late June the lychee fruit is ready to eat. The Pine Island Fruit Market has many varieties of lychee for you to sample and buy. I often buy 5 or 10 pounds.
They will keep in the fridge for several weeks. Longan fruit is also grown at the Pine Island Fruit Market. They are similar to the lychee but ripen later in the season.
There are a few sapodilla trees at the Pine Island Fruit Market. You have to keep coming back often and get there early in the morning if you want any.
The only way I can describe their taste is to tell you to imagine peeling a ripe Bartlett pear, rolling it in light brown sugar, then eating it.
That's about what a Sapodilla tastes like. When you pick them they are rock hard, so you have to put them in a paper bag and wait for them to get very soft before you can eat them.
What to do on Pine Island.
An old Florida style island house with a plain family-style restaurant.
The best thing this restaurant has going for it is its location, right on Charlotte Harbor and its small-town service. Lots of repeat customers eat here.
The food choices are basic. Not gourmet. It's a nice little out-of-the-way place to stop and eat, then take a walk out on the pier.
I'll never forget the peaceful walks out onto the 300 foot dock, watching the dolphins catch fish, listening to the quiet, and just feeling like we were a million miles away. I came back again and again, and once brought my parents and son for the 4th of July weekend.
The Beachouse (Now Bokeelia Tarpon Inn - Bed & Breakfast) has a new owner now and the top level is available for rent as well as the lower levels. It is really nice and has an incredible view From the Beachhouse you can easily walk to Captain Con's restaurant and the Crossed Palms Gallery. Eat, fish, sleep, walk around the quiet neighborhoods, buy some mangoes at the Pine Island Fruit Market, take the boat to Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa, visit the museum, go kayaking, or just relax and catch up on your reading.
There is no one here to bother you. Especially during the summer months. There are mosquitoes during the summer though. Hey, that's Florida! of Charlotte Harbor.
The Beachouse has two bedroom, one bedroom and efficiency units. And, the price is right! Visit their website for the best place to stay on Pine Island, Florida. Their website has all the info and photos you need, as well as contact information and a reservations form.
Directions to Pine Island, Florida
To get to Pine Island from I-75, take exit #161, Jones Loop Road (in the Fort Myers / Cape Coral area). It will take you across US 41 and will become Burnt Store Road.
Burnt Store road is a fairly narrow, mostly straight, two-lane road through a somewhat rural area. Many of the locals don't take kindly to people driving the speed limit.
Follow Burnt Store Road about 20 miles to Pine Island Road (SR 78). Turn right on Pine Island Road and keep going several miles to the four-way stop at Stringfellow Road.
On Pine Island Road, before you actually get to Pine Island, you will cross a small bridge and find yourself on the small island village of Matlacha (say it Mat-la-shay).
Don't blink or you'll miss a true gem of Florida history. When you finally get to Stringfellow Road and the four-way stop (there are no traffic lights on Pine Island), turn north (right) to get to the places I visited as shown in the photos below.
Matlacha is in another time - one that we all wish we could still be living in. After a long trip from Michigan, I pulled up and couldn't find the owner, so my wife and I looked over the area and left a message with the owner who was out.
We watched the fish jump all around the pier and the mangroves, checked out the local houses, and then the owner pulled up. He let us choose the room we wanted - could have taken the cottage but we liked the accommodations and set up in one of the efficiencies instead.
Laid back owner, who gave us some suggestions, but really left us to ourselves for our stay to enjoy the settings. The owner had some fishing poles that he let me use to try my hand off the deck outside of the room, and offered the use of the kayaks to go into the bay with.
My wife enjoyed the local art scene, and we just marveled at how laid back that everything was. If you enjoy the upscale that Naples, and Marco Island has down the road, this area is not for you. If you want to really see Florida and how laid back life can be, this is the place for you.
Welcome to our island. One hundred acres of tropical vegetation surround our historic restaurant, inn and cottages. A panoramic view of Pine Island Sound is provided from our front porch atop a thirty-eight foot Indian shell mound. There are no cars here, not even a paved road. You will find winding nature trails, picturesque views and relaxation.
When you step onto our island - be prepared to relax....Old Florida style. Cabbage Key is a great place to relax with a book by the water, bring an easel and paint, work on that novel you always wanted to write, explore the island on our nature trail or bring your own fishing pole and fish off our dock. You may enjoy fishing & boating, dining, nature & wildlife, beaches, and more. We suggest bringing a flashlight and all of your supplies for your stay with us as there is no general store on the Island.