Pine Island, which is a very short drive away, is different altogether. This is a long-standing, close knit, island community where everyone knows everyone and where everyone cares about everyone. That goes for visitors as well. You are made to feel special as soon as you arrive. Even the local supermarket, a Winn Dixie, gives its produce to the less fortunate as soon as the sell by date passes. Pine Island residents take pride in living here without fuss – or traffic lights or fast food outlets for that matter.
What Pine Island does have is the chance to get onto the water and explore the many dozens of small mangrove islands in Pine Island Sound and the larger inhabited islands across the Intercoastal Highway. Fishing, particularly for tarpon, is also real big in the area during the season. Anglers looking for some saltwater fishing will find barracuda, blacktip sharks, cobia, grouper, redfish, snapper, sea trout and sea bass.
One good thing, the photographs of fishermen and women standing next to hanging carcasses of these magnificent six foot fish are all from many years ago. Tarpon fishing today, even during the national competitions, is humane with these majestic fish released without being taken from the water.
A place to stay : Tarpon Lodge
Talking of Tarpon, it’s the lodge of the same name that’s the place to stay here.
The 1926 property sits at the front of a large area of lawn that drifts gently to the dockside and waterfront. Accommodation can be in the lodge itself or in the adjoining boathouse or cottage. It is difficult to convey the pleasure of sitting, on a sunny morning, watching an anhinga drying its spreading wings a top a nearby mooring post. A serene experience, with the gentle splash of jumping mullet the only sound to break the silence.
Late afternoon and the location provides a ringside seat for those blazing Floridian sunsets. The restaurant serves excellent lunches, best eaten on the porch, and dinners to Lodge guests, island residents and those arriving to dine by boat. This combination encourages conversation, particularly during pre or après dinner drinks or coffee at the bar.
Finally, the Lodge is a hub for much of the island’s social activity and, if you are lucky enough to coincide a visit with a community gathering there, take the chance to get to know the wonderful residents of Pine Island. Tarpon Lodge is owned by the Wells family, with eldest son Rob as manager, and they treat guests as friends. Younger brother Ken manages the family’s historic inn and restaurant at Cabbage Key island just 20 minutes by boat. Many visitors split their time between the two.