Traveling has always been one of the great joys of life. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and have visited 15 countries and 31 states so far.
I’ve seen spectacular vistas, breath taking mountain ranges, sugar sand beaches and turquoise waters. But when someone asks me where my happy place, I always tell them it’s Pine Island and Cabbage Key without any hesitation.
Don’t get me wrong I love Florida and traveling the world but there’s something that always brings me back to Pine Island and Cabbage Key.
Tarpon Lodge is known for its old Florida charm, the lodge dating back to 1926, and its choice waterfront location.
But it now offers a monthly wine dinner as well that features a multicourse meal prepared by the able kitchen team of Albert Keijl, Cindy Arcurio and Christopher Fox. Wines are paired with each course and a winemaker or winery owner is on hand to speak about the wine.
Driving onto Pine Island is like stepping back in time to Old Florida. There’s still just one way on and one way off this largest of Florida’s barrier islands, passing through the tiny fishing hamlet of Matlacha with its funky shops, galleries, and open air bars, then over a draw bridge – affectionately nicknamed “The World’s Fishingest Bridge”.
If you sail in on your yacht, you might never know you’re just a stone’s throw from the bustling coastal city of Ft. Myers, but the rest of us will navigate the bustling traffic over bridges, causeways, and through Cape Coral to get here. That’s OK, the better to appreciate the slower pace.
We were on our way to Tarpon Lodge, Pine Island, one of the last remaining Florida-style sportsmen lodges in this part of southwest Florida. And as we headed north on the island’s one main road, I had the feeling I’d been here before, with fleeting memories and treasured photographs of my grandfather on his annual fishing trips to Florida coming back to me. Pine Island is 18 miles long from Bokeelia at the north end to St. James City at the southern end, and just 2 miles wide, and is close to Sanibel and Captiva Islands as the crow flies. We drove miles of mango orchards and palm tree nurseries before arriving at Tarpon Lodge just after lunch.
We were guests of Tarpon Lodge during our stay, however as always, all opinions are ours alone based on first hand experience.
Tarpon Lodge has been selected as a finalist in Gulfshore Life’s “Best of the Gulfshore” 2018 Awards for BEST Hotel/Resort, BEST Weekend Getaway, BEST Special Occasion and BEST Waterfront Restaurant! Thank you to all who voted!🎖
Tarpon Lodge: One of Coastal Living Magazine’s 50 Secret Places
We’re honored to have been chosen by Coastal Living Magazine as one of their 50 Secret Places. You can read more in the March issue on newsstands now.
Pine Island, Florida The Tarpon Lodge
A salty dose of Old Florida culture, and surprisingly within reach
Old Florida is having a serious moment these days, and this island perched off the Gulf Coast feels a million miles–and years–away from the hurly burly of Fort Myers. To make the escape complete, bed down at the gracious, old-school Tarpon Lodge. Rates start at $115; tarponlodge.com
A Florida Gulf Coast View at Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island
As this review goes live, many people in the USA and Canada are probably wishing they could be staying at a place like Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island, Florida. Far away from wintry gusts, ice storms, and snow, the grounds here are shaded by palm trees and the orange sun sets each night over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
This cozy lodge with the charm of old Florida is north of Fort Myers, on a large island that’s mostly residential. To get here you head west from I-75 toward the Gulf and cross onto the island through the colorful town of Matlacha, where it’s worth stopping for a bite to eat or at least some ice cream. After a meandering drive on roads that are seldom crowded, you get to the two-story collection of buildings making up Tarpon Lodge, next to a marina filled with pleasure fishing boats. You can charter one for some fishing, maybe snagging a big namesake tarpon, or explore the islands nearby that extend north from Sanibel and Captiva. (The lodge here shares ownership with the long-established Cabbage Key Inn and restaurant—the only place to stay on that small island with no roads.)
MY HUSBAND, JACK, desperately wanted to hook a big snook, which was the motivation behind our three-night DIY kayak-fishing trip around Pine Island, the largest landmass in the archipelago which includes southwest Florida’s seaside resorts of Sanibel and Captiva. There was only one problem, as far as we knew an inn-to-inn paddle-trip in that area had never been done before. It wasn’t exactly a heroic off-the-grid adventure. During the day we’d weave in and out of mangroves and across shallow bays, then come ashore at dinnertime, check in to a waterfront lodge, then paddle and fish again the next day.
“I think it’ll work,” Jack said, after researching some nautical charts and regional websites. “We’ll need to paddle about eight miles each day, which should leave us plenty of time to fish.”
Eight miles in the ocean? What if we got lost? What if the sun scorched our pale northern hides? But we might catch snook! A month later, we launched our boats at Tarpon Lodge on the west side of Pine Island.
Dining at Tarpon Lodge, on Pine Island Sound, often centers on the great view – and the well-loved crab chowder. Other popular plates include, clockwise from bottom: the shrimp appetizer with a balsamic glaze, served over fresh strawberries and feta cheese; mahi mahi with roasted tomato artichoke hearts with lemon sauce and broccolini; a chicken sandwich with heirloom tomato, roasted onion and roasted pepper; a Cuban sandwich; and a salad with burrata cheese, shrimp, avocado and tomato.
Tarpon Tales is a Newsletter from your friends at Cabbage Key & Tarpon Lodge in Pineland, Florida.
Welcome to longer sun-filled days, and balmy twilit nights. Spring has arrived at Tarpon Lodge and Cabbage Key. It has been a fun and busy season, and we are excited to share our latest news with you, keeping you up to date on our sister resorts. Please feel free to send us your favorite photos and stories from your visits – we may include them in our newsletter or post on our blog or social media pages.
Thank you for being part of our Tarpon Lodge & Cabbage Key family!