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.