Pine Island, Florida
If you’ve ever wondered what Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach used to be like, take a trip to lightly developed Pine Island, located near Cape Coral mainland and east of Sanibel Island in Pine Island Sound, with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Fish & Art
The biggest island in Southwest Florida, Pine Island is connected to the mainland by a two-lane road and drawbridge, now under renovation (expected completion date is November 2012).
The bridge earns its nickname as “the fishing-est bridge in Florida:” It’s usually lined with anglers hoping for a snook or two; some hardy fishermen even spend the entire night at it.
Pine Island has four main waterfront communities: Matlacha. St. James City, Bokeelia, and – the smallest – Pineland. Each exudes its own particular charm.
Nicknamed “Florida’s Creative Coast,” the island boasts a colorful selection of art galleries, restaurants serving fresh seafood, and local “characters.”
Even though Pine Island is the winter home of many northerners, its year-round community makes a living from catching and selling seafood. Try the local smoked mullet and fried shrimp at one of the waterfront restaurants.
Pine Island Vacation
Pine Island may not have Gulf of Mexico beaches, but it makes up for that with its superlative boating and fishing. One hotel that sits on pilings over the water advertises that guests can actually cast bait from their rooms.
Pine Island has escaped the concrete, blacktop, and skyscrapers found in tourist beachfront communities. Current legislation prohibits high density, high-rise development; and the island stubbornly retains it working waterfront and salty character.
Southwest Florida Travel Guide is your foremost vacation information resource for exploring the Pine Island area.
Pine Island Things to doView All
Pine Island Places to stayView All
Pine Island Eat and DrinkView All
Title: Pine Island Florida Travel Tips: Beaches, Where to Stay and Where to Play
Description: We have resident experts of the Pine Island who can give you the best tips to make your Florida stay an incredible one including where to stay, what to do and what to see. Pine Island is a special place offering something for everyone and your stay can be customized just for you.
What sets Pine Island, Florida, apart from other Florida vacation spots?
Pine Island is rightfully nicknamed “Florida’s Creative Coast” for its colorful selection of art galleries, restaurants serving fresh seafood, and local “characters.” Secluded Pine Island has a quirky, laidback small-town feel set in a lush, natural environment. Surrounded by mangroves, it’s home to three natural preserves; a collection of talented artists; acres of palm, tropical plants and fruit groves; waterways offering excellent fishing, boating and paddling along with birdwatching; nature trails; ancient Indian shell mound; and bounty of specialty shops and fine art galleries. Pine Island is void of high-rises and traffic lights. It’s Southwest Florida’s largest island at 17 miles long and 2 miles wide and is made up of five distinct communities, Bokeelia, Matlacha, Pine Island Center, Pineland and St. James City. The island is only about a 30-minute drive from Fort Myers and about 15 minutes from Cape Coral.
Pine Island is made of five distinct communities –
Matlacha – Pronounced “MAT-la-shay”, is a vibrant community with waterfront dining and living and boutiques and funky art galleries.
Bokeelia – Find palm nurseries and tropical fruit groves in this agricultural area rich with farms, canal-front and waterfront homes, marinas and restaurants.
Pineland – The Calusa Indian site and Randell Research Center is located here. Also find Florida cracker homes (built (1840 – 1920), mango groves and marinas.
Pine Island Center – This is Pine Island’s day-to-day business area with a shopping center and park.
St. James City – Find lovely waterfront homes, marinas and restaurant.
What are the best beaches near Pine Island, Florida?
Although Pine Island is an island, it does not have Gulf of Mexico beaches like other areas of Southwest Florida. By boat, hop over to Cayo Costa and the beach at Cayo Costa State Park. By car, head to Cape Coral or Fort Myers Beach for sun worshipping and beachcombing.
What is the history of Pine Island, Florida?
Archeologists believe the Calusa Indians lived on Pine Island as far back as 300 AD until 1513 when it’s believed Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and the conquistadors landed in Southwest Florida. The Spanish introduced diseases in which the Calusa did not have immunity and which eventually wiped out population by the 1700s. Pine Island has an important historical site at the Randell Research Center in Pineland. At this archaeological dig site is what’s believed to be the center of Calusa civilization and visitors are invited to walk the Calusa Heritage Trail.
From the 1700s until 1873, Pine Island was basically uninhabited when farmers and fishermen settled the island. A bridge was built in the 1920s and canals were developed in the 1960s which attracted fulltime and seasonal residents to the island. Today, farming and fishing are still important to Pine Island’s heritage.
What are things to do in Pine Island, Florida?
Pine Island offers year-round activities ranging from chilling to thrilling. Following is a sampling of what you can enjoy.
Agritourism – One of the things that sets Pine Island apart from other Southwest Florida islands are the abundance of nurseries, many of which are open to the public. Tour a palm tree and bamboo farm such as Palmco in Bokeelia or tropical fruit nursery such as Fruitscapes Nursery in Pine Island.
Arts– Pine Island is known as “Florida’s Creative Coast” for a colorful collection of visual and performing artists, especially in Matlacha. Tour and shop vibrant galleries and take home a beautiful piece of art. Or, mail a coconut postcard home to family and friends. While driving the island, keep an eye out for painted telephone poles along the roadways.
Biking – Take a leisurely pedal along the 14-mile Pine Island Bike Path, also known as the Stringfellow Trail, from the northern tip of Bokeelia to the southern tip of St. James City. Don’t have your own bicycle? Rentals are available.
Boating – Pine Island provides access to fantastic boating opportunities and wildlife viewing from the water. Take a leisurely cruise around the island or have a picnic and gather shells on about a dozen beaches accessible by boat. A popular jaunt from Pine Island by boat is across Pine Island Sound to Cayo Costa State Park which is only accessible by boat. Dolphins often frolic in boat wakes and manatees can sometimes be seen coasting in shallow waters. Be sure to reference navigational charts and be aware of tides and flats in order to avoid grounding your boat. Boat ramps and marinas are plentiful and rental boats are available if you don’t have your own.
Canoeing and Kayaking – Pine Island is surrounded by three aquatic preserves, Chalotte Habor, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserves which create a near-pristine environment ideal for paddling. Pine Island has more than half a dozen access points to portions of the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail for some of Florida’s best paddling through mangrove tunnels, open bay areas and narrow canals. Keep an eye out for manatees, dolphins and birds as osprey, pelicans and egrets. For those without their own kayaks, it’s easy to rent one or join a guide for a paddling trip.
Dining – Enjoy delicious, fresh caught Florida seafood in Pine Island and Matlacha restaurants while admiring a view of the water. It’s common to find shrimp, stone crabs (seasonally) clams, grouper and smoked mullet on menus. Many eateries offer musical entertainment and have a low-key, island vibe.
Fishing – Generations of Pine Island families have been supported by commercial fishing which makes fishing heritage important to the island’s day-to-day life. With access to three aquatic preserves, Pine Island offers access to world-class fishing for a variety of species depending on the time of year. Hop in your boat or hire an experienced fishing guide. In the spring and early summer to fish for tarpon in the world-class waters of Boca Grande Pass. Fish the Pine Island Sound flats for redfish, snook and spotted sea trout. Cobia, mackerel, blacktip shark and sheepshead are other popular fish species caught near Pine Island.
Or, head to the Bokeelia Fishing Pier on the northern end of Pine Island to fish Charlotte Harbor’s waters for snapper, redfish, snook, grouper, and other species. Or, throw a line from “The Fishingest Bridge in the World,” the Matlacha Bridge where anglers hope to reel in a snook or two. Fishing from Pine Island’s bridges and piers is a popular activity. If you don’t have equipment, you can rent rods and reels from several locations. Before dropping a line, check for fishing license requirements.
Golf – The only golf course on Pine Island is the Alden Pines Country Club, a Gordon G. Lewis designed, 18-hole, par 71 championship course. Open to the public, play through natural water hazards and a tropical landscape.
Hiking – Pine Island has several nature preserves managed by the Calusa Land Trust that have perfect nature trails. Walk through a mangrove forest and along tidal salt flats and keep your eyes open for birds such as osprey, roseate spoonbills and egrets. At Calusa Island Preserve, walk the upland which is a shell mound of conch, clams and oyster shells created by the Calusa Indians over many.
Shopping – You’ll discover an eclectic mix of boutique and specialty shops and funky art galleries to find one-of-a-kind pieces of art, souvenirs, clothing and home goods. Plus, shop the nurseries for tropical plants and fruit trees. Many of these shops are located in Matlacha but find shops and galleries throughout Pine Island.
What tips for Pine Island rentals should we consider?
There are various Pine Island rentals available throughout the year with many being privately owned but some managed by property management companies. Your rental choice depends on personal preference and various factors such as your budget, length of stay, number of people in your party and location, such as on the water or inland. Before renting a vacation house or condo, we recommend you conduct research such as by reviewing peer review websites and contacting the owners and property management company directly. There are many scams online involving vacation rentals and never, under any circumstances, should you wire transfer money for the rental and especially never to someone overseas. Protect yourself and your Pine Island vacation with the right information and ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a Palm Island rental deal that just “seems too good to be true.”
Is Pine Island, Florida a good spring break destination?
The communities on Pine Island welcome everyone interested in selecting the area as their Florida Spring Break destination, however, the island does not have a public beach. Pine Island visitors would need to travel to Cape Coral or Fort Myers Beach to dip their toes in the sand, or hop in a boat to access Cayo Costa. The island typically attracts families during Spring Break and if visiting that time of year, traffic is typically heavy so plan accordingly.
Is Pine Island, Florida safe?
Personal safety is an important factor when choosing a Florida vacation spot and the best advice is to conduct your research. According to AreaVibes.com, crime is relatively low on Pine Island. You can also check the Lee County Sherriff’s Office for crime stats. When out and about, heed warnings, keep your car doors locked, apply sunscreen and keep hydrated and while enjoying watersports, exercise common sense to ensure a positive Pine Island vacation.
What are the best points of interest in Pine Island?
According to the local Chamber of Commerce and tourism office, here are the best places to visit while you vacation in Pine Island:
Matlacha Bridge – This small, single-leaf drawbridge connects Pine Island with the mainland in Cape Coral. It’s known as “The fishingest bridge in the world” because after 1968 when a concrete bascule bridge replaced the wood swing bridge, it became a popular fishing spot with local residents.
Randell Research Center – For centuries, the Calusa Indians inhabited Southwest Florida and sustained tens of thousands of people. They built large shell mounds and engineered canals and were the most powerful people in this part of Florida. After the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s, the Calusa population was wiped out in the 1700s. Today, what’s left of their civilization in Pine Island are shell mounds. The Randell Research Center is located here and is dedicated to teaching and learning Southwest Florida’s ecology, archaeology and history. On the 67 acres is an archaeological site, a large shell mound. Here, visitors can follow the .7-mile Calusa Heritage Trail and learn about the Calusa people.
What are the best hotels in Pine Island?
Accommodations in Pine Island are as unique as the island itself and many offer a nostalgic old Florida feel. Find a charming collection of quaint bed and breakfasts, locally owned and operated inns, waterfront lodges, RV parks and spacious Pine Island rentals.
How is the weather in Pine Island, Florida?
Many weather smartphone apps and websites are available to give you the current Southwest Florida weather along with 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15-day forecast. For averages, visit the Weather Channel website.
Pine Island has a sub-tropical climate making mild winters from January to March. The rainy season is June – September and on average, these months receive 6 – 9” of rain. The “off months” will range between 2 – 3” per month. The rainy season also has the highest temperatures with highs averaging 90+ and the lows in the mid-70s. Weather is something to consider when planning a Southwest Florida vacation.