Colored pink Elena’s art house on Matlacha Island, Cape Coral, Florida on January 18, 2016. Photo: Nadezda Murmakova/Shutterstock.com
Matlacha (pronounced MATT-luh-SHAY) is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets.
This small coastal village nestled near the Gulf of Mexico just west of Fort Myers is full of charming attractions. Less than 700 residents live here, making it the perfect place to have a quiet stay-cation. You can spend your time browsing candy-colored shops, technicolor botanical gardens and vibrant art pieces from local artists willing to display their talents.
In Matlacha, visitors get a one-of-a-kind experience being able to do out-of-the-ordinary things like shop boutique stores, taste and eat fresh seafood and visit an entire neighborhood of local art galleries. It truly offers a unique look into the relatively calm lives of the locals. Another nice experience is the Catch of the Day Fishing Excursions.
Since this is a fishing village, it’s pretty much the only thing to do here for fun. And that it can be. The Matlacha Pass Bridge is a popular spot for fishermen to spend their days fishing for various creatures from the sea.
At the Museum Of The Islands (MOTI) you may get acquainted with the city. Its exhibits display the history of the area through historic photos, hop in a kayak and explore the mangrove islands in Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve. The Wildchild Art Gallery and Leoma Lovegrove’s Gallery and Garden allow you to spend time admiring local artwork. Nearby is the bridge to spot dolphins swimming in the waterways.
Another thing to do in Matlacha is to have lunch at the local bars and restaurants. Have some flaky, fresh fish on the water at Sandy Hook Fish & Rib House, or chow down on some cracked conch and crispy blue crab cakes and calamari at Blue Dog Bar & Grill. Bert’s Bar & Grill has got you covered if you’re looking to see live music played throughout the day and night while sipping on some cocktail drinks while watching the sunset.
MOTI tells the history of the three main islands (Matlacha, Little Pine and Pine). The museum shows photos of St. James City from the turn of the last century when that town at the foot of Pine Island was briefly a thriving resort and later site of an ill-fated hemp factory. For something else to do, see the sights at the old Indian mounds surrounding the Randell Research Center in the Pineland district. The Calusa Indians inhabited this area for centuries before the Spanish came here in the early 1500s. Stretch your legs on the Calusa Heritage Trail, where you’ll find informative signage regarding the Calusas.
The only way to get to Matlacha was by water until 1927 when the first of three bridges were built.
If you’re in search of some sun, sand and water sports, take the ferry to nearby Cayo Costa.
For your stay in Matlacha, consider renting a traditional waterfront cottage or an island time bungalow. There are also other options such as a regular tiny, colorful home or the Matlacha Cove Inn or the Bridgewater inn.
William is the Managing Editor at FloridaInsider.com. His years of experience in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia include roles as a Writer and Web Producer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science and Communication.