PINE ISLAND'S BEST KEPT SECRET
About The Island
Pine Island (in Lee County) is the largest island (17 miles long and 2 miles wide) on the west coast of Florida, just 15-20 minutes from Cape Coral, 30 minutes from Ft. Myers and one hour from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). Pine Island's secluded, quaint and "country waterfront" atmosphere is a huge part of its charm. Fringed with mangroves rather than white sand beaches, Pine Island has escaped the concrete, blacktop and skyscrapers found in the more touristy, beachy communities. Current legislation prohibits high density, high-rise development in the foreseeable future . . . designed to preserve our unique, rural island heritage for generations to come.
Florida and Pine Island rose from the receding seas some 24 million years ago. While it is not known when man first arrived on our island, skeletal remains have been unearthed dating back some 6,000 years.The Calusa Indian civilization had its cultural center in Southwest Florida, with many shell mounds discovered on Pine Island. Other mound sites were located in the Charlotte Harbor area to the North and extending down to the Ten Thousand Islands near the Everglades. An important, periodically-worked, archeological site is located in Pineland on the northwest edge of Pine Island. The Randell Research Center (below) offers tours and information and is located next to the Pineland post office.
It is likely that the Calusas inhabited Pine Island until 1513 when it is believed that Ponce de Leon landed on the west side of the island. The Spanish skirmished with the Calusas and imported serious, European diseases to which the natives had little immunity. By 1750, the Calusa culture had vanished, leaving behind only shell mounds and empty villages. Except for occasional pirates or fishermen, Pine Island was basically uninhabited until 1873 when a Russian sailor named Captain John Smith arrived after having survived a hurricane on nearby Punta Rassa. He decided that Pine Island would be a safer haven against future storms since it was protected from the Gulf of Mexico by the outer islands of Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa. Other settlers followed and they, too, lived off the substantial bounty of the sea, while beginning to develop the beautiful, island paradise that we now enjoy.
When you come to Pine Island, be sure to visit our Museum of The Islands Historical Society (MOTI) where you will find a wealth of information on the Calusas and our early pioneers. You will also find other historical writings and pictures detailing the challenging way of life of the commercial fishermen who will always be proudly remembered for the significant contribution that they made as part of Pine Island's heritage. The Museum is located near Pine Island Center on Sesame Drive, next to the library building.
Pine Island consists of Matlacha (Mat-la-shay), Pine Island Center, Bokeelia (Bo-keel-ya), Pineland and St. James City. Each community treasures its own distinctive ambiance.
Matlacha looks like an "old Florida" fishing village ("Matlacha Spoken Here"). It also has a growing collection of art galleries, gift and islandwear shops and boutiques, seafood restaurants, small motels and cottages. The drawbridge over Matlacha Pass is known as the "Fishingest Bridge in the World," with anglers customarily fishing the bridge, night and day, in all kinds of weather (mostly sunny). There are plenty of bait and tackle suppliers and two full-service marinas that also rent boats, Olde Fish House Marina and Viking Marina.
Pineland, one of the main sites of Calusa Indian mounds, boasts one of the country's smallest Post Office buildings (at left) and provides us with the island's only golf course at Alden Pines Country Club. It is also site of Pineland Marina, a full-service marina. There are several water taxi, fishing charter and boat rentals services based at the marina, including the "Tropic Star" Cruiseboat.
St. James City is Pine Island's most developed area with about two thirds of the island's population.
| Most of its homes are located on canals with direct access to Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The canals at the southern tip of Pine Island are also home to Bob and Annie's Boatyard, York Road Marina and Fishin' Fever Marina.
Bokeelia is homeport for many of the island's commercial fishermen and the site of several historic buildings. Fishing charter services, boat rentals and water taxi services are also available at Four Winds Marina. In addition, the Useppa Island Shoreport is located at the Bocilla Island Club Marina.
Bokeelia is also the primary location of many of Pine Island's thriving, subtropical agribusinesses featuring mangoes, pineapples, citrus, row crops and a wide variety of exotic tropical fruits including the carambola, longan, papaya, lychee and loquat.
Pine Island Center is the only completely off-water community and the hub of the island's commercial activity. It "harbors" the main shopping center, a community park with pool, lighted tennis courts and ballfields, Pine Island Elementary School, the Museum of The Islands, a modern library, medical and dental offices and the island's main fire station, complete with EMS rescue and medical support services.
Fishing & Boating
Nature & Wild Life
Pine Island's fishing heritage has supported generations of island families. Sport fishermen long ago, also discovered the abundance of finny creatures in Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay, Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.
The sport of tarpon fishing originated in Pine Island Sound in the late 1880s. Boca Grande Pass (just 20 minutes across Pine Island Sound from Bokeelia) is considered the "Tarpon Capital of the World." Other popular game fish are snook, redfish, seatrout, grouper, snapper, cobia, mackerel, barracuda, blacktip shark, sheepshead, seabass and many others.
Until you know Pine Island's estuaries and the feeding preferences and habits of our local fish population, you might want to consider doing a few charter trips with a fishing guide. Choose half-day or all-day, offshore, inshore, back-bay (even saltwater fly) fishing. Catching fish is guaranteed! If you like "Fish'nTrips", you'll love Pine Island! By the way, summertime "fishin' is easy" and there's more of it to enjoy, mainly because you don't have to deal with the occasional windy days of downtime that occur from January into March during winter season. So come on down for a less crowded and less costly vacation or fishing extravaganza. (See MORE INFORMATION FOR YOU at the end of these DISCOVER PINE ISLAND Community Pages.)
While Pine Island beaches are limited to minimal, young-children-oriented, wading beaches
| "the scenic boat ride to an outer island beach" is considered by many to be, "the most glorious 15 to 30 minutes of the day!" From either end of the island, St. James City or Bokeelia, that's all it takes to reach the renowned beaches of our barrier islands: Sanibel, Captiva, Upper Captiva and Cayo Costa (a Florida State Park). No waiting in long lines of traffic, no parking fees, no crowds . . . and the passing parade of seabirds and graceful dolphins is unsurpassed! You may use your own boat, one of many water-taxi services, or a tour or cruiseboat to accomplish your mission, be it fishing, beaching, shelling, sealife and seabird watching, nature loving or just enjoyable, relaxing or refreshing and passive transportation.
Since the subject of boating encompasses sailing and cruising, we feel we would be remiss if we did not leave you with a favorite excerpt from Claiborne Young's Cruising Guide to Southwest Florida: "You could literally spend weeks exploring Pine Island Sound alone and still not exhaust all the possibilities. Secluded anchorages, good marinas, historic inns with fabulous dining, deserted, white sand beaches, beautiful state parks . . . well, the list could go on and on, but perhaps you are beginning to get the idea. There is no other portion of the Western Florida coastline that combines, in such delightful measure, the fortunate qualities of ready accessibility and fabulous, often unpopulated cruising grounds as does the stretch between the Caloosahatchee River and Gasparilla Island! Get ready for a genuine cruising treat!" Pine Island is truly a Fishing and Boating Paradise!|
Pine Island's remote and natural environment is home to many varieties of exotic and tropical wildlife. There are more than eighteen, active American bald eagle nesting sites whose residents are often seen soaring through Pine Island's sunny (maybe 350 days a year) skies. Other island birds include the osprey, heron, roseate spoonbill, endangered wood stork, egret, brown and white pelicans, pileated woodpecker, ibis plus the usual array of hawks, owls and songbirds.
Area waterways hold endangered manatees (the gentle giants also known as sea-cows), sea otters,
| sea turtles and the rolling dolphins, often seen "surfing" our many canals in search of their daily supply of sashimi (without rice) or sushi (we are told, "that comes with the rice!")
Nature and wildlife, as well as the environment, are protected on Pine Island by the island's largest organization, the Calusa Land Trust and Nature Preserve of Pine Island, Inc. With over 800 members, the Trust is a local, non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization devoted to protecting the natural diversity and beauty of Pine Island. It does so by acquiring and preserving in perpetuity, environmentally sensitive, native Pine Island habitats.
What To Do?
While Pine Island automatically provides for superb, passive enjoyment and relaxation, it is also a great place for interactivity and exploring. Enjoy kayaking in the sheltered waters of Matlacha Pass and the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve. Maneuver (or womaneuver) your own canoe through Jug Creek. Camp out at several island facilities or head for those across the sound at Cayo Costa Island State Park (accessible only by boat). Fish off the Matlacha Drawbridge. Hire a fishing guide and let him
| or her "do the driving" and "guarantee" to find you some nice, fresh fish! Enjoy an invigorating trip on one of the many water-taxis, or cruise/tourboats to the islands of Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa. Stop for luncheon at the islands of Cabbage Key, Captiva, Sanibel or Upper Captiva. On Pine Island, check out the local shops, dine and relax at a number of local, waterfront or off-water eateries and restaurants, specializing in fresh seafood, served up with a casual, low-key, islandish atmosphere.|
Destination: Island Lifestyle: Relaxed
Sales Center open every day 11-5 PM
Located off Stringfellow Road about 2 Miles from Pine Island Road, Entrance on Left
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