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Matlacha Isles & Pine Island: A Funky Art Community in Fort Myers, FL

This post was written before Sanibel, Captiva, and parts of the surrounding area were absolutely blasted by Hurricane Ian in September 2022. While the intention is to rebuild, the causeway has been fixed, and the island is expected to begin opening to tourism in January 2023, things are not “back to normal” and likely won’t be for a long time. If you’re planning to visit the area, make sure to do plenty of research to find out what’s open, what’s available and what’s just not even there anymore. 

If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary to do as a quick day trip from Fort Myers, I’ve got just the thing for you. 

On my last trip to the Fort Myers area, I finally crossed off something that’s been on my “must do” list for a while…Matlacha Isles. I’d been seeing pictures from this colorful fishing village turned art community pop up from more and more travel bloggers (I’m guessing the visitor’s bureau has been pushing it hard ; ) so I wanted to check it out for myself. 

While Matlacha and Pine Island are only a stone’s throw from Captiva Island (just north of Sanibel), if you’re traveling by car it’s a bit of a drive (about an hour), but from downtown Fort Myers it’s only about 30 minutes. 

I knew Matlacha wasn’t very big, but when I drove through the first time I was still kind of surprised. It was also really crowded so I actually just kept driving and decided to see Pine Island and stop at Matlacha on the way back through. 

I drove all the way to the north end of Pine Island to Bokeelia and it was very cute! There’s a fishing pier and a restaurant and you MUST stop at the Bokeelia Art Gallery. Besides plenty of art, they also had some amazing jewelry. 

We then drove all the way south on the island, but there wasn’t really as much to see down there. By this time we were ready for a late lunch so we headed back to Matlacha and found a place to park near the Blue Dog Bar & Grill.

This was one of the best meals I had on this trip! It’s a laid back Florida kind of place, but with a very fresh and local concept (Miami chef, gets write ups in the paper, etc.). 

If stone crab is in season then you HAVE to get it. This is about as close to the place that they catch it that you can eat it in Florida. We also had the crab cakes (fried-use the mustard sauce from the stone crab) and probably the best key lime pie I’ve had anywhere. 

RELATED: Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers

Luminary Hotel & Co in Downtown Fort Myers Review

A Visit to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Cayo Costa Shelling Tours with Captiva Cruises

The Best Sanibel Island Tennis Resorts

And then we spent some time walking through town and going through the different galleries. One one side of the street were mostly shops (and not really the kinds of things I’m into) and on the other side were mostly galleries. 

The Leona Lovegrove gallery was probably my favorite. The art garden in the back was pretty cool. 

Everything in the town is very colorful and it’s cute, but I’m not sure that it’s a “must see” destination. But if you’re in the area and you like to go for a drive (pretty much one of my favorite things to do), then it makes a nice little half day trip from Fort Myers. Especially if you do lunch at Blue Dog. 

More posts about the area:

Sanibel vs Marco Island

Sanibel vs Captiva

The Best Shelling Beaches on Sanibel

Sanibel Restaurant Recommendations: What I Liked & What I Didn’t

Shopping on Sanibel: A Must Visit Bookstore & Cute Boutiques

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