Pine Island Florida is in a unique location. To get there you drive across two islands and three bridges, or come by boat. It’s separated from the Gulf of Mexico by Pine Island Sound and barrier islands. It’s the largest island off the Southwestern coast of Florida. It’s not on the coast, and it’s not on the mainland. It’s sandwiched in between.
There aren’t many reasons to visit Pine Island. Once through Matlacha, it’s wise to pull into Sandy Hook restaurant’s parking lot, turn around, and head back.
Little Pine Island
Before reaching Pine Island you’ll drive through Little Pine Island. It’s an uninhabited wetland reserve. There are trails open to the public, but they’re not worth walking. The island was once covered with invasive melaleuca. The trees have been removed, but the island’s nutrients went with them. As a result, what should be a lush island appears strangely barren. It’s recovering, and will recover eventually, but for now, there’s little to see.
What’s on Pine Island, and What’s not
You’ll come to the four way stop that’s the busiest intersection on the 18 mile long Island. It’s the busiest because it’s the only road on and off the island. Make a right and you’re driving to Bokeelia. Turn left, and you’re heading to St. James City. Either way you’ll end up by the water.
There is one place of interest. The Calusa Heritage Trail. It’s an archaeological site that includes ridiculously large shell mounds created by the Indians that once lived here. This civilized tribe mysteriously disappeared shortly after Europeans arrived. If you’re on the island, it’s a beautiful location worth seeing, even if you’re not into the archaeology.
There are no real beaches on Pine Island. Most of its coast is mangroves. As the crow flies, beaches are close, and they’re not much farther by boat. But, it’s at least an hour drive to a real beach.
In Summer, many of those beaches may be affected by Red Tide. Red tide is an algae that in high enough concentrations will kill fish, turtles, and dolphin. It may also cause respiratory problems for some people. In 2018, it has left nearby beaches littered with dead, smelly fish. Polluted water from the Caloosahatchee River has also caused nauseating problems for the southern part of Pine Island. Some of the canals in St. James City have been blanketed with rotting fish. These two problems have been growing. Many long time residents say this is by far the worse it’s ever been. It’s an expanding environmental and economic disaster that may continue to spread and intensify. Make sure you’re up to date on the situation if you plan on visiting here in summer. Definitely, if you’re considering moving to this area.
The drive time varies greatly, depending on the season. In summer there’s no traffic. During season it clogs up in Matlacha. All of Pine Island Road becomes stop and go through Matlacha and the two mile width of Little Pine Island. It happens again on the eastern side of Matlacha when returning.
It may take a long time to drive off the island, and there’s not much on the island. This contributes to the isolated feel of the place. Between the northern and southern ends, it looks like rural, inland Florida, instead of a subtropical island. There’s a lot of agriculture, nurseries, fruit trees and a few cattle.
The frost free climate is great for growing tropical plants. It’s also great for growing mosquitoes and no-see-ums. Spraying controls the mosquitoes most of the time. Not much can be done about the no-see-ums. In many parts of the island, people don’t venture out at dawn or dusk without some form of protection from biting insects.
Living on Pine Island
Pine Island FL is an address the people living there are proud to have. It’s a close knit community with good people willing to help each other. They share a love of the simple pleasures of life and a laid back lifestyle. It works for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth visiting. There are far more exciting places in Florida.
Pine Island Florida