Are you looking for a colorful, offbeat adventure in Florida? Pack your bags and head south to Matlacha (pronounced MATT-luh-SHAY), where you’ll find a small coastal village full of charming attractions. It’s home to less than 700 residents and is perfect for those looking for a quiet getaway, where you can spend your time browsing candy-colored shops, technicolor botanical gardens and vibrant pieces of art from local free-spirited artists.
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Nestled near the Gulf of Mexico just west of Fort Myers, it’s hard to resist Matlacha’s small town and chill island vibes, where it’s landscape includes little wooden houses painted in an array of tropical hues. You won’t find any stop lights on the single two-lane road that passes through the town, but there are plenty of worthy attractions to explore.
Get acquainted with the city at the Museum Of The Islands (MOTI) with its exhibits that showcase the history of the area through historic photos, hop in a kayak and explore the mangrove islands in Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, then spend time admiring local artwork in the WildChild Art Gallery and Leoma Lovegrove’s Gallery and Garden. After you’ve done your sightseeing, head to the bridge to spot dolphins patrolling the waterways.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, indulge in flaky fresh fish at Sandy Hook Fish & Rib House on the water or head to Blue Dog Bar & Grill for cracked conch, crunchy blue crab cakes and calamari. If you’re looking for a pleasant evening of live music, head to Bert’s Bar & Grill to enjoy a cold drink with sunset views on the water.
For a different perspective, head over to Pine Island. History enthusiasts can marvel at the remnant Indian mounds that surround the Randell Research Center and imagine what life was like centuries ago before the arrival of Spain in the early 1500s. Stretch your legs on the Calusa Heritage Trail, where you’ll find informative signage regarding the Calusa Indians. If you’re in search of some sun, sand and water sports, take the ferry to nearby Cayo Costa.