PINE ISLAND FLORIDA
PINE ISLAND is located west of Fort Myers and is an inner island between the mainland and the famous beach resorts of Sanibel and Captiva Island. With few natural beaches, the large island developed small farms in the interior and fishing villages with quick access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Even with recent large scale developments and apartments, Pine Island’s distinctive location give it an underdeveloped, isolated feel. Protected from tropical storms made the area ideal to the first fishermen in the region, the Indians including the powerful Calusa tribe.
The only entrance to the island is along FL 78 and Pine Island Road. Once crosses three interior island along “the fishingest bridge in the world.” Considering the abundance of fishing craft and marinas, it is no shock that (1) MATLACHA (a Creek name for “defender”) is a colorful fishing village, lined with dozens of docks and filled with boats. Along the islands are several historic fishing camps dating from the 1940’s.
(2) PINE ISLAND CENTER has several shopping centers, the island’s main library, and the Phillips Recreation Center. All of this is mainly due to the town’s location in the center of the large island. The town started in 1940 when Tom Phillips opened a store. Head down Russell Road toward the library to see the MUSEUM OF THE ISLANDS, a small history museum packed with shell collections, Indian and agricultural artifacts, and tributes to the fishing industry.
Head north toward Bokeelia, the fishing port on the north tip, but turn west on Pineland to (4) PINELAND started as a lumber town in 1885. There are some old houses like the CLOISTERS (1925) and some cabins where labor union leader John L. Lewis stayed.
The real attraction at (3) PINELAND is the CALUSA HERITAGE TRAIL and research center. In 1897 famed archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing began to examine the Calusa temple mounds along the bay. He discovered twelve foot conch shell walls and a canal system that crossed the island. When you realize that coastal Florida is flat as a pancake, you realize you are looking at dozens of mounds.
Pine Island has many Calusa villages. The Calusa Heritage Trail is a 3,700 foot walkway.
Part of Cash Mound middens. Remains of Calusa canals are everywhere.
A house on an Indian mound. Maybe the mound once looked like this.
BOKEELIA (4) is a small fishing village which has boats charter boats and tours that go into Charlotte Harbor and the state park at Cayo Costa Island. The town started in 1904 when H> W. Martin opened a restaurant and hotel whose piers can still be seen. Walk around the few shops and you see the 1916 PETER HEINS CAPTAIN HOUSE with the widow walk and the 1904 restaurant, usually a seafood place.
The Pineland Post Office.
Driving south from Pine Island Center, there is still lots of space between subdivisions. Maris Drive leads west to (5) DEMERE KEY, a private island which is mostly Calusa mound (600-1000 AD) and the site of Phil DeGraff’s SEA GRAPE LODGE (1954). Another mound island is off Galt Island Road. (6) GALT ISLAND, once owned by John Price, is an archeological village site open to tour on some occasions.
At the southern tip of Pine Island is the marina-rich coastline of (7) SAINT JAMES CITY, started in 1873 as John Smith’s fishing port. In 1885 a large resort hotel San Carlos was here, but today visitors will have to be satisfied with beautiful sunsets, an old school and post office, and lots of colorful dockside restaurants and boats.
St James Episcopal Church