or years, Lee County's coastlines and barrier islands have drawn visitors to the southern end of Florida's Gulf Coast. You've probably walked the beautiful beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, the region's most popular destinations. But have you ever dropped your line with Matlacha fishermen off the World's Fishingest Bridge at sunset? Have you ever snoozed beneath the mangroves at Lovers Key State Park, or glimpsed a heron gracefully circling Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary? You may think you know the Lee Island Coast, but do you know its secrets?
Locals call Matlacha (pronounced "MAT-luh-shay") a state of mind. The tiny community on Pine Island sits roughly 15 miles from downtown Fort Myers and easily a generation from the rest of the Sunshine State. No beach here. No condos. No chain restaurants. "Once you go over the bridge, you feel like you're entering another world," says artist and resident Leoma Lovegrove.