Hidden Jewels of the Lee Island Coast
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.
On your way off the island, stop by Planét's Gourmet Pickles (pictured), owner Champ Planét's (pronounced "plah-NAY") miniature storefront, to sample award-winning salsas, pickles, and chutneys. The Prince of Pickledom learned the art of pickling without preservatives, chemicals, or flavor enhancers from his grandparents.
"This is America's beach," says a visitor from Michigan. "Just dig in with your shovel, and you know you'll find something." After scampering for the perfect shells, doze beneath the shade-giving mangroves.
If all that rest works up an appetite, try the Grilled Grouper Sandwich ($8.95) at Doc's Beach House, not too far away in Bonita Springs. Continue enjoying the Lee County sunshine at one of their tables right on the beach.
For more information: Contact the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, 1-888-231-6933 or www.fortmyerssanibel.com.
This article is from the May 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.