Duck out of the midday sun for lunch at Bert's Bar & Grill, a classic burger shack sitting right on the water. Start with either the house specialty of fried smelt ($3.95) or a dozen fried clams ($6.95). The seafood is good, but you have to try the juicy, half-pound cheeseburger ($5.75), served with homemade potato chips.
Set Your Watch to Island Time
"In a place like Matlacha, what you see is what you get," says Osi McCarney, who with husband Steve owns the Bridge Water Inn. A sign at the inn eloquently displays one definite reality: "This is where island time begins." The modest waterfront motel offers basic accommodations, from small rooms without cooking facilities ($59 per night) to furnished, bayfront efficiency suites ($119). You can even reserve a two-bedroom cottage ($129). Rent fishing equipment from Osi for $7 a day, and try your luck just outside your room's door or on the Matlacha Bridge, which is touted as the World's Fishingest Bridge.
Mornings are especially peaceful at Bridge Water, with pelicans perching on pylons nearby, occasionally diving in the glassy
bay for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, stop by Mulletville Restaurant for an old-fashioned stack of pancakes ($3.95).
On your way off the island, stop by Planét's Gourmet Pickles, 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.