This tiny town is always on island time.

By Caroline Rogers
March 20, 2018

Say it with us: Matlacha. One more time: MATT-la-SHAY. This tiny South Florida town (and island—they share the name) is beloved by locals. It's a sunny escape located on the Gulf Coast between Fort Meyers and Pine Island, and it gets better every year. Southerners-in-the-know across the region treasure this well-kept secret spot for laid-back vacations, quirky local institutions, and the palpable ease of island time.

Adventures Galore

If adventure is what you're seeking, you'll find plenty of it in Matlacha. There's fun to be had in the water and on land: Run the trail around Matlacha Community Park, plan a picnic, and find a rental at Carmen's Kayaks or Kayak Charters and take to the waves. There are plenty of places on the island to launch your kayak or cast a fishing line. Check out Captain Jack Boat Tours, Mangrove Paddling Company, and Angling Adventures of Southwest Florida for more help planning your outdoor excursions.

Island Eats

As you travel over Matlacha Pass Bridge (also known as "The Fishingest Bridge in the World") and drive through town, you'll see Bert's Bar & Grill, Olde Fish House Marina, Pizza Bella, and Blue Dog Bar & Grill, all spots where you can sit down and enjoy a casual meal just a stone's throw from the water. For dessert, stop into Great Licks Ice Cream shop for a cone to go—you can enjoy it while you watch the sunset. ­

Arts Aplenty

Matlacha has become an artistic hub, and at the center of it is the lime green headquarters of Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. Stop in to browse the extraordinary wares of the Lovegrove studio and gift shop. You're sure to find something that will catch your eye. Nearby are other vibrant spots—Wildchild Art Gallery and Matlacha Menagerie among them—that will keep you inspired.

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Because there's so much to do and see in this small Southern town, it's no surprise that it was voted one of the South's Best Tiny Towns this year. What are your favorite tiny Southern towns?