Pine Island Quick Trips
"Plenty of fun activities await, from the MangoMania Festival to kayaking under a full moon to touring an Indian mound."
Paddle ‘neath the Moon: Kayak by the full moon or hit Matlacha Aquatic Preserve at sunset. Since all of the guides at Gulf Coast Kayak Company (239-283-1125), Matlacha, are naturalists and kayak instructors, it’s the perfect experience for nature-lovers and paddlers of all abilities.
Tell Lies: Fishermen make some of the liveliest drinking companions, and at funky Bert’s Bar (239-282-3232), Matlacha, the only dress code seems to be those white rubber boots endearingly dubbed “Pine Island Reeboks." Great wings and water views add to the attraction.
Dig a Lost Civilization: Join archaeologists from Gainesville’s Florida Museum of Natural History as they excavate or do a Saturday tour of the Randell Research Center (239-283-2062), Pineland, and its erstwhile Calusa Indians settlement, mound and canal system.
DIY Tomatoes: Lee County is blessed with two tomato crops each year. Collect your own, ripened to juicy sweetness by the semi-tropical sun, at U-Pick spots in Fort Myers and Pine Island.
Slurp on a Mango: Pine Island is home to the MangoMania festival every July, but mangoes are just the beginning. The island commercially grows guavas, longans, lychees, sapodillas, jak fruit and a variety of other rare fruits you can pick up at local fruit stands.
Look for Fins and Snouts: Each day brings new surprises when you set sail on a nature cruise. Some tours cast seine nets to introduce visitors to tiny creatures from the sea. Others go in search of dolphins, manatees and birds where they live.
Follow Ancient Trails: Paddle your way from one end of the county to the other along the Great Calusa Blueway (239-461-7400), a marked and GPS-plotted coastal waterways trail named for a native tribe that covers 190 miles.
Captain Your Own Destiny: Or at least your own salty, exciting day riding the waves: Rent a powerboat from one of the local marinas. Explore secluded beaches, visit uninhabited islands and cast for your fantasy fish.