Pine Island: A Snowbird’s Paradise
We’ve been in Florida for two months already this winter. We decided to spend a lot of our time here because…
- Liz hates the cold and Florida is oh so warm!
- Simply put; we can. We have the time freedom to be where we want working and living from the comfort of our RV, so why not spend it with friends, family, and in a beautiful environment?
- The most important reason: we welcomed our very first niece to the family around Thanksgiving time.
One of the best parts of full time travel and living on an RV is being able to visit family all across the state or country. It was a totally blessing to be able to be there for the birth, and then celebrate the holidays with the new addition to the family. We spent over one full month in St. Pete (where Liz’s family and new niece was) which never would have been possible before making the switch to RV life and getting out of our 9 to 5 jobs. After my sister, brother-in-law, and niece went back to the Florida Keys (their current home), we decided we would head down to southwest Florida to visit Liz’s aunt and uncle at their home in Bookelia, Florida. They live in a tropical paradise on Pine Island. The island itself is the size of Manhattan, and has just about 10,000 residents year round. It’s a quirky, eclectic beach town (although there are no public beaches on the island), that operates at it’s a slower pace, and loves anything related to nature and the water. Fishing isn’t just a hobby here, it’s a way of life. We initially were going to visit for just a few days but decided to extend our stay to a week after realizing how heavenly it was! We thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with Liz’s family and to learn more about this unique island. Take a look at the video to see all we did and learned.
Matlacha (Mat-la-shay) is the town you pass on your way to Pine Island and will amaze you with it’s bright colors, fun restaurants, fish markets, and beautiful art galleries. It feels like a mini-key west without the loud noises, foul odors, and party hard bars (which was very welcomed). My Aunt Bab’s is a local artist. Although she has since retired, in her hay day, she sold her art work in many of these galleries. We spent a very windy but sunny day walking around admiring the various galleries and enjoyed breakfast at a very popular local favorite, The Perfect Cup. I can’t say it was the “perfect” cup of coffee but it was a darn good meal and we loved their coffee bar!
There are a ton of extremely talented artists in this island. Maybe it’s the slower pace of the town and beautiful surroundings that inspire such talented people to move here? Either way, if you’re looking for unique art (especially Florida artwork) Matlacha is a one stop shop that will bring you endless options!
Much of Pine Island is protected land, so more or less it’s a safe haven for Florida native animals. The bald eagle population is thriving on the island and we had several people tell us where you could peek at nest! On our explorations, we saw Florida fish like snook and tarpon. A ton of Florida birds, like red-bellied woodpeckers, osprey (they are always eating a fish), blue herons, ibis, pelicans, seagulls, hawks, owls, and white egret. I also just want to mention natural Florida is just incredible! Dennis did a wonderful job capturing the beauty to share with you all!
My uncle also works for the county and helps with land management and the parks system so he is extremely knowledgable on the plant and habitat of the area. He took us to Randall Research center which has the Calusa Indian Tribe Mounds. He walked us around explaining a ton of interesting history about the Calusa people, in addition to pointing out native plants! It was like having our own private park guide – Thanks Jim!
We attempted to go to the Pine Island Pier to capture the sunset, but were kicked off the dock 10 minutes in. We didn’t want to pay to watch the sunset, so we opted for a beer and pie (we all know that’s better anyways) at the restaurant across the street, Captain Con’s. They make their desserts in house and have a wide selection of delectable pies!
During our stay we ventured into Ft. Meyers which is about 45 minutes from Pine Island to visit the Henry Ford and Thomas Edison Winter Estate. While it was a bit spendy for us (around $25 per person), we loved the audio tour and estate and are so glad we did it! What a beautiful place to have called home. Edison and Ford knew what outdoor living really meant. I loved their wrap around porches, big open windows that let in the gorgeous Florida sunlight and breeze, and incredible ocean vistas. They spent January – March here, researching, inventing, relaxing, and spending quality time with family and guests.
Henry Ford’s home was next door to the Edison estate, slightly smaller and classic Florida home.
There are so many fantastic trees in South Florida. Fig and Banyan trees were brought to South Florida from India in order for Edison to do research on latex. One of his biggest research goals when he was at the winter estate was to find the best possible source for creating rubber, the warmer tropical climate of southwest Florida allowed the trees to be transplanted and flourish here. The enormous fig tree (pictured on the right) was at his property and is massive in size! There are hundreds of these trees all over his estate. The strangler fig (pictured on the left) is a parasitic tree. It’s roots take over a host tree and eventually overpower it for sun growing up and over the original tree it latched onto. You can almost always identify a strangler fig because it will have another tree randomly “inside” or attached to it. The one below has a palm tree in the center of it!
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with my family and learning more about Southern Florida. If you’ve visited Pine Island or would like to comment on anything we shared today we’d love to hear from you! Comment below.