It’s hard being the stepping stone on the way to somewhere else but the residents of Matlacha have found a way to make that work. The have taken their little island between the mainland on the West Coast of Florida at Punta Gorda and Pine Island which wraps around Pine Island Sound and turned it into a tiny arts village.
The flat one-story buildings that line State Road 78 have been painted in a rainbow of wild colors that house artists and artisans along with food and fancy for every taste. There are several good seafood restaurants, clothing stories and, off the main drag, small houses and traditional Florida cottages bumping up on a network of canals leading out the sound.
It’s definitely worth a stop on the way out to Cabbage Key or Cayo Costa by way of water taxi from Pine Island. Heck, it’s worth a trip all by itself.
Want some homemade ice cream? You can find it. Jewelry from simple silver to elaborate gold and gemstones? That, too. Every colorful door leads to another batch of interesting and fun items from locally made hot and spicy mango jelly and custom outdoor mats to a life-sized alligator carved from a large tree trunk.
But the real attraction is the artwork —paintings, photographs, drawings and sculpture in styles ranging from ultra realism to completely abstract. Some of the galleries represent several artists and some are owned and operated by a single artist. There’s an artist who carves on old piano keys and one whose work draws almost all its inspiration from John Lennon.
Make sure to set aside at least a couple of hours to make the rounds and discover your own quirky treasures.
Pronounced MAT-la-shay, the island gets its name from the Calusa and means water to the chin. The island of around 1,000 people is definitely laid back and living on island time.
And if you want to send an unusual postcard to friends afar, several of the galleries will post a coconut to any U.S. address. Some will even let you paint the coconut before dropping it into the mailbox.
Click here for an added review of a good place to eat
© Copyright 2012: text Sue Harrison; photos Sue Harrison and Lee Brock for MyOldFlorida.com.