Our trip started rather early on this beautiful morning in SW Florida. The skies are a bright pastel blue with sparsely scattered white puffy clouds. The temperature is hovering around 87 degrees with moderate humidity and a slight breeze coming out of the west over the Gulf waters. The boat we are taking is a 21 foot Sea Hunt with a Yamaha 150 outboard motor. The boat is equipped with a shaded center console with full instrumentation display, a GPS and VHF Radio. In front is seating for four people upright or two stretched out for sun bathing. Mid-stern has two seats. One for the captain and one for his first mate. We shoved off around 9:30 in the morning with fishing poles, a cooler filled with refreshments and a free spirited attitude. The skipper charted his destination and piloted the vessel towards open waters. Cape Coral has over 400 miles of canals. We only have to maneuver our way through a couple of miles of them. These intertwining waterways are shored with a variety of homes that are picture perfect. As we leave Lake Chadora, which is fed by canal water, we sat back and admired some of the beautiful landscapes that line the shores. Nearly all the homes have docks with Tiki huts and waterside swimming pools. Most of the homes have outside living space that are caged in with a very fine screen to keep out the bugs, which are plentiful especially around the water. Some of these homes can be very elaborate like the one pictured right. This three story Matlacha Island home provides fabulous views from every floor. The flower pots that hang over the white railings give it a real homey feel. We cruised slowly through the canals, which post “No Wake Zone” signs. We passed under a bridge and are now entering the channel that leads us to our destination. The waterway’s shoreline that we are traveling through is peppered with restaurants, watering holes and lush foliage. The channel(s) this time of day is rushing fairly quickly with incoming seawater. The tide can create a strong current and makes it a little difficult to dock. The passing terrain gives us a look at nature’s marriage between water and shoreline. Most of the vegetation is mangroves that are protected by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. The maritime establishment’s wooden dockage provides free parking for patrons who arrive by boat. Miceli’s Restaurant (picture, left) is an island favorite for food, beverage and live music. The Island Café on the Bay (pictured, right) currently has very limited dock space. Eventually they will build more liquid parking spaces for the passersby who want to stop in and enjoy a refreshing beverage and/or snack. We cruised past the watering holes and out to Matlacha Pass. The drawbridge connects Matlacha Island to another smaller locally known island before crossing over to Pine Island. The drawbridge is quiet this time of the day. It is the off season and boat traffic is minimal at best. We passed underneath the bridge and navigated to the other side of the pass. Bert’s Bar (pictured, upper-right) is another iconic establishment on the sparsely populated island (under a 1,000 residents). In or out of season, Bert’s is always busy with locals and vacationers alike enjoying the bay views. There are also a few home grown hotels like the one shown left – a bit rustic but very quaint and traditional. The laid back island spirit is alive and well with small boutique shops, restaurants and out-of-the way coves to help you forget about the world’s woes. Dream away while sitting under a shady palm tree and enjoying the cool Gulf breeze. We took a few spins around the bay and crossed back over to the west side of the pass. We anchored off and then relaxed for about a half hour taking in the sights and enjoying the calming waters and blue sky. There is a smaller island that sits just west of Matlacha. Its uniqueness can been seen all along its shore. The bright pastel mosaic colored cottages standout like a pink Cadillac in a sea of black limos waiting for their elitist passengers.
The day started to heat up with the rise in humidity, which leads to afternoon showers coming off the warm Gulf water. We began making the trek back through the channel and eventually to the connecting canals. On our way back to homeport, we spotted one of Florida’s most prestigious birds. Ospreys are magnificent raptors that nest around water and feed on the fish they claw from below its surface.
We made it back before the rain producing clouds relieved their drenching contents. Add that with up to one hundred mile an hour winds and you can get a brief idea what a hurricane is all about. You don’t want to be caught on the water during one of these horrific squalls.
There is no need to travel all the way to the Florida Keys for the whole family to enjoy a great vacation. Matlacha offers plenty of water sports, restaurants and crafty shops. Alongside these amenities are neighboring Pine Island and NW & SW Cape Coral. Experiencing Matlacha in comparison to many of Florida’s award winning destinations makes its budget friendly and must visit location.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographer: Anthony Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper
A special thanks to our skipper, pictured right, who guided us through the day’s adventure