Matlacha, Florida: The Most Creative Little Town In The Sunshine State

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On my little Florida road trip in January we did a loop from Tampa to Everglades City and back.  On the way back, we stopped in Matlacha, Florida for a couple of hours on our way to Sarasota. 

I have no idea how I found out about this little island but I’m guessing Google Maps and then a Google search.

First we had to find somewhere to park, which was, uhh, not easy.  At all.  It was a very busy island with a lot of traffic and a lot of already parked cars. 

Plus, a lot of the streets just don’t allow parking because they’re residential, which is totally understandable.  Eventually, we found a spot not too far from the galleries which is what we were most interested in.

Matlacha Florida
Matlacha Florida

We visited all of the galleries on the main street including the Lovegrove Gallery and Gardens and the Wild Child Gallery.  There are a few shops right in this area, too, that are kind of shop/gallery. 

The art style on the island is pretty specific and not quite what we’re interested in, but it was still fun to wander around and look at everything.

The Leoma Lovegrove Gallery is full of her own art and so is the little garden backyard.  I definitely like the outside art a lot more, but it’s all so fun. 

The Wild Child Gallery next door includes art made by the owner as well as over 100 artists from around Florida.  How cool is that!?  I definitely liked Wild Child a lot more but both were great to walk through.

Matlacha Florida

All of the art is incredibly colorful and it perfectly matches the colors on all the buildings and houses, which does make the experience a lot of fun. 

I think it could be fun to spend a night here and do some kayaking in the mangroves around the island.  Even if you just have a couple of hours, it’s worth a stop to see such a unique little town.

What is Matlacha, Florida?

Matlacha (pronounced Matt-LaShay) is a little fishing town on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Lee County.  It’s full of colorful art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cute little houses. 

You get to this tiny island by taking the “fishingest bridge in the U.S.A.” over Matlacha Pass.  The waters below are dotted with tiny green islands.

Matlacha Florida

Where is Matlacha, Florida?

Matlacha, Florida is on the west coast of the state, an hour and sixteen minutes from Sarasota, fifty minutes from Sanibel, and just twenty four minutes from Fort Myers.  It makes a great day trip from any of these places or as a stop between them.

Matlacha Florida

What is there to do in Matlacha, Florida?

While it’s a tiny little island, there is plenty to do and keep you busy for a day or two.  If you’re not out on the water, you can explore the galleries and shops in town.

Look at art

This is what drew me to the town and there sure is a lot of art to look at!  The Leoma Lovegrove Gallery and Wild Child are the two biggest ones and they’re right next to each other. 

There are a few more shops and things right in the area, but you don’t even need to go into anything to see art.  Plenty of buildings are painted with art on the outside, too.

Matlacha Florida

Go paddling

You can go on your own or join a paddling tour to explore the mangroves around the island.  This is a great way to experience the area and admire the colorful town from the water.  Spend a couple of hours on the water kayaking or on a paddleboard then head into the galleries to unwind.

Go fishing

This is a great place to do some fishing, it is a fishing village, after all, and you can do it on your own boat, on a rental boat, or on the “fishingest bridge” that you drove over to get there.  It’s part of the Everglades even though it might not seem like it since it’s a little far from the park, but it is nad that makes it even better for fishing.

Matlacha Florida

Where to stay in Matlacha, Florida

There are there places you can stay in Matlacha if you want to experience the island life for a night or two.  Matlacha Cottages, Matlacha Tiny Village, Matlacha Cove Inn, and The Bridgewater Inn are all great options on the island.

There are plenty of apartment and house rentals on the island as well.  If you want to stay on the mainland, Sarasota and Fort Myers are two good options.

Matlacha Florida
Matlacha Florida

Where to eat in Matlacha, Florida

There are quite a few places to eat in and around Matlacha, Florida.  We, unfortunately, didn’t get to try any of them but these all sound very good.  I would love to hear your recommendations (for next time!) if you’ve been! 

There is a lot of seafood on Matlacha, and for good reason.  You know, fishing village and all, so if you’re not a seafood fan, you can probably find something to eat, but it may be a little tough.

So, should you visit Matlacha, Florida?  I think so, at least if you’re already in the area or passing through.  It’s a fun little stop. 

I don’t think I would go more than an hour or so out of my way to visit, but if you’re going to Sanibel, Fort Myers, or Sarasota, it’s an easy side trip from any of them.

It’s a fun little town if you love art and seafood.  And if you don’t love those, who knows, maybe you’ll still end up liking it for how cute it is. 

Basically, I’m really glad we went because I always would have been curious if we didn’t.  It may not be my favorite place in Florida, but it was such a unique little place, it’s worth a visit, even if it’s just a quick one.

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Have you been to Matlacha, Florida?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?  

3 thoughts on “Matlacha, Florida: The Most Creative Little Town In The Sunshine State

  1. Having recently moved to Ohio from Cape Coral,Florida, I was pleasantly surprised to find this post on Matlacha. We used to visit it often – on off days and hours when it was less crowded. We enjoyed eating outside at a restaurant looking out over the water. Wild Child was also my favorite gallery.
    In another odd coincidence, my post last week was also about Guadalupe National Park.

  2. We spent 10 days in Matlacha in April. We can’t wait to go back and will be spending 2 months at the end of the year. It is about so much more than just the galleries and fishing….it is about the people! Sure we went fishing and kayaking and ate at some of the restaurants and went to the galleries…but the best part of the trip was the people we met who live in Matlacha. I suggest you go to some of the “off the beaten path” shops, restaurants, etc and spend time talking to the locals and really getting to know the area.

    1. Oh, wow! That’s awesome! I would love to go back and do a little more there since we really only had a couple of hours. Do you have any shop or restaurant recommendations for next time?

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