Museum of the Islands

Preserving the past for the future on Pine Island, Florida

Pine Island Information

Pine Island is the largest island in the state of Florida.  The island is located in Lee County, on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, and it is also the 118th largest island in the United States.  The Intracoastal Waterway passes through Pine Island Sound to the west of Pine Island.  Matlacha Pass runs between Pine Island and the mainland.  Pine Island lies west of Cape Coral.

Unlike the sandy barrier islands of Sanibel to the south, Captiva to the southwest, and North Captiva to the west, Pine Island has no large beaches and is made from the same coral rock as the mainland.  Pine island is surrounded by mangroves and includes three aquatic preserves.  Residents and visitors are attracted to Pine Island’s natural rural character, great fishing, and endless boating.  Pine Island is mostly zoned as agricultural land with visitors traveling from a far to purchase tropical fruit such as lychee and mangoes grown and sold on Pine Island.

Pine Island is home to four unincorporated towns: St. James City, PinelandBokeelia, and Pine Island Center.  The town of Matlacha is also considered one of the communities, but is on its own island.  Pine Island has that small town atmosphere, with no traffic lights and mostly agricultural zoning.  Each community has its own marinas (except Pine Island Center), shops, and casual restaurants.  According to the 2000 census, the population of Pine Island was approximately 9000.  However, the population increases significantly during the winter season, as Pine Island is winter residence for many people.

Pine Island Center is located at the intersection of Pine Island Road and Stringfellow Road.  Pine Island Road (State Road 78) is the only road on and off Pine Island.  Pine Island Center is the location of the island’s single large grocery store, elementary school, library, museum, swimming pool, and a large park.  Sixteen-mile-long Stringfellow Road (County Rd 767) is Pine Island’s main road and connects St. James City on the south end of the island with Bokeelia and Pineland on the north end of the island.  St. James City, Pine Island’s most heavily populated area, offers a splendid view of Sanibel Island and the Sanibel Causeway.

Bokeelia is situated on the far northern tip of Pine Island, ending at tiny Bokeelia Island, which is accessed by bridge.  Bokeelia is at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor.  On clear days you can see across the water to Cape Haze and Boca Grande Pass where the Gulf meets the harbor.  Pineland is on the northwest portion of Pine Island, west off Stringfellow Road, about halfway between Pine Island Center and Bokeelia.  Pineland features a golf course and country club as well as the Randell Research Center.  The Randell Research Center is located near several shell mounds, which are the remains of a Calusa Indian village that was located at the sight for more than 1500 years.  The center is dedicated to learning and teaching the archaeology, history, and ecology of Southwest Florida and about the culture of the Calusa people.

East of Pine Island Center, along a two-mile stretch of Pine Island Road, is Little Pine Island.  Little Pine Island is a 4,700-acre development-free wildlife preserve and the location of a sewer treatment plant.  The island community of Matlacha (pronounced “MAT-la-shay”) is east of Little Pine Island and west of the city of Cape Coral on the main land.  The Matlacha Bridge, a drawbridge nicknamed “The fishingest bridge in the world”, is almost always occupied by people fishing.  Matlacha also has a large park and pier, as well as several quaint shops, bars, and restaurants.  Credit Wikipedia

Aerial Image of Pine Island

So who are the people behind  A couple of us are volunteers at the Museum of The Islands (MOTI) located here on Pine Island.  MOTI has added their support to this project and allowed us to scan many photos from the museum that are displayed among these pages.  We encourage you to visit the museum to see more of the history of our area.  Other contributors to our information are local residents who have shared photos, documents and stories of the old days of Pine Island.  Without them this endeavor would never have been possible.

Regarding the format of the way content is displayed on our website, an explanation is in order.   If we were confident of the longevity of a web site that we had located subject matter for, we would have just linked to their content.  However links to sites get broken and web sites are taken offline all the time for various reasons (which we saw numerous times researching material for, so instead we have copied their material to a page on our site and attributed the material to the original source site.  In addition, we have linked to the original page.

You can search content on our web site a couple of different ways.  Our Table of Contents page is laid out as you would see the Table of Contents of a book, with our “Chapters” listed in a chronological order.  Our Index page is laid out as a Site Map for a quick link to a specific page of interest.  Our Bibliography page will also link to specific pages on our web site in addition to providing the source of that content for any reference desired (when it is complete).

Even though such famous islands as Sanibel and Captiva adjoin Pine Island Sound, they have been covered historically well enough elsewhere that we did not feel we could add to what has already been made available.  Therefore we do not include them on this site.

Finally, a word about the header picture we utilize on each page.  Those structures are called fish huts, or fish shacks or fish cabins.  Beside looking pretty neat on our web site, they act as a reminder that sometimes you have to fight to preserve history.  The Department of Natural Resources, as the Florida state environmental agency was called in the mid 1980s, believed the structures were navigational hazards and destructive to sea grasses.  They also believed that since they had no plumbing, the people using them as bunk houses were likely creating sanitation problems, so the state started burning them down.  Locals who wanted to preserve the fish huts were able to debunk these concern, according to Gladys Schneider of Bokeelia.  She was hired as a consultant to compile the documentation needed to have the shanties declared historic.  So, our fish huts are still with us and a number are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.