We Didn’t Stay in Matlacha But DAMN Did We Want To!

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Matlacha, Florida – pronounced “Mat-La-Shay” – is a tiny fishing village that is wildly colorful, both in its present day shops, restaurants and residents, and in its checkered past. Ghosts, bricks of cocaine arriving at 2 a.m. –  a ringing bell announcing the closing of the main road for unloading – child labor, and fishermen shooting holes in their boats and setting them on fire after a referendum passed banning net fishing 20 years ago, are only some of the stories you’ll hear from the locals.

 

bridgewater-island-timeThe Bridgewater Inn – all rooms are over the water and you can drop a line in from your front door

I could have cried when I tried to find a place to stay here and everything was booked. DUH, Mb, it’s “peak season.” Maybe by now you know how I feel about “peak season”; every season is peak here in Florida, to me, and so why is there this small window of higher prices, too many spring breakers, and No Room at the Inn for me??? Ugh.

 

bridgewater-front2

 

But I was in Bungalow Heaven walking around Matlacha and snapping photos of the eclectic, sometimes delightfully ramshackle cottages, bungalows, squatter shacks (those two words conjure up such delightful images, don’t they?) and weird/funny/bizzarre store fronts.  I dragged two of my kids with me on this Triple-B trip, and they were also charmed by this town, but were slightly freaked out by The Doll Lady’s house, below.

 

vintage-horsesDo you think she drags these horses in every night?

This is someone’s residence, she just puts all that stuff out front because she can. The collection of hobby horses took me back to my childhood, but the vast lineup of dolls (you can see a few to the left) was a tiny bit outlandish even for my love of “front-yard-fly-your-freak-flag”!

With a full time population of only about 700 people, Matlacha does have many visitors a day trundling in and out of the funky art galleries and shops, and then plopping down with their packages and their tired feet at the various waterfront restaurants. Which makes it sound low-ish on our list of small-town lesser-known travel destinations, but no, Matlacha has long been a Must Visit for Beaches, Bars and Bungalows.

 

sea-isle-resort-better-pic

 

Matlacha is ushering in and heralding a whole new category for our blog:  (drumroll) Introducing BOATING Bars and Bungalows!

Yes, we are beach addicts. But the next best thing, if the closest beach (in this case, Ft. Myers) is so well known and crowded it makes our claustrophobia kick in just thinking about it? Setting sail – or motoring – over some beautiful, open water, (and fishing, for CH anyway) and later pulling up to a great waterfront bar, and still later tucking in at a quirky cozy bungalow.

 

And here are our picks:

 

Boating

 

bridgetender-and-birdBridgetender’s cottage, on “The Fishingest Bridge in the World”

 

Okay, we didn’t boat or fish this trip, since CH wasn’t with us (he’s the expert in these fields) but the Matlacha Bridge is “The Fishingest Bridge in the World” and here are some boating charter, fishing charter and kayak tour companies:

 

Captain Jack Boat Tours

Fishing Charters Inc.

Gulf Coast Limited Professional Guide Service

Gulf Coast Kayak

 

 

The Bar

 

Bert’s Bar and Grill

4271 Pine Island Rd.

 

berts-under-the-umbrellas

 

VIBE:  Old-Florida, honkytonk, bright, fun and casual.

ARRIVE:  Parking is almost impossible. There are spots out front if you can snag one, but then you have to back out onto the busy road when leaving. We parked at the Matlacha Community Park for free, several blocks away. You can arrive by boat as well.

SIT:  Outside is best of course, with a great view;  there is also ample seating inside.

SIP:   Happy Hour is Monday thru Friday 2 – 5:00 in the bar. Make note Bert’s just serves beer and wine.

NOSH:  Fish, fish and more fish. The fish tacos were great, the shrimp was amazing, fish and chips… yum. Plenty of choices for those who don’t love seafood.

LISTEN:  Live music every day!

WE LOVE:  The history of this place – read about it on their website (ladies of the night… dancers…. it was once called “Mothers.” Love it.) And just the happy vibe.

 

berts-dock Parking will be way easier if you arrive by boat!

 

 

The Bungalow

IF we’d had the forward-thinking brain to plan ahead, we would have stayed here:

Matlacha Cottages

4760 Pine Island Rd.

 

matlacha-cottages-and-water2Seriously, how cute are these? I haven’t been as hyped up with cottage love since this post

 

VIBE:  Old-timey, cute as a button, OMG why didn’t we plan ahead better?? There are only three units so make sure you plan ahead.

WALK:  Just about everything in Matlacha is within walking distance. The closest restaurant is Sandy Hook Fish and Rib House,  0.2 miles away.

DECOR:  Check out their short videos of the interiors on their site. Looks like a mix of updated and uncluttered, with some old fashioned touches, which we love. Also read the awesome reviews on TripAdvisor, here.

SLEEP:  Again, we can’t speak for the comfy-ness of the nights’ sleep, but the reviews say it all.

EXTRAS:  “Everything we needed, from shampoo to pots and pans.”

RATES:  The least expensive peak season (Oct. 1 – Apr. 30) rate is for the Pink Waterfront (the smallest, but the one I’d want!) at $124 a night. Off season (May 1 – Sept. 30) it is $114.

 

matlacha-pink-cottageMINE.

 

Here are some restaurants and shops worth a visit:

 

blue-dog-bar-and-grillBlue Dog Bar and Grill

blue-dog-sign

old-fish-houseOlde Fish House Marina Restaurant

 

island-seafood-truckIsland Seafood Market food and grocery, food truck, seafood restaurant

 

shoe-gallery

elenas-hair

outdoor-seating-galleryWild Child Art Gallery, out back, before I saw the ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs, OOPS

 

wine-bottle-fishWild Child again

 

custom-outhouseI WANT ONE. Another offering at Wild Child

 

mannequin-leomasLeoma Lovegrove’s Gallery; she’s actually famous and we got to MEET HER!

 

front-garden-leomasFront garden at Leoma’s

 

leomas-privateLovegrove Global Headquarters!

 

I was literally tripping over my own feet and running into people (embarrassing the hell out of my kids) as I snapped away, oblivious in my own little picture-taking cottage-loving heaven:

 

turquoise-green-cottage

purple-green-house

yellow-blue-cottage-and-boat

yellow-blue-and-knight-statueNot sure why that Knight is out there… but this one is for sale as of this publishing, here

turquoise-purple-house

 

Even the Mobile Homes are unique and colorful in Matlacha:

 

turquoise-trailer

mosaic-mermaid

yellow-trailer

cute-trailer

I have much more to show you, but rather than risk cute-town overload, I’ll leave you with a few photos of me and the kids, just to illustrate how happy at least I was, how sweet Mae was, and how Max survived the Triple-B travel blog trip weekend!

 

cheesy-maxLovely, lovely face Max

 

mae-and-max-in-the-carPretending to be happy on the long car ride!

 

me-and-the-kids-matlachaTell us how you REALLY feel about traveling with your mom and sister, Max

 

Have you been to Matlacha? And if so, were you as tickled pink (ha, that’s such an old person term!) as I was?

 

 

Matlacha is 60 miles south of Venice and 25 miles north of Ft. Meyers Beach, on the Gulf Coast of Florida

 

16 Comments

  1. All of these pictures and descriptions make me want to go there now! I especially want to go to Bert’s Bar and Grill;)

    1. This town is so artsy and cheerful, Holly. There are many choices, but Bert’s is the best, in our humble opinion, of places to sit by the water for a brew or two.

  2. This place looks like a little slice of heaven!!! The colors are crazy!!! I want to there now!!!

    1. Matlacha is a tiny slice of heaven, Trisha; you’re right! Florida is known for its kitsch, and this town is top of the list for that.

  3. Purchased last year. My wife saw the vision and we made it happen. Only got there 5 times last year and maybe 2-3 this year, but we love it. It is the ‘relaxed Key West’.

    1. How lucky you are, Bruce, to have a house in Matlacha! We’re jealous! It IS the “relaxed Key West,” I love that description. Hopefully you will make it down more often.

  4. Pingback:BOATING, Bars and Bungalows in Cape Coral, Florida - Beaches Bars and Bungalows

  5. Pingback:Jensen Beach, Florida, Isn't on the Beach! - Beaches Bars and Bungalows

  6. Born and raised in Fl. I gotta say Matlacha was my favorite place to live!!! I lived in the tiny yellow house right next to Helen ( The Doll Lady ) with the horses out front. She is now 95 and is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. My buddy :) I could sit and listen to her speak for hours as she was so full of life and knowledge :) I live in NC now and love it but miss my little house with a beautiful view in Matlacha, Fl. One of the greatest places on earth to live!!!!!

    1. Wow Julie how lucky you were to live in Maltlacha, and right next to The Doll Lady! Thank you for your comment and the insight about her.

  7. Good day Marybeth,

    What a wonderful article and such great photo’s. Marta and I are sorry we missed you. I hope on your return visit that you will give us a call and come stay where the dolphin play. We thank you and Beaches, Bars & Bungalows for sharing your experience on our little isle!

    Living in paradise,

    Michael & Marta Gibbons
    Owners, matlacha-Cottages

    1. Thank you so much Michael and Marta! We were sad that we didn’t plan this trip more in advance so that we could stay at your delightful property. What an amazing small town you live in; there is nowhere else like it in Florida! We will try again in the future and plan better this time :)

  8. Great article. I am a happy island resident and feel like your descriptions were spot on. We are in love with the island and our life here in Matlacha.

    1. Yay Chris that we got it right! I’m sure you are happy there, kudos to you for choosing one of the coolest towns in Florida!! Thanks for your comment.

  9. hello. I was wondering if you could help me find a place to stay! we would to come visit this summer with a few couples, but cannot find the perfect place. any help would be amazing. thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Norma we would love to help you! I’d need more info regarding types of towns, what amenities, budget, activities etc. You can email us at beachesbarsandbungalows@gmail.com and please give us some more details about what kind of visit you’re hoping to have. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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