Have Your Heard About Matlacha, Florida?

Think of Matlacha (pronounced MATT-luh-SHAY) as Mayberry meets Woodstock. Locals in town—and on the island that shares its name—offer the kind of warm welcome you’d expect from a small Southern town. But Matlacha’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its chill island vibe attract outdoor adventurers, as well as free-spirited artists and entrepreneurs who have set up shop here.

Come in July and you’ll have the run of the place, with many spots open for limited hours; show up between December and April and the joint will be jumpin’. Either way, stop by Bert’s Bar & Grill, snag a table outside on the dock, and get acclimated (bertsbar.com).

Getting out There
You’ll soon discover that you’re never far from a spot to dip a paddle here, as this area is part of The Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail, where local outfitters offer rentals and tours (calusablueway.com; carmenskayaks.com).

Capt. Jack La Plante of Captain Jack Boat Tours is a retired ship captain who first came here to deliver a yacht to private Useppa Island. Today, he has six boats and a successful tour business.”We like getting involved in the community,” says La Plante, who helps preserve the beauty of these island environs by volunteering to plant about 1,500 mangroves each year (captainjackboattours.com).

Fueling Up
Most of the attractions in downtown Matlacha are clustered along just a block or two. The Perfect Cup is a nifty little cafe and coffeehouse serving a creative menu for breakfast and lunch, with most items under $10 (239/283-4447). Try Irish Eyes—two poached eggs over spinach—or the Crabby Big Daddy omelet with lump blue crab, asparagus, and provolone. Grab a cup of coffee to go.

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