Overnighting in old Florida, at Pine Island’s Tarpon Lodge

There are no fancy stores or high-rise condo complexes on Pine Island, Florida

Pine Island is a mostly rural place with some of the best fishing in the state.

The Tarpon Lodge has 22 overnight rooms and cottages that overlook the Pine Island Sound.

The property was purchased by the Wells family in the late 1990s. In the 1920s, the property was turned into a fishing retreat and then into a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol dependency in the 1980s.

The lodge was returned to its original location by the Wells family.

Robert Wells said that his father is an avid fisherman. This is a fishing lodge. People sought it out for other reasons.

The place works as a relaxing retreat even if you have never held a fishing pole in your life, with lush tropical grounds, gorgeous sunsets, a terrific restaurant, and live music.

Getting out on the water is important to the experience of the Tarpon Lodge, whether paddling a kayak around the sound or taking a boat ride to nearby Boca Grande.

“We consider that a failure if we don’t get them out on the water.”

The nearby Pineland Marina has scheduled and charter boat trips to nearby islands. The Dollar-Bill Bar is where visitors sign singles before taping them to the wall.

Check out these other destinations in Southwest Florida.

Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island is a great place to go for sun and sand.

There is an alternative waterfront destination in Southwest Florida.

Hurricane Ian caused debate over the island’s future.

The Causeway will reopen to the public on January 2.

The popular overnight retreat has been run by Rob Wells’ parents for over 50 years. He and his brother used to travel by boat to school.

The damage from Hurricane Ian did not match the damage on Sanibel and Captiva. Pine Island is like the mainland in that it is made of coral rock.

He said that Hurricane Charley was more damaging here. Parts of the marina were destroyed after Ian.

He said that the term damage is a relative one.

Less than a month after the storm, the property opened again. He said they loved the idea of fighting to get reopened. People in the neighborhood like it. They need a bit of a normal life as well.

The restaurant at Tarpon Lodge is open for lunch and dinner every day.

The cost of overnight rooms is about $200.

The Matlacha Pass Bridge connects Pine Island to the mainland at Cape Coral. The bridge was repaired and reopened within a week.

The town of Matlacha is an artist community that was devastated by the storm. You can see the damage from the bridge as you travel to the lodge on the northwest coast of Pine Island.

The Perfect Cup coffee shop is one of the businesses that has reopened.

If you go to the lodge, Pine Island is on the Florida side of the Gulf of Mexico. You can get to Cape Coral via boat or bridge.

The Calusa Heritage Trail is located across the street from the lodge and is open to the public. The site is closed because of damage from the storm. 


Cape Coral Cruise Club still making a splash after almost 60 years


One of Southwest Florida’s longest-running recreational and social institutions is still sailing along, creating a variety of activities and making memories as it approaches its 60th anniversary next year. 

The Cape Coral Cruise Club continues to provide regular trips for its members — monthly one- and three-day trips throughout area waters.

This includes picnicking at Hidden Island, a little more than four miles east of the Franklin Locks in the Caloosahatchee; and annual 10- to 21-day trips, sometimes to the Bahamas, up Floria’s West Coast or sailing the “Little Loop,” encompassing the river and Key West. 

“We’re all about meeting new people as well as boating,” said Commodore Bill Peterson, who began his one-year term last January.


For the three-day trips, “Members usually arrive on Thursdays and leave on Saturdays.” Early arrivals often go down to the dock to greet and assist others as they trickle in.

Fellow longtime Cape residents Terry and Laurie Carlson are co-membership directors with Laurie also spearheading marketing and social media activities.

Terry says that the club “serves as a great way for new boat-owning residents in our area to familiarize themselves with our waters, experience different marinas and waterside restaurants, plus make new friends.” 

Terry says 70 to 80 percent of their 60-plus current active, honorary and lifetime members live in the Cape. Although most are retired couples and many are military veterans, the club also attracts younger members. 

New Hampshire native Tad Vaughn and his family became full-time Cape residents in July 2021 and joined the club last fall.

“It’s amazing that they own part of Hidden Island,” he said. “My jaw dropped when I first experienced it … the dock, so many other amenities. It’s like boating paradise.” 

The slender piece of land, “a little more than two football fields long” according to Peterson, includes an open-air, roofed pavilion; kitchen; marine shop; bocce, horseshoes and cornhole play; and several rows of picnic tables.

“Women especially like to play cards,” said Peterson.

Some members who no longer own boats still attend trips as passengers on other boats or by driving to a parking lot on the southern coast of the river that’s also owned by the club and taking a pontoon shuttle to and from the island.