As this review goes live, many people in the USA and Canada are probably wishing they could be staying at a place like Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island, Florida. Far away from wintry gusts, ice storms, and snow, the grounds here are shaded by palm trees and the orange sun sets each night over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
This cozy lodge with the charm of old Florida is north of Fort Myers, on a large island that’s mostly residential. To get here you head west from I-75 toward the Gulf and cross onto the island through the colorful town of Matlacha, where it’s worth stopping for a bite to eat or at least some ice cream. After a meandering drive on roads that are seldom crowded, you get to the two-story collection of buildings making up Tarpon Lodge, next to a marina filled with pleasure fishing boats. You can charter one for some fishing, maybe snagging a big namesake tarpon, or explore the islands nearby that extend north from Sanibel and Captiva. (The lodge here shares ownership with the long-established Cabbage Key Inn and restaurant—the only place to stay on that small island with no roads.)
The spacious grounds have grassy lawns, a gazebo, and a dock, making them a popular spot for outdoor weddings, with a regular sea breeze keeping the air from getting stifling even in the summer. The pool area also faces the Gulf and there are hammocks strung up in various spots. Next to the pool are enough games to keep a family occupied for a week, from cornhole to board games.
The restaurant at Tarpon Lodge draws in diners from many miles away, in addition to serving hotel guests. It’s a much more elegant affair than you’d expect in this somewhat remote location, especially at dinner when the chef really shows off his culinary chops. The menu changes seasonally, but regular favorites include local clams, Blue Crab & roasted corn chowder, steaks, and the catch of the day. Lunch is more casual and light, with various salads, sandwiches, and a few fish dishes offered. Both the main dining room and the deck area that can be opened up to the air face the water and are filled with natural light during the day. Service from the house-proud staffers is solid, though the included breakfast is a DIY affair with basic cold selections.
There’s a cozy bar you can belly up to for a glass of wine or Florida craft beer, or couches and chairs in the lounge area surrounding it. It’s a welcoming place to playa game or read a book. The lodge hosts wine tasting events and pairing dinners on a regular basis.
Rooms are in four different sections, with the majority in the original 1926 building and the newer Island House complex where half face the Gulf of Mexico. There’s also a free-standing cottage and a renovated boathouse. Naturally these quarters can differ quite a bit in terms of layout and size, though they’re all comfortable and well-appointed.
We spent half the non-sleeping time in our Island House room on the furnished balcony, watching the sun ease down to the horizon while the sky turned orange. Inside there was a fridge, two armchairs, and end tables with lamps. The bathroom was attractive and stocked with a range of Paya toiletries.
The eight rooms in the main building are on the main floor or up the stairs. These have hardwood floors instead of carpet and have a range of sizes and bed configurations. Rates don’t vary a huge amount here, so go for a water view one whichever building you’re in if that option is available.
Staffers can help set up excursions in the area, such as fishing, island hopping, or birding. Or if you bring your own boat you can launch at the marina ramp next door. If you bring a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, there’s a place to pull it in nearby where there’s some sandy shore.
Rooms run from $160 to $215 in high season before taxes, a bit less from June through October. See more information at the official hotel site and you can book directly there. Otherwise you’ll also find the lodge listed at BedandBreakfast.com, where you can see more pics and check rates.