Setting: Pine Island, Florida, home to four distinct communities, sits among a cluster of islands between Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Attractions: Fishing―the island was named one of "America's 25 Hottest Fishing Spots" by Field & Stream magazine for its redfish, tarpon, and snook. Pristine Cayo Costa beach, a 45-minute boat ride away, offers rustic cabins and open stretches where the only coconut oil you're likely to smell is your own. Residents rave about the island's K?5 school, winner of the state's highest ranking for the past eight years straight.
Drawbacks: Limited job market. "A lot of people work off-island," in Fort Myers, says archaeologist Michael Wylde. "But I think that's a sacrifice people are willing to make."
Housing: Options include single-family houses and manufactured homes in St. James City, condominiums and custom-built houses in Bokeelia, breezy bungalows and fisherman's shacks in Matlacha, Keys-style stilt homes and golf course townhomes in Pineland, and custom luxury homes with pools and private docks throughout. A three-story luxury home on gated Galt Island nudges $2 million; a waterfront St. James City manufactured home, $234,900; Matlacha fisherman's shack, $259,000; a newer three-bedroom, three-bath with pool, $795,000. Off-water homes range from the $160s to $1 million.
Your next-door neighbors: A patent attorney, novelist Robert Macomber, mystery writer Randy Wayne White, artists, musicians, commercial fishermen, snowbirds, fishing guides, teachers, and police.
How you'd spend your free time: Golfing, boating, biking, birding, kayaking. Walking nature preserves. Dancing to boomer tunes at Bart's. Enjoying Tarpon Lodge's ever-changing gourmet meals.
(published December 2007)