Inns, Lodges, Resorts
Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs
The owners of the Tarpon Lodge at Pineland on Pine Island, Florida, the Robert Wells family, describe their hostel and restaurant as exhibiting an “Old Florida” charm. That’s an assessment that is right on the money.
Composed of the historic lodge dating from 1926, along with the Island House, Cottage and Boathouse, the facility offers the choice of 22 rooms for visiting guests. Eight of those are in the lodge itself, which also house the restaurant and a cozy bar. One nice feature is that the original hardwood floors have been retained throughout the lodge.
The Cabbage Key Room in the historic lodge.
The other buildings were added during the 1930s to 1950s. However, all have been renovated and are thoroughly modern and comfortable. On the grounds you also find a swimming pool and gazebo for catching the breeze or enjoying the sunset.
Originally built by Graham and Mary Wilson of Philadelphia as a private fishing lodge called Gra-Mar Villa, the historic lodge was situated on a 32-acre tract. The 18-room building was equipped with electric lights powered by a generator. An addition they later made was installing a wine cellar beneath a closet floor during Prohibition.
When the property changed hands in 1945, the establishment was renamed Pine-Aire Lodge and operated until 1968 as a commercial fishing lodge. One of its most frequent visitors in this period was the United Mine Workers labor leader John L. Lewis.
The next incarnation began when the American Bible College purchased the facility and turned it into Pala Mar, a retreat and school for evangelical clergy.
From there the lodge next became The Cloisters in 1980, when purchased by the Medical Management Institute. They used it as a rehabilitation center for alcohol and drug addiction.
Finally, in 2000 the present owners took possession and began remodeling the property. Among its famed visitors in the modern era has been President Jimmy Carter and his family.
The lodge’s four-star restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, while overnight guests can enjoy a continental breakfast. Additionally, the bar offers smaller versions of parts of the menu from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., along with a full selection of beer, wine and cocktails. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, diners are entertained with live music. While in the bar, check out the memorabilia on the walls.
The Tarpon Lodge bar.
From the standpoint of fly fishers, the Tarpon Lodge has docks on Pine Island Sound to accommodate personal boats. Additionally, the lodge can put you in touch with local experienced fishing guides. For more details, visit the Tarpon Lodge website.