The area around The Matlacha Bridge was made famous by Fort Myers author Richard Powell in his book, Pioneer Go Home, which was made later into the popular Elvis Presley movie “Follow That Dream.” The 1962 hit musical film began filming in July 1961 in the summer heat of Florida. The plot of the film involves a vagabond family traveling to Florida when their car runs out of gas on an as-yet-unopened section of the highway. One of the “adopted” family members asks Elvis’ character to persuade “Pop” to take up residence on the land next to the road, and they build a booming business catering to sports fishermen.
In the movie, numerous scenes are filmed around Florida, including a 1912 Citrus County Old Courthouse in Inverness; a major highway in Yankeetown was renamed “Follow That Dream Parkway” to memorialize Elvis’ stay; and a bank scene was filmed at an Ocala bank on Silver Springs Boulevard. During filming, Elvis met 11-year old Tom Petty, Florida’s favorite rock star, whose uncle was involved in the production of the movie. Soon after, Petty traded his slingshot for a friend’s collection of Elvis records…and began his road to fame.
Matlacha is reminiscent of the Old Florida Hemingway style. On the southwest coast of Florida, Matlacha is a few miles from Fort Myers and is a charming fishing village. It has been considered a retreat for more than 50 years. Today, people still come to the heart of Matlacha, the “Fishingest Bridge in Florida,” to game fish Matlacha Pass. The main strip of rural Pine Island Road features fishing shacks, bait shops, fresh seafood restaurants on the water, colorful art galleries, boats, homegrown shops, fish markets, and traditional Florida cottages.