Nature lovers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life can pack their sunnies and flip flops and explore one of Florida’s best-kept secrets: Cabbage Key. Only accessible by boat, this island’s Old Florida ambiance combines the allure of boat excursions and secluded natural beaches with a famous dollar-bill bar and a reputation as the inspiration behind Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Sitting in Pine Island Sound just north of Sanibel and Captiva on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Cabbage Key offers an isolated retreat perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway or a day out in unspoiled nature. There are no cars here, not even a paved road. Instead, its 100 acres of under-developed tropical vegetation and hiking trails peppered with mangroves and buttonwood trees allows for complete relaxation. Considered a must-do for any nature enthusiast in the Sunshine State, Cabbage Key is a legendary island getaway.
Old wooden cottages and, of course, plenty of cabbage palms, surround the island. Cabbage Key’s biggest attraction is the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant. Most visitors come to the island on a day trip to have drinks or lunch at this historic landmark, a converted 1928 house set atop an ancient Calusa shell mound.
Over 70,000 dollar bills adorn the restaurant’s iconic bar, where locals swear Jimmy Buffett got his inspiration for his hit song. An array of famous faces have reportedly tacked their dollars on these walls, from John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Carter.
If you’re looking to sample the surf and the idea of 9 miles of unspoiled white sand beach piques your interest, consider taking an excursion from Cabbage Key to nearby Cayo Costa State Park. Cayo Costa is a barrier island that retains its natural wilderness and sense of remoteness with pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps, a perfect day trip for nature enthusiasts seeking an afternoon of solitude.
Piled with seashells, this 2,426-acre park features scenic trails and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and osprey. Spend your afternoon swimming in the idyllic waters, set up a picnic in the shade, or cast a line for a peaceful day of fishing.
You can stay overnight in a primitive cabin or camp under the stars, while many prefer to day trip to this tropical paradise from nearby Pine Island or Punta Gorda. You’ll need to bring everything you need to this remote destination, as the 4,000-year-old barrier island’s ambiance is about as Old Florida as it gets.
Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant:
Address: Pineland, FL 33945
Phone: (239) 283-2278
Cayo Costa State Park:
Address: 4 Nautical Miles West of Pine Island, Cayo Costa, FL 33922
Phone: (941) 964-0375