Cabbage Key: A Unique Stay Old Florida Style
Cabbage Key is the place to step back in time and experience Old Florida. Only accessible by boat, this 100-acre island sits atop a 38 foot Indian shell mound, making it the highest point in Southwest Florida. This family-owned island is the host to Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant and its seven cottages. Although there is no beach on the island, this is the destination to disconnect, relax and enjoy nature.
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Where to stay
Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant
The Historic Inn offers single, quaint, traditional rooms in the main building, located just off the restaurant.
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Day 1: Arrive at Cabbage Key
You will likely take the Island Girls Charter ferry to Cabbage Key for a 3:00 pm check-in. Once settled into your room in the inn or in one of the quaint cottages on the property, you will want to kick off your relaxed vacation at the Cabbage Key Restaurant, where a reservation has already been made for you.
Here, you can choose to sit on the outside patio, screened front porch, bar area, or screened back porch. Be sure to take a moment to explore all the unique areas of this restaurant and take time to learn the history of Cabbage Key that dates back to 10,000 BC.
The dinner menu is elegant and filled with excellent dining options. I highly recommend the Chef's Special of the Day, which is usually a locally-caught fish prepared perfectly. Ending dinner with the "Highly Acclaimed Homemade Frozen Key Lime Pie with Whipped Cream" is a must.
After dinner, grab a cocktail and head to the white Adirondack chairs right outside the restaurant for a spectacular view of the sunset. If you are in a waterfront cottage, you will have your own chairs at the end of your private dock.
Day 2: Head to Cayo Costa
After enjoying your morning coffee or tea on your private deck or the restaurant's porch, change into your swimming suits and get ready for the beach! Today, you will head to Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of Cabbage Key that boasts a white sand, secluded beach.
Stop at the restaurant to pick up your boxed lunch. I highly recommend the 1/2 Lb Cold Gulf Shrimp. Be sure to pack plenty of water as well. Cayo Costa is also only accessible by boat and is very remote.
It's about 9:00 or 9:30 am now, and the Dockmaster has arrived by ferry. Head to the marina to retrieve your rented kayak or skiff, review the map with the Dockmaster, and head out onto the water. It is about a 45 minute kayak paddle one-way to Cayo Costa. You will paddle around Cabbage Key, then through the open water, and to Murdock Bayou. You will then go through "The Tunnel of Love," a mangrove passage way to the beach. The nature surrounding you on this paddle is truly remarkable so be sure to take a moment to soak it all in.
After spending the day on the gorgeous beach of Cayo Costa, possibly alone, you will kayak or take your skiff back to the marina.
After a quick shower, you can enjoy an afternoon cocktail in the bar. "The Cabbage Creeper" is a unique cocktail you need to try! Grab another and head out to the front lawn for a game of cornhole before dinner.
Tonight, if you are in one of the cottages, you can stay in and cook in your own kitchen or you can head back to the restaurant.
For sunset tonight, I encourage you to enjoy it from the top of the water tower. The view is absolutely stunning.
Day 3: A nature hike and relaxation
It's time to enjoy the two nature trails on the island. This is not a strenuous or long hike, but it is definitely a remarkable one. The trails have signs that help you identify the trees and plants of the area as well as the wildlife you may see along the way.
After your hike, you will have time to relax in any sitting area on the property or at your own private room, deck or dock. This is a great time to read that book you brought with you.
Lunch at the restaurant is a must. You will see the boaters flock to island during lunch hours to enjoy the Cabbage Key Hamburger. It is truly the best hamburger you will ever have. It is also this burger that inspired Jimmy Buffet's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
By now, you have also noticed the thousands of dollar bills taped to the walls of the bar and back porch of the restaurant. It is tradition to write on a dollar bill and tape it to the wall when you stop at Cabbage Key. Ask the bartender to tell you how the tradition began and what they do with the dollars that fall from the ceiling and walls. It is a remarkable story. Then find the perfect spot to add your dollar.
After lunch, you have more time to relax, to wander the grounds and maybe play another round of cornhole or to simply sit on the waterfront.
The day will end with dinner and the sunset, as usual. As you walk the grounds at night, be sure to look for the Night Blooming Cereus, a beautiful flower unique to the island.
Day 4: Departure
Since check-out is at 11:00 am, you have just enough time to pack up and enjoy the beautiful surroundings a little longer.
Before the ferry picks you up, be sure to stop in the gift shop and find the perfect souvenir, maybe it's the T-shirt with the cheeseburger on it or the "shower with a friend" hoodie. Whatever you choose, you will have a reminder of what a unique stay this was.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Experiencing Anna Maria Island, Florida.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florida.