When people think of Florida, images of Micky Mouse, space flight, Duval Street, the glam of South Beach and miles of beaches most likely come to mind. The first thing that pops into my head when I think of Florida is home. When I first landed in Southwest Florida over 10 years ago I didn’t know much about the state and even less about the Naples and Fort Myers area. Ten years later, I wouldn’t trade this coastline for any other in the entire state.
The reason being is because of places like Cabbage Key. Cabbage Key and the surrounding barrier islands of Pine Island Sound are old Florida. You won’t find towering resorts, spring break parties or the Micky Mouse Club. What you will find is special ecosystem that’s full of dolphins, turtles, Bald Eagles and charming little places like Cabbage Key. Cabbage Key Inn, a one time home of a famous writer, now turned into an Inn and one hell of a place to grab a burger and a slice of Key Lime Pie.
My parents were in town a couple weekends ago and I thought I’d give them a little taste of what makes Southwest Florida such as prize. The destination, Cabbage Key. The only way to get to there is by boat, so we headed up to Captiva Island and jumped aboard the Lady Chadwick of Captiva Cruises.
As the Lady Chadwick plows North through the waters of Pine Island Sound it creates a nice rolling wake. Guess who like to play in the wake? If you guessed the resident dolphin population you guessed right!
A couple different groups of dolphins entertained themselves in our wake on the hour trip up the sound. It seemed like the more people cheered and whistled the more the dolphins showed off. One even jumped a good 6 or 7 feet in the air. I got some great video of all of this and plan on putting a little video together for a future post.
Next stop, Cabbage Key. Who’s hungry for a Cheeseburger!
The Cabbage Key Inn is known for their cheeseburgers. Even Jimmy Buffett has stopped in for the classic American treat. Some people have said that the Cabbage Key burger was the inspiration for Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise, but I’ve heard about 2 dozen different places claim that same title. I think there’s only one person who can truly answer the question of burger inspiration, and he’s a little hard to get a hold of. Jimmy’s dollar is framed behind the bar though.
The Cabbage Key restaurant is known for people leaving signed dollar bills on the walls. This tradition has been going on for decades. Some places in the restaurant the dollar bills are over 6 inches thick. It’s estimated to have over $80,000 plastered to every inch of the place. When dollars fall, they are collected and giving to a local charity.
After we got done sucking down some amazing Key Lime Pie, we did a little island exploring. The 100 acre island has a nature trail that takes you into the Florida jungle and mangroves. Along the way they have information about the local plants and wild life.
Behind the restaurant stands an old water tower. If you’re not afraid of heights feel free to climb to the top. It offers 360 degree views of Cabbage Key and the surround islands.
After our water tower climb we walked to the gift shop to browse the offerings. Then it was time to wait for the Lady Chadwick to return. What do you do when you have time to kill on an island. You take pictures!
We boarded the ferry, circled Useppa Key and headed back South towards Captiva. It was a day spent on the water, on an island, completely surrounded by beauty of old Florida. If you’ve already done the mouse thing in Orlando, the club hopping in Miami and crawled along Duval in Key West, then I encourage you to give the barrier islands of Southwest Florida a try. You might just fall in love with authentic Florida as I have.