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Visiting Cabbage Key in Florida – An Island Reached Only By Boat

cabbage key in florida

The Cabbage Key in Florida, a small island west of Fort Myers that can only be reached by boat, is well-known for various things, including its historic Dollar Bill Bar and its connection to Jimmy Buffett. Thousands of people who travel to Cabbage Key on a well-liked lunch cruise from Pine Island or Captiva and stay for two hours are familiar with it.

But, spending more time at Cabbage Key—especially in the serene mornings before day visitors arrive and on the radiant nights when there are only a few boaters and fishermen—unveils a new aspect of the island.

How to Get to Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key is a 100-acre paradise that has yet to be developed. The Old Florida architecture and rustic atmosphere of Cabbage Key will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.

Ride the ferry to Cayo Costa State Park and Cabbage Key and cross the serene Pine Island Sound. You can find peaceful natural beaches in Cayo Costa State Park that are ideal for unwinding and, if the mood strikes, a romantic escape. 

The intercoastal highway is close to marker 60, and Cabbage Key is accessible by boat. Only boats, seaplanes, or water taxis can transport people to the island. Fly into Fort Myers and arrange a private charter, or use a water taxi service out of Pineland Marina.

With a guided tour, switching islands is simple. You can also rent a boat to Cabbage Key Island if a water taxi trip isn’t your thing.

Discover hidden-gem beaches,  explore the Florida Keys food scene, find the perfect accommodation, experience the Keys’ stunning waters, and much more.

The History of Cabbage Key, Florida

Cabbage Key is a dune from the glacial era. Geologists claim that the island has yet to entirely flood since the previous ice age. Along the west coast of Lee County, Pine Island Sound is dotted with several islands and keys, including Cabbage Key. 

A sizable shell midden left by the Calusa Indians was discovered in Cabbage Key. Dr. John Goggin of the University of Florida first noted this archaeological site in 1951. Until the middle of the 1700s, the Calusa Indians were believed to have resided in the Pineland region for nearly 2000 years. Learn more about the history of Cabbage Key here.

On Cabbage Key Island, the main structure was constructed in 1937. The renowned mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart and her family previously lived in the structure, which is now a restaurant and inn. Mary was dubbed the “American Agatha Christie.” Her books are still recommended for reading in libraries and on reading lists today.

The original Rinehart Estate comprised the main house, two cottages, a boathouse, a water tower, a powerhouse, and docks. After several years remaining in the Rinehart family, the estate was eventually sold to the Stults family in the 1940s. 

In 1944, Larry and Jan Stults began converting the historic estate into a hotel and restaurant. On Cabbage Key, the Stults’ impact is still felt today. You can still visit the inn and outdoor dining area that the Stults helped build nearly 80 years ago.

The famed Dollar Bill Bar is also nearby. This distinctive business is well-known for being practically covered in dollar notes that customers have left behind and autographed during the bar’s more than 60-year history. In addition to the distinctive decor, the restaurant and bar’s menu is well-known. 

There is at least one popular dish on the menu. According to local lore, Jimmy Buffet indulged in his “carnivorous habit” while eating the sandwich he dubbed “paradise on Earth with an onion slice” at the Cabbage Key Island tavern before penning his well-known 1978 song Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Although Cabbage Key’s inn and restaurant may be the reason it is most well-known, there are other attractions on the island. On the 100-acre island, there are walking routes and nature trails that will allow you to reconnect with nature, as well as a tiny marina and untouched Old Florida charm.

What You Can Expect

cabbage key in florida what to expect

What makes touring Cabbage Key Island worthwhile? Both the natural beauty and Floridian culture are abundant on Cabbage Key Island. Rustic appeal on the undeveloped island highlights what makes the Sunshine State special. 

Cabbage Key Island is a must-visit location on your upcoming trip to Southwest Florida because of its nearly hurricane-proof water tower and close ties to Jimmy Buffet.

Let’s explore Cabbage Key Island so you can organize your upcoming trip to enjoy this genuine portrayal of vintage Florida charm.

Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant

There is only one place to eat on Cabbage Key: the Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant. Most visitors stop by the historic structure, a 1928 house that has been transformed and is perched atop an ancient Calusa shell mound, for lunch or drinks during a day excursion to the island.

Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and casual dining there. You can eat inside or outside, but you should at least explore the interior. The restaurant’s famous bar is covered in more than 70,000 dollar bills. Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, and other well-known figures are among those who supposedly posted their money on these walls.

A thirsty fisherman who pinned a dollar bill to the wall many years ago so he would have a cold drink waiting for him when he returned is responsible for the restaurant’s decor, which was once the library. The restaurant and bar’s walls, ceiling, pillars, lamps, and tables are currently covered in autographed and date-stamped dollar bills. Everything in the room is covered in $1 bills, even the piano and bench.

They say $10,000 to $25,000 falls off the walls annually. With Cabbage Key visitors recognized as the givers, the restaurant distributes the money to organizations that support children.

The biggest claim to fame for the eatery is that it served as the alleged model for Jimmy Buffet’s fantastic song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” In addition to the well-known cheeseburger, this establishment serves other traditional tiki bar fare.

Several seafood options are available, such as shrimp, salmon, crab claws, clam chowder, and simple salads. Excellent rice and black beans go well with a lot of the recipes. Mahi-mahi, grilled cheese, Reubens, and a wide variety of other straightforward food are all sandwich options that can be paired with a cold beer.

Cabbage Nature Trail

Cabbage Key, located in Pine Island Sound north of Sanibel and Captiva on Florida’s Gulf Coast, offers a secluded sanctuary ideal for individuals seeking a break or a day out in pristine nature. Its 100 acres of sparsely populated tropical vegetation and hiking pathways dotted with buttonwood and mangrove trees enable total relaxation.

On the 100-acre island, there are walking routes and nature trails that will allow you to reconnect with nature, as well as a tiny marina and untouched Old Florida charm. It was made possible by the Calusa’s heaping of oyster shells. Although Cabbage Key has gained popularity since the 1930s, its history is considerably older.

Everyone who likes boating or fishing should visit Cabbage Key. Moreover, go along the Cabbage Nature Walk, which will lead you past some of the area’s rich foliage while you search for some distinct creatures.

Kayak to Cayo Costa State Park

Another stunning, undeveloped barrier island close is Cayo Costa. You will want to take advantage of the opportunity to see this unusual state park not far from Cabbage Key.

This park offers over 2,426 acres of protected nature in addition to nine kilometers of gorgeous beaches. Shelling, birding, snorkeling, swimming, biking, hiking, camping, and fishing are all popular activities there. Restrooms, showers, picnic spaces, pathways, a canoe/kayak launch, displays in the ranger station, and a gift store with snacks, drinks, ice, and camping supplies are just a few of the amenities this park provides.

Even though Cayo Costa is still mainly undeveloped, its beaches are its most distinctive feature. Swim in the lovely waters for the afternoon, picnic under the trees, or go fishing for a tranquil day.

Seashells are piled as far as the eye can see over more than nine kilometers of pristine sand.  Manatees are regular sights off the coast, along with dolphins and birds building nests in the trees by the shore. You can also find hiking and mountain bike trails among the island’s wooded sections.

Many prefer to take day trips from nearby Pine Island or Punta Gorda to this tropical wonderland rather than spend the night in a rustic cottage or sleeping under the stars. The 4,000-year-old barrier island’s atmosphere is as authentically Old Florida as it gets, so you’ll need to carry everything you need when visiting this far-flung location.

Consider making the trip from Cabbage Key to the nearby Cayo Costa State Park if you’re interested in surfing, and the thought of 9 miles of undeveloped white sand beach appeals to you. It is the ideal day trip for outdoor enthusiasts looking for peace and quiet. It has pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, and mangrove swamps that preserve its natural environment and sense of remoteness.

Watch this fun adventure of Caribbean Castaways in Cayo Costa State Park to learn more about what you can expect from the island.

See For Yourself: Cabbage Key in Florida

The major activity in Cabbage Key is relaxing because there aren’t many sights to view or things to do. Golf carts are permitted, but there are no roads or automobiles. There aren’t any swimming holes or beaches either. 

The water tower is the area’s most prominent landmark. You can climb the wooden tower to better view the casuarina and royal poinciana trees, which have scarlet flowers, and the islands of Useppa and Cayo Costa.

Still, it would be fun to explore what this unique island can offer and spend more time taking it in.

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Cabbage Key in Florida FAQs

Cabbage Key, Florida, a small island west of Fort Myers that can only be reached by boat, is well-known for various things, including its historic Dollar Bill Bar and its connection to Jimmy Buffett. Thousands of people who travel to Cabbage Key on a well-liked lunch cruise from Pine Island or Captiva and stay for two hours are familiar with it.

What makes touring Cabbage Key Island worthwhile? Both the natural beauty and Floridian culture are abundant on Cabbage Key Island. Rustic appeal on the undeveloped island highlights what makes the Sunshine State special. 

The major activity in Cabbage Key is relaxing because there aren’t many sights to view or things to do. But spending more time at Cabbage Key unveils a new aspect of the island.

Ride the ferry to Cayo Costa State Park and Cabbage Key and cross the serene Pine Island Sound. You can find peaceful natural beaches in Cayo Costa State Park that are ideal for unwinding and, if the mood strikes, a romantic escape. 

With a guided tour, switching islands is simple. You can also rent a boat to Cabbage Key Island if a water taxi trip isn’t your thing.

Cabbage Key has no swimming holes or beaches, but you can go to the nearby Cayo Costa State Park, where you’ll find stunning white sand beaches. Even though Cayo Costa is still mainly undeveloped, its beaches are its most distinctive feature. Swim in the lovely waters for the afternoon, picnic under the trees, or go fishing for a tranquil day.

A boat cruise or water taxi may take around an hour from Captiva Island to Cabbage Key. The boat ride to Cabbage Key is eight miles.

The intercoastal highway is close to marker 60, and Cabbage Key is accessible by boat. Only boats, seaplanes, or water taxis can transport people to the island. Fly into Fort Myers and arrange a private charter, or use a water taxi service out of Pineland Marina.

Private property owners own Cabbage Key Island. Hence, the only way to reside on Cabbage Key is to get a job there and become a member of the live-on crew. Up to 15 or 20 employees of the Cabbage Key inn and restaurant reside on the island, depending on the time of year.

There are a few private homes just west of Cabbage Key on the barrier island of Cayo Costa.

Janelle
Author: Janelle

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