Squire Fox

Explore a hidden paradise in Cabbage Key off Florida's Gulf Coast for a unique and relaxing vacation.

Most people flock to Cabbage Key, a 100-acre refuge off of Pine Island Sound, to have drinks or lunch at the Cabbage Key Inn, a converted 1928 house set atop an ancient Calusa shell mound. Over the years, patrons have plastered the bar and restaurant with thousands of dollar bills, and locals like to claim that longtime regular Jimmy Buffett was inspired to write his song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" here (and not in the Caribbean). Day-trippers stroll a nature trail studded with mangroves and gumbo limbo and buttonwood trees, plus cabbage palms, the source of the island's name.

Those who want to sample the surf can rent a kayak or motorized skiff and check out nearby Cayo Costa State Park (also served by ferry from Pine Island). This barrier island features a primeval beach, with more than six miles of white sand, shells, and Gulf-tossed driftwood.

Stay: Cabbage Key Inn has six rooms in the main building (numbers 1 and 6 have the best water views) and eight rental cottages, including the petite Doll House, which has its own dock. Rates start at $135.

Eat: The cheeseburger is a mainstay at the Cabbage Key Inn, but peel-and-eat shrimp, house-smoked salmon, and homemade Key lime pie also star.

Play: Guests can rent kayaks and skiffs from the inn, and make their way to Cayo Costa.

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