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Barrier Islands

By Staff | May 28, 2009

Ever wonder what it would be like to wade in emerald green waters or stroll miles of a sandy white unspoiled beach of a deserted island with modern civilization miles away? You don’t have to hop aboard a tramp steamer to head toward the islands in the Caribbean because the answer lies just a short ferry boat ride to one of Southwest Florida’s barrier islands.

Cayo Costa.

Accessible only by water taxi or private water craft and much of this pristine island is occupied by Cayo Costa State Park. Located north of Captiva, Cayo Costa only has a smattering of residential dwellings, no roads, no powerlines or shopping centers. The park boasts six miles of hiking trails through acres of pine forests, oak and palm hammocks and mangrove swamp.

The regular park hours are from 8 a.m. to sundown year round. If you want to stay beyond watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico, you can arrange to stay for the night or perhaps longer.

Visitors will find 35 primitive sites where you can pitch a tent, as well as six rustic cabins. For reservations call 941-964-0375.

Covering 100 acres, Cabbage Key is a lush tropical paradise complete with a historic restaurant, inn and cottages boasting a panoramic view of Pine Island Sound.

With no paved roads or automobiles, visitors will find the most popular means of transportation on Cabbage Key are bicycles and golf carts.

Here, too, the 100 acres that make up Cabbage Key are accessible only by boat, helicopter or seaplane, helping to maintain the Old Florida lifestyle for which it has become noted.

Again, visitors won’t find a grocery store or shops on the island so anything you may need outside of restaurant dining will have to be brought along for the journey.

Unlike some of the neighboring islands, no camping is offered at Cabbage Key. If you wish to spend a few quiet days lying on a beach with a good book you can make a reservation at the only inn on the island.

The Cabbage Key Inn was the mansion of famous mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart and was built for her in 1929. Rinehart first visited Southwest Florida at the suggestion of President Herbert Hoover and she fell in love with the quiet atmosphere that could be found on Cabbage Key and developed a passion for tarpon fishing.

If you would like to spend the night at either the inn or would like to rent a cottage, reservations are recommended. To contact the Cabbage Key Inn call (239) 283-2278 for reservation information.

The biggest draw to this little island, however, is a place known for its “Dollar Bill Bar” and restaurant. Visitors from all over the world have left their mark in this quaint establishment by signing dollar bills that cover the walls, ceiling, fixtures and nearly every surface that was once exposed.

Seemingly poised atop a small mountain, the Dollar Bill Bar is actually situated on a Calusa Indian shell mound. In years past, the restaurant and bar was frequented by such notables as the late John F. Kennedy Jr. and Katherine Hepburn and legend has it that songwriter Jimmy Buffett was inspired by the bar to compose the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

While visiting Cabbage Key nature lovers will find trails taking them through stands of ancient trees, an abundance of birds and other wildlife and, of course, there is the famous fishing opportunity that Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico offers anglers of all skill levels.

To get to Cabbage Key several regularly scheduled shuttle boats arrive at the island daily and can be accessed at marinas at both Captiva and Pine Island.