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Getaway to fun, relaxing day at Cabbage Key via Captiva Cruises

By Staff | Oct 10, 2009

As the month progresses there should be a bit of cooler weather to replace the usually searing southwest Florida heat.

Maybe not as noticeable as the refrigerator rush that our northern neighbors get around this time of year but none the less fall is upon us.

With the milder weather making its entrance, some might wonder how to best take advantage of this mercury dropping bliss.

How about a day cruise to Cabbage Key?

The 100-acre island is relatively untouched except for the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant and a handful of cozy cottages. There are no paved roads or even cars for that matter. Mother Nature is the biggest amenity Cabbage Key offers. Guided fishing, kayaking, basking in the sun and strolling along the tree laden nature trails are highlights of a stay on the quaint island.

For artists, writers and those just looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life the island awaits.

The island is only accessible by boat and can be found at marker 60. For those looking for a no fuss way of getting to Cabbage Key Captiva Cruises offers a day time cruise.

During the cruise which leaves McCarthy’s Marina on Captiva daily at 10 a.m. passengers get a chance to feel the gentle breeze and watch the rolling sea while listening to Capt. Tom Jones shares local history and information about the area.

On a recent cruise to Cabbage Key, a soft wind ruffled passengers hair while the sun danced along the silvery waves.

This is just what North Fort Myers residents Carol and Paul Dissington were looking for.

“This is perfect,” Paul Dissington said with a wide grin.

The North Fort Myers couple along with about two dozen other folks from around the nation and world took in the panoramic views of North Captiva, nearby islands including Cabbage Key and the wildlife flitting through the skies and sea. Every so often Atlantic Bottle Nose dolphins would be spotted leaping along the boat.

Passengers rushed over to get a gander at the gray, slick sea mammals. Between dolphin sightings, silvery mullet bouncing out of the water and flocks of pelicans, anhingas, cormorants and a pair of bald eagles whooshed by the boat aptly titled Playtime.

Soon the white pelicans and Common Loons and the Belted Kingfisher will be migrating back to the area, according to Capt. Brian Holaway of Captiva Cruises.

Capt. Jones shared tales of the area and its history along the way. Fishing houses – some with fishermen there – dotted the path to Cabbage Key. Sailboats skimmed the blue waters drawing the gaze of passengers.

Meanwhile, Capt. Jones riveted everyone with Fun facts and tidbits such as Jimmy Buffett supposedly naming his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after the burgers at the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant and the physics involved in producing a green flash at sunset.

Cabbage Key came into view in a short period of time. The lush, green island – which is open to the public – seemed to beckon with an invitation to come.

Verdant foliage and mangroves fill the island. The island has been in the possession of several owners over the decades. Since the 1970’s Cabbage Key has belonged to Robert and Phyllis Wells.

The Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant is located front and center. The Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant or main house was built in the 1930’s by the family of playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart. The building sits atop a Calusa Indian shell mound allowing great views of the Pine Island Sound.

“It’s old Florida,” said Tracy Lipford, the retail manager for the island’s souvenir shop.

Lipford commutes by boat daily to work on Cabbage Key. The friendly and affable woman is full of information and eager to answer questions.

Once off the cruise ship, guests ambled over to the restaurant to relax and have lunch. Big burgers and shellfish dishes are some of the popular items on the menu. The bar is literally a cash bar. Dollar bills cover the walls and ceiling of the Dollar Bar. There is said to be about $70,000 in dollar bills autographed and taped to the bar. And every year a substantial amount of them make their way off the walls to be donated to a local charity.

The homemade no-bake Keylime pie is a must have. The cool, creamy mildly sweet confection is a perfect way to end lunch.

For the little more adventurous, there is a self-guided nature trail that passes the island’s water tower. The tower is said to be the largest land mark in Lee County.

The about hour long cruise back to Captiva from Cabbage Key is peaceful and unwinding.

On the way back passengers chatted about their mini adventure and settled in for the cruise.

“It’s just an absolutely lovely spot to spend the day,” Paul Dissington said.