May 29, 2024

Cabbage Key: Exploring the Hidden Gem of Florida's Coast

Nestled off Florida's Gulf Coast, Cabbage Key offers a secluded retreat brimming with natural beauty and Old Florida charm.

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, this 112-acre island provides a peaceful escape from the modern world.

Visitors can look forward to a range of activities, from exploring rustic trails to lounging on pristine beaches.

The island boasts a fascinating history and rich heritage.

Once an ice age sand dune, Cabbage Key has developed over time into a beloved destination.

Today, travelers can marvel at the stories of past owners and celebrities while enjoying the iconic Dollar Bill Bar.

The unique blend of nature and history makes for an unforgettable experience.

For those planning a trip, Cabbage Key offers delightful accommodations and dining options.

Guests can stay in quaint cottages and enjoy fresh seafood at the local restaurant.

The laid-back vibe and scenic views promise a relaxing and memorable getaway.

Key Takeaways

  • Cabbage Key provides a secluded and historic retreat in Florida.
  • Accessible only by boat or seaplane, it features beautiful beaches and rustic charm.
  • Visitors can enjoy unique dining experiences and cozy accommodations.

Geography and Location

Cabbage Key is a small island in Lee County, Florida. It lies in the Pine Island Sound, near Captiva and the Gulf of Mexico.

The island's remote nature makes it an ideal escape for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

Access and Transportation

Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat, water taxi, or seaplane.

There are no bridges or roads connecting it to the mainland, enhancing its secluded charm.

Visitors can catch a ferry from Pine Island or Captiva.

For private boat owners, docking facilities are available.

This exclusivity adds to the serene atmosphere, away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

During their boat ride, visitors often enjoy stunning views of Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Surrounding Areas

The island is surrounded by other notable locations, such as Pine Island and Captiva.

Pine Island Sound lies to the east, offering excellent opportunities for fishing and exploring nature.

To the west, the Gulf of Mexico provides breathtaking sunsets and pristine waters.

Nearby destinations include the historic village of Pineland on Pine Island.

These surrounding areas further enhance the appeal for visitors wishing to explore the natural beauty and heritage of Florida's coastal regions.

History and Background

Cabbage Key is a small island known for its rich history and literary connections. It has attracted famous visitors and residents over the years and holds a special place in Florida's cultural heritage.

Historical Significance

Cabbage Key, an island located off Pine Island in Lee County, Florida, has a diverse history.

The island originally dates back to 10,000 B.C. when it was inhabited by the Calusa people.

By the 1930s, the island saw significant changes with the arrival of Mary Roberts Rinehart, a well-known mystery writer, who bought the land and constructed a private residence in 1937.

This house was later transformed into the Cabbage Key Inn during the 1940s.

The Wells family took over ownership in 1976, maintaining much of its charm and historical essence.

The island's intriguing past makes it a significant part of Old Florida.

Literary Connections

Cabbage Key boasts connections to notable literary figures.

The island has welcomed visitors such as Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett.

Hemingway, known for his love of the sea, found inspiration in such serene environments.

Another famous guest, Jimmy Buffett, is believed to have drawn inspiration for his song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" from his visit to the island's iconic Dollar Bill Bar.

The inn was constructed by Mary Roberts Rinehart, adding another layer of literary history to the island.

These connections make Cabbage Key a symbolic location for literature enthusiasts exploring Old Florida’s rich heritage.


Cabbage Key offers a variety of stay options, including the quaint Cabbage Key Inn and charming cottages.

Guests can enjoy amenities like full kitchens, private baths, and coffee makers.

The Cabbage Key Inn

The Cabbage Key Inn is known for its cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

Located in Pine Island Sound, Florida, this inn provides guests with a peaceful retreat.

Each room is decorated with a rustic charm that captures the essence of the island.

The inn features key amenities such as comfortable beds, a private bath, and coffee makers for your morning brew.

Larry and Jan Stults have created a warm and inviting space perfect for a relaxing vacation.

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Cottages and Cabins

Besides the inn, Cabbage Key offers a selection of cottages and cabins for those seeking more privacy.

These rental cottages come equipped with full kitchens, allowing guests to prepare their own meals.

They also feature private baths, living areas, and outdoor spaces to enjoy the natural beauty of the island.

Ideal for families or small groups, these accommodations provide a home-like atmosphere with the convenience of modern amenities.


Guests at Cabbage Key have access to several amenities designed to enhance their stay.

The rental cottages and inn rooms are equipped with coffee makers and private baths.

There is also easy access to activities like fishing, boating, and wildlife watching.

The island's charm is preserved in the details, ensuring a delightful experience for all visitors.

For any questions or to make reservations, the friendly staff at Cabbage Key is always ready to assist.

Dining Experience

Dining at Cabbage Key offers a unique blend of history, local cuisine, and a charming atmosphere.

From the famous Cabbage Key Cheeseburger to the scenic open-air setting, visitors are in for a memorable culinary journey.

Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant

The heart of dining on Cabbage Key is the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant.

Located in the historic Old House, this restaurant operates year-round, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Famous for its Cabbage Key Cheeseburger, believed to have inspired Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise", the place has developed a reputation for fresh, delicious food.

The restaurant's menu features a variety of local seafood, including stone crab and shrimp dishes.

Patrons can also enjoy a slice of the acclaimed Key Lime Pie for dessert.

The Bar area offers an assortment of beverages, making it a great spot to unwind with a cocktail.

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Local Delicacies

Cabbage Key is well-known for its local delicacies.

The menu heavily emphasizes seafood, given the island’s proximity to rich fishing waters.

Stone crab claws and fresh shrimp are often the highlights, prepared with local flavors that stand out.

Breakfast options include traditional favorites, while lunch and dinner showcase more elaborate meals.

The Cabbage Key Cheeseburger frequently steals the spotlight, attracting both regulars and newcomers.

Key Lime Pie offers a sweet, tangy end to meals, true to Florida’s culinary heritage.

Visitors can also explore other menu items at their leisure, ensuring there's something for every palate.

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Dining Atmosphere

The dining atmosphere at Cabbage Key is unique, blending rustic charm with open-air comfort.

Located near marker 60 on the inter-coastal highway, the restaurant is accessible by boat, providing a sense of adventure right from the start.

Inside, the walls are lined with dollar bills, a quirky tradition where visitors stick notes to mark their visit.

Diners can enjoy their meals with a gentle breeze and views of palm trees swaying.

This serene setting is enhanced by attentive service and friendly staff, contributing to the overall experience.

Whether dining indoors or on the outdoor patio, the ambiance is both relaxed and inviting, making every meal memorable.

Activities and Attractions

Cabbage Key offers a unique blend of outdoor activities and natural attractions.

Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, exploring nature trails, and relaxing on secluded natural beaches.

Boating and Fishing

Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat or water taxi, making boating an essential activity for visitors.

Boaters can explore the serene waters surrounding the island, spotting dolphins and manatees.

Fishing is a popular pastime, with plentiful opportunities to catch species like tarpon, snapper, and grouper.

Fishing enthusiasts can also rent equipment and hire guides for a more tailored experience.

The nearby Tarpon Lodge is renowned for its fishing resources and seasonal stone crab.

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Nature and Wildlife

Nature lovers will find plenty to admire on Cabbage Key.

The island features lush nature trails where one can observe a variety of wildlife.

Ospreys, herons, and pelicans are common bird sightings.

The waters around the island are home to dolphins and manatees, often seen swimming close to shore.

These natural habitats offer a perfect setting for photography and birdwatching.

Visitors can enjoy kayaks to paddle through the calm backwaters, offering a closer look at the island's diverse ecosystem.

Beaches and Shelling

The beaches on Cabbage Key are secluded, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle.

These natural beaches are perfect for shelling, as the area is known for an abundance of unique shells.

Visitors can spend hours wandering along the shore, collecting beautiful specimens, and enjoying the tranquil environment.

The combination of soft sand and clear waters makes for an ideal place to relax and soak in the sun.

Nearby islands like Sanibel also offer additional shelling opportunities for those looking to expand their beachcombing adventures.

Visitor Experiences

Visitors at Cabbage Key can enjoy various unique events during holidays and take advantage of guest services tailored to enhance their stay.

The island's atmosphere provides the perfect setting for a memorable vacation.

Events and Holidays

Cabbage Key is a destination that truly shines during holidays.

For Memorial Day, the island offers special events. These include waterfront picnics and live music. These gatherings celebrate both tranquility and community.

During the evenings, the island features stunning sunsets that make for a romantic getaway.

Whether you’re dining at the picturesque Dollar Bill Bar or simply enjoying a quiet moment by the water, each experience feels unique and memorable.

Guest Services

Guest services at Cabbage Key are designed to provide a seamless vacation experience.

The island boasts rustic yet comfortable accommodations that exude Old Florida charm.

There are options ranging from cozy rooms to private cottages, perfect for relaxation.

Dining is another highlight.

Cabbage Key Inn serves fresh seafood such as stone crab and shrimp, enhancing any stay with delicious meals.

Additionally, the inn offers boat charters and water taxis to assist travelers in exploring the surrounding 100 acres of paradise comfortably.

Practical Information

Cabbage Key is a secluded island in Southwest Florida known for its natural beauty and Old Florida charm.

This section covers what visitors need to know before planning their trip, including how to make reservations and the rates involved.

Planning Your Visit

Getting to Cabbage Key requires a bit of planning since the island is only accessible by boat, seaplane, or water taxi.

It's located near Pine Island, north of Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

Depending on your starting point, expect travel times ranging from an hour from Naples to about three hours from Orlando.

Visitors can choose to take a day trip or stay overnight in one of the cottages or the main house.

Because the island features limited accommodations, it’s essential to make reservations well in advance.

For nature lovers, the island offers walking trails, bird-watching spots, and fishing opportunities.

Rates and Reservations

Accommodation on Cabbage Key includes six two-bedroom cottages located in the woods and the main house, which has six bedrooms.

Making a reservation is crucial due to the limited number of rooms.

Rates vary based on the type of accommodation and time of year.

A day trip to Cabbage Key usually includes costs for the boat ride and any meals you plan to enjoy at the island's famous restaurant and bar, known for its "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

To book a stay, contact Cabbage Key by phone or use their online reservation system.

The staff are helpful and can assist with any questions about your trip or special requests. Rates are generally higher during peak travel seasons, so plan accordingly.

Local Culture

Cabbage Key boasts a rich blend of cultural elements that make it unique. From the artistic influences seen throughout the island to the close-knit community spirit, visitors can expect a truly enriching experience.

Arts and Entertainment

Cabbage Key's artistic scene revolves around its historic Cabbage Key Inn, which features a unique bar adorned with dollar bills.

The tradition, started by fishermen, has created a fascinating visual of thousands of bills covering the walls and ceiling.

Nature plays a huge role in the island’s creative vibe. Scenic views inspire local artists to create works that capture the charm of Florida's Gulf Coast.

Literary buffs will appreciate knowing that renowned author Ernest Hemingway once visited the island, adding a touch of literary history.

Local Community

The island fosters a welcoming atmosphere that emphasizes friendly, personal connections.

Regular visitors and locals alike gather at the inn and restaurant, creating a sense of family and belonging.

Owned by the Wells family since 1976, the inn remains a community staple.

The laid-back lifestyle encourages interactions, making it easy for newcomers to feel at home.

Cabbage Key's small size and limited accessibility mean that people often know each other, fostering a tight-knit community where everyone feels included and valued.

Environmental Impact

Cabbage Key focuses on conserving its unique ecosystem and promoting eco-tourism. Efforts are made to preserve the natural beauty and support sustainable practices.

Conservation Efforts

Cabbage Key places a strong emphasis on conservation to protect its delicate environment.

Efforts include maintaining the landscape and safeguarding local wildlife. The island collaborates with nearby areas like Cayo Costa State Park, which is essential for preserving surrounding natural habitats.

Programs to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling are in place.

Visitors are encouraged to minimize their environmental footprint by using reusable containers and disposing of waste properly.

Educational initiatives also help raise awareness about the importance of conservation among tourists and residents alike.


Eco-tourism is a key component of Cabbage Key’s sustainability strategy.

The island offers activities that connect visitors with nature while promoting environmental responsibility.

Guided tours explore the local flora and fauna, providing insights into the island’s ecosystem. Nature lovers particularly enjoy these informative excursions.

Accommodations and services on the island strive to be eco-friendly.

Efforts include using sustainable materials and reducing energy consumption.

The proximity to natural attractions like Pine Island and other barrier islands enhances the eco-tourism experience, allowing visitors to explore wider areas responsibly.

By focusing on sustainable practices, Cabbage Key aims to balance tourism with environmental preservation.

Reviews and Recommendations

Cabbage Key Inn has received a variety of reviews from guests.

On Tripadvisor, it holds a strong rating with over 779 reviews.

Guests often praise the scenic location, which can be accessed only by boat, adding to its unique charm.

Many reviewers highlight the food as one of the key attractions.

The restaurant, reachable only by water, serves a range of seafood dishes that have delighted many visitors. The cheeseburger is especially famed, rumored to have inspired Jimmy Buffett's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

Service at Cabbage Key is frequently described as friendly and accommodating.

Staff members are noted for their knowledge of the local area and quick responses to guest needs. This has contributed to many positive experiences reported by visitors.

The atmosphere of Cabbage Key receives mixed reviews.

Some guests enjoy the rustic, old-Florida vibe, while others find the accommodations a bit dated.

The serene, natural environment, however, consistently receives high marks. Guests appreciate the opportunity to disconnect and explore nature trails.

On Yelp, reviewers also discuss the unique aspect of the location being only accessible by boat. This makes for a tranquil retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cabbage Key is a small island in Southwest Florida that is rich in history and activities. It can only be reached by boat and features a famous restaurant, unique attractions, and a rustic atmosphere.

What dining options are available at the Cabbage Key restaurant?

The Cabbage Key restaurant is known for its Old Florida charm.

It serves fresh seafood, burgers, and its famous cheeseburger, which inspired Jimmy Buffett's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

The dining room is decorated with dollar bills covering the walls, creating a unique and memorable atmosphere.

What is the ferry schedule to Cabbage Key?

Ferries to Cabbage Key operate on a daily schedule with multiple trips per day.

Exact times vary by season and operator. Visitors can catch a ferry from various locations, including Pine Island, Sanibel Island, and Captiva Island. It's recommended to check with the ferry operators for the most current schedule.

Can you provide a map of Cabbage Key?

Maps of Cabbage Key can usually be found at the ferry terminals or at the Cabbage Key Inn upon arrival.

The island is privately owned and not extensively developed. The main attractions are the inn, the restaurant, and walking trails that allow visitors to explore the natural beauty of the island.

What are some popular activities to engage in on Cabbage Key?

Visitors to Cabbage Key enjoy activities such as nature walks, bird watching, kayaking, and fishing.

The island's trails offer a peaceful environment to see native plants and wildlife. Some people also visit the historic water tower for a panoramic view of the area.

What is the history of Cabbage Key?

Cabbage Key's history dates back to 1937 when the main house was built as a private residence.

It was converted into an inn in the 1940s. The island has been owned by the Wells family since 1976. It's known for its rich heritage and Old Florida atmosphere.

What makes Cabbage Key a notable destination?

Cabbage Key is notable for its untouched natural beauty and rustic charm. It can only be accessed by boat, offering a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle.

The iconic Dollar Bill Bar and the connection to Jimmy Buffett's music add to its unique appeal.

Charlie Hardcastle
Charlie is Editor-in-Chief of Sea Magazine
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