After my Everglades fiasco, I still wanted to do some camping from my kayak while in Florida. I did some research and found an island off coast from Port Charlotte called Cayo Costa that was home to a state park of the same name. En route to this island was another called Cabbage Key which is home to the locally famous Cabbage Key Inn, whose food and location, it is said, inspired Jimmy Buffet’s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” I decided to go, but for just one night this time in case the bugs were bad.
The paddle out from the Pineland Marina on Pine Island was rather uneventful, a series of islands separated by shallow water containing an endless expanse of sea grass. I entered a lagoon on Part Island and continued through a mangrove “tunnel” to the other side and then paddled north and west toward Cabbage Key (I decided I would stop for lunch on my return trip.) I saw some tarpons and some dolphins from my kayak as I continued onward to Cayo Costa, and north along its eastern shore to the ranger station. I registered at the station, left my kayak among the assorted plastic kayaks that were stored there and packed my camping equipment for the “shuttle” across the island to the gulf coast.
I found my camp site and quickly left it to explore the beach which was a few hundred yards away, a perfect white expanse of sand stretching to the horizon in both directions. I wet my toes and then returned to set up my camp before going for a swim in the warm waters of the gulf. I walked around the island for a bit that afternoon and swam some more before making dinner and going for an evening swim. The constant breeze meant there were few bugs.
The next morning I had my breakfast on the beach and while I was enjoying my coffee, spotted some dolphins not far off shore. I watched them for a while, but it wasn’t until I saw a manatee pass by a few yards away from me that I decided to fetch my snorkel and camera from camp. Unfortunately, by the time I returned, the dolphins and the manatee were not to be seen. I packed my camp and got the shuttle back to where my kayak was. I quickly prepared to leave and set out for Cabbage Key.
About an hour later, I arrived a bit early for lunch, but hungry, so I proceeded directly to the Cabbage Key Inn, a beautiful old white building on a hill overlooking the bay. It was a busy place, a passenger ferry had arrived moments before I did and people were slowly making their way up to the inn. I ordered a sandwich and a beer from the very cute waitress and relaxed, enjoying the great view. After lunch, I splurged for some key-lime pie which I found somewhat disappointing; it was a no-bake version and didn’t have the rich creamy texture that I love. Even so, the lunch was very enjoyable. I took some photos around the Inn before returning to my kayak.
The paddle from Cabbage Key back to Pineland was uneventful except for a school of twenty or so rays that swam in formation directly under my kayak in about two feet of water. I arrived back at the marina in the early afternoon and loaded all my gear into the car. All in all it was a great overnight trip.