Cabbage Key / Cayo Costa State Park
The highlights: If Cabbage Key were a car, it would be a Land Rover Defender. Just off Pine Island, the 100-acre retreat is ideal for the off-roading adventurer, as it’s next to flat-out stunning (and only accessible by boat) Cayo Costa State Park. The 2,426-acre state park is lined with nine miles of sand, pine forests, and mangroves, a mecca for snorkeling, hiking, biking, shelling, boating, and scuba diving. We can’t promise you will see manatees and dolphins, but yeah, you probably will.
Cabbage Key also might be responsible for “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The Cabbage Key Inn, a 1920s-era house transformed into a local landmark, apparently inspired Jimmy Buffett to write this extremely underplayed diddy. These days, dollar bills left in tribute cake the walls -- the establishment supposedly collects 10,000 of them a year.
Must eat/drink: This a small place, so Cabbage Key Inn, with its cheeseburger fit for paradise, is your go-to. If you don’t feel the urge, it also serves up shrimp, mojitos, and Key lime pie.
Don't leave without: Touring the island’s perimeter by kayak. It’s really the best way to capture, and literally see, the entire place.