Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More Florida Islands–Boca Grande and Cabbage Key

February 6-7, 2013

When we left Venice, we enjoyed another calm ride outside on the Gulf, continuing to avoid the shallow Intracoastal. We were thrilled to get a call from the Boca Grande Marina saying that they had a cancellation and could give us a slip for the night.

As we approached Boca Grande, we passed this boat that was out for a day cruise and would end up being one of our neighbors for the night. Big!


The Boca Grande Pass was full of crab pots – my gosh, they are everywhere down here! There were a lot a lot of small fishing boats in the pass, probably tarpon fishing, as that is the big thing in these waters.  We actually saw a tarpon jump ahead of us – an unmistakable big silver fish. We also passed the old lighthouse on the way in.


When we checked in at the marina office, we opted to rent an exorbitantly expensive golf cart for the short time we would be there.  That’s the popular mode of transportation on the island, and it was fun. We were able to see much more in a short time than if we had taken our bikes.


First we rode to the south end of the island and toured the old lighthouse. On the way back we stopped at the little South Beach restaurant on the water for a late, light lunch.

Next stop was back into the very charming little downtown where I enjoyed some shopping while Craig zipped back to the boat to feed the dogs.

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The marina is on the eastern-view side, so we found a place on the western-view side where we could bring a glass of wine and watch the sunset. Returned to the boat, changed clothes (it was chilly!), got wine and glasses and headed back to the beach. (See, we never could have moved so quickly without those golf carts!) We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

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After dinner at a nice restaurant in town, we figured out that yes, our golf cart did in fact have headlights, and headed back to the boat. In the marina parking lot we saw some folks checking out this fellow – a scorpion! We kept the dogs on a short leash that night!


The next morning Craig took the cart to the bakery and brought back some goodies for breakfast.  So unlike him!  By 9:00 a.m. we were back in the cart, off to explore the north end of the island. We kept passing golf carts with dogs on board, and Craig thought we should give ours a try at it. So when we got back to the boat, we loaded the dogs for a ride.  The reaction was about what we expected.  Joey hopped in front with Craig like he’d ridden in golf carts forever.  Bailey sat in back with me and clung to me for dear life. Once we got going, though, I think she kind of enjoyed it.  We stopped in town for ice cream for everyone, so definitely she was happy then.

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What a fun time we had for the short time we were here! Those golf carts were great!

Our next stop was Cabbage Key, where we had visited briefly years before on a vacation in Captiva. There isn’t much in Cabbage Key, which is part of its charm. It’s big draw is the restaurant at the Cabbage Key Inn, allegedly the place that inspired Jimmy Buffett to  write “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Mostly, Cabbage Key is what these old Florida islands must have looked like back in the days before tourism and over-development took hold.

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We pulled in towards the end of lunchtime, which meant the small marina was busting with day-tripper boats there for lunch. There are also a few tour boats that come over from Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers, dropping people for lunch and time to walk around the island, and then returning for pick-up a few hours later.


The inn and few surrounding buildings were built in the 1930s by the mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart and her family.  Now the only residents are a few inn guests, a few boaters, some of the staff and several resident ducks, gulls, gopher tortoises and an egret that hangs around the lunch tables looking for handouts.

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We had lunch (cheeseburgers, of course!), then walked through the mangrove jungle and back to the boat to relax and people-watch. By mid-afternoon, we were the only boat left and we had this bit of paradise all to ourselves.

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Oh, and there were a couple of kayakers from Cincinnati, too!


It’s impossible to rank our many, many wonderful wine time/sunset sessions, but this was right up there. Such a peaceful spot, just us and the no-see-ums!

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Right before we headed back up to the restaurant for dinner, a big sailboat came in. So we had a huge crowd of TWO boats in the marina for the night. There were a few other people staying at the Inn, so the restaurant was lightly but pleasantly populated for the evening. Quite a change from the busy lunchtime atmosphere. We loved the whole experience.

Before we left in the morning, we had one more important task. The Inn is famous for people attaching dollar bills to the walls.  In some places the bills are so thick the walls feel squishy. They say that the staff collects the loose bills that fall off and every year donates about $10,000 to  local charities. So of course we had to hang a Blue Heron dollar on the wall! Craig searched for just the right spot!

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We left before the lunch crowds started coming. We were sorry to leave, but we were headed for another wonderful spot – Captiva Island!


Next up: Those jewels of southwest Florida, Captiva and Sanibel

(Real-time update: On March 20, we are in Titusville, Florida for a week. Tomorrow we are going to Walt Disney World! That’s a looping change of pace!)

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