Cabbage Key-I'm Just a Cheeseburger in Paradise

Dateline: September 7, 2009 Cabbage Key, FL

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato...Heinz 57 and french fried potato, Big Kosher pickle and a cold draft beer, Good God Almighty which way do I steer....Jimmy Buffett 1978.

We met up with our host at The Tarpon Lodge just after sunset. We had driven west over the Florida peninsula from our home in Jupiter on the Atlantic Ocean to Pine Island, Florida about 40 Miles northwest of Ft. Myers on the Gulf Coast.

Adjacent to The Tarpon Lodge was the Pineland Marina where, by boat, the islands of Cabbage Key, Useppa, Boca Grande, Sanibel, Captiva, and the spectacular beaches on Cayo Costa lie like pearls on the turquoise water just a "stone's throw" away from the mainland.

By the way, for you fishermen, Pineland Marina is the gateway to the Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World, where you can literally walk across the backs of the colossal "Silver Kings" during the month of June. That is a story for an upcoming edition of my series "Tropical Trails and Fish Tales." Please stay tuned...
Our destination for the Labor Day Weekend was the tropical island of Cabbage Key. Some people claim that Cabbage Key is the destination that Jimmy Buffett wrote about in his famous song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," and the only way to get there is by plane, helicopter or boat.
But before we get to all of that, I must tell you about The Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant. Tucked inside of a historic 1926 "Old Florida" fishing lodge is a fabulous Four Star restaurant that will take you back in time. In fact, this is my favorite way to "Time Travel" these days and I affectionately refer to these special destinations as the "New Old Florida."

There is a strong character that exudes from the old Florida pine floors and shiplap siding that has withstood the harsh salt water environment for almost 90 years and as recently as 2004 took one hell of a beating by category three Hurricane Charley.

That being said, I was hungry after the four hour drive and couldn't wait to get started with the house specialty Blue Crab and Roasted Corn Chowder. I was also a little thirsty so I washed it down with a lot of Crown Royal, straight up, like the Florida Straits. For an entree I had the "Fresh Catch" blackened, which was a delightful fillet of Triple Tail Snapper accompanied by a generous side of asparagus.

In any event, a dinner and in fact a stay at the Tarpon Lodge and Restaurant would have been just fine with me but we had a boat waiting to take us to Cabbage Key and it was well past dark by now. Our provisions had been loaded on the boat by the friendly concierge and we tipped him accordingly.

You need to know that there is nothing on Cabbage Key other than a few Conch Style Cottages & Cabins, a restaurant and bar and a marina dock and t-shirt shop that doubles as the Ship's Store.
Hell, there is not even a paved road nor a car to drive on it if there was, so we had picked up a few bags of provisions for our salt water adventures to Cayo Costa, Boca Grande and Captiva Island. Beer, chips, dip, cheese, wine, fruit, ice, sodas, water and the like...

We climbed aboard our Captain's 29' Mako Walkaround without trippin' over all of the supplies and were immediately astonished at the fluorescent glow of the water in the prop churn from the twin Yamahas. It was a phenomenon that I had never seen before and under the light of a full moon it was almost narcotic. Our trip into the bay on that balmy night quickly became a magical mystery tour as we slowly navigated our way to Cabbage Key like floating through stardust in the wake of the big Mako. I guess the official name of the magical light show is bioluminescence?
As I had previously mentioned, I had too many Crown Royals to worry much about the navigation and worryin' aint much my my style anyway. Someone once said that worrying was interest paid in advance on deposits that were never made in the first place and I for one could not have agreed more. "No Worries Mate" is my Motto and I am sticking to it, especially since our Captian had been there before. Don't try this at home for you home gamers.
The next morning we rose early, ate breakfast at the restaurant and geared up for a day on the gin clear waters of Cabbage Key Sound and the Florida Gulf Coast.

We stopped for a swim at Cayo Costa State Park and went a shore for a little beach combing and crabbin' and we also tossed the cast net in the tidal pools for a few mullets to use as live bait.

We even managed to catch a baby sea horse if you can believe it and we saw all kinds of wildlife from birds to babes.
We eventually made our way over to Boca Grande and docked at Whidden's Marina. Historic Whidden’s Marina, located south of channel marker #7 on Boca Bayou, has the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the way Florida used to be and neither my words nor the words of any famed author could possibly do it justice. In my honest opinion, only pictures can capture that lost moment in deja vu, all over again.
After tying up at Whidden's Marina, we walked into town and had lunch at The Temptation, which is another place that has the "Olde Florida Charm" just drippin like cold condensation from the air conditioner vents. The Temptation serves fresh local seafood and prime aged steaks and has done so since the beginning of time, as far as I am concerned!

While waiting for my meal, I stumbled into the "Package Room/Bar" area, "aka" The Carribbean Room and found another one of my memories hangin' on the wall...again words can't describe a young boys first temptation.

Back at Cabbage Key the following evening after a day trip to Captiva Island, we had dinner at the famous restaurant known as the Old House.

We were sat in the back room of the Old House, where the walls are draped with dollar bills and here on Cabbage Key they are not "soggy dollars" like in Jost Van Dyke, in the Caribbean.

The Old House Restaurant has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to boaters on this island, which is mainly the remnants of an old Indian shell mound for over 60 years and if you come at lunch time you'll see what I mean and I don't mean maybe!
Tried to amend my carnivorous habits
Made it nearly seventy days
Losin' weight without speed, eatin' sunflower seeds
Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soakin' up rays

But at night I'd had these wonderful dreams
Some kind of sensuous treat
Not zuchinni, fettucini or bulghar wheat
But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat

Cheeseburger in paradise
Heaven on earth with an onion slice
Not too particular not too precise
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise

Heard about the old time sailor men
They eat the same thing again and again
Warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead
Well it reminds me of the menu at a holiday inn

Times have changed for sailors these days
When I'm in port I get what I need
Not just havanas or bananas or daiquiris
But that american creation on which I feed

Cheeseburger in paradise
Medium rare with mustard 'be nice
Heaven on earth with an onion slice
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise

I like mine with lettuce and tomato
Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
Well good god almighty which way do I steer for my

Cheeseburger in paradise
Makin' the best of every virtue and vice
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice To get a cheeseburger in paradise
To be a cheeseburger in paradise I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise