Cabbage Key: Day with Joe Winner

It was a bright, sunny, but chilly Sunday for a first time experience in a seaplane. I was given a great opportunity to invite my friend Joe Winner to accompany me on an excursion to Cabbage key, a secluded Gulf Coast Island, surrounded by one hundred acres of tropical vegetation. Located near Fort Myers and four miles from Bokeelia, Cabbage Key offers a panoramic view of Pine Island Sound.

After Joe met Tomas, Jon and myself at the Naples, Florida terminal, we loaded into the freshly painted Cessna 206 amphibian seaplane, which is a reliable workhorse of general aviation. This airplane can safely maneuver in and out of tight airstrips or stretches of water with ease, all while managing a large load without any problems. The Cessna features four passenger seats for ample capacity and can cruise at speeds of 125 mph.  My friend Joe was very excited to experience this incredible seaplane and fly to a new destination.

Take off was super smooth. Our pilot Tomas maneuvered us safely off the runway and into the beautiful blue skies as we watched Naples turn into a small map of ocean front property, golf courses, and white sandy beaches. I serenely looked through the window searching for different wildlife. It was spectacular to view as we soared in our Salt Island Seaplane. Next time I will be sure to bring my binoculars. I felt exhilarated to be safe in the sky, excited to be traveling to a new destination. The landing was simply the best feature I was able to experience. It felt thrilling to land in the stunning ocean of Cabbage Key. I wasn’t nervous at all, feeling only a refreshing moment as Tomas effortlessly landed the seaplane on the ocean. This was an unforgettable experience!

We traveled only twenty-four minutes to reach our final destination: a historic restaurant, inn and rental cottages. We had lunch at “The Old House.” I learned that the front porch of the open-air restaurant sits atop a thirty-eight foot tall Indian shell mound. This remote island has no cars, not even a paved road. Instead, you will find the homes of gopher tortoises that roam freely. These tortoises are a species of the gopher genus that is native to the Southeastern Untied States, and are a keystone species because of their ability to dig deep borrows that provide shelter for hundreds of other animal species.

Bird watching was another amazing pass time.  From Anhinga to Osprey, we heard them singing and saw them flying high in the sky. What a sight!

Lunch was in the main room, nestled among live Cuban laurels dripping with moss. Over the years, visitors have covered the walls in thousands of one-dollar bills using tape. After the tape evaporates, the dollar bills drop to the floor and are generously donated to charities benefiting childhood education. Known by many as “the bar with all the money on the walls,” the Cabbage Key Bar has been serving up drinks to boaters for over sixty years.

The bar and the formal dining room make up the other two dining locations. There were fire places burning on this chilly day as we walked upon original hardwood floor and viewed walls made of cypress. Joe and I enjoyed Bailey Francisco coffee drinks. Our waitress, Deb, added an extra dollop of whipped cream. We enjoyed a hearty bowl of clam chowder soup with diced potatoes, onions, and celery. There was also a blackened Mahi sandwich. The chef sears a thick filet of mahi-mahi that is crunchy on the outside but terrifically moist within. For dessert, of course, Key Lime pie, made with key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk in a tender pie crust with a meringue topping to die for. This dish is famously named after the small key limes that grow naturally in the Florida Keys.

After a delicious meal, with the kindest wait staff, we said our goodbyes. Then we hopped back in to our impressive Cessna seaplane to drop Joe off at the Naples airport.

It was one of my most terrific memories made in the company of Joe, Tomas and Jon. We learned all about Cabbage Key and loved our ride on the seaplane.  I look forward to visiting Cabbage Key again, to experience the nature trail and to go fishing off the dock.

If you join us, I promise you’ll find clarity.

Written by Sarah Gladish

Salt Island Seaplanes chartered Joe Winner to Cabbage Key for lunch

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