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Look no further for a relaxing, wholesome and feel-good trip

If you’re a fan of low-key, chain-free restaurants and hotels, protected wildlife, island hopping around secluded beaches and making real memories in a slice of paradise, Florida’s Gulf Coast could be calling your name. Here’s our travel guide of the best places to stay, where to eat and drink and what to do while you’re there. Basically, here’s what your adventure could look like.

Where to stay in Florida’s Gulf Coast

Tarpon Lodge Hotel and Restaurant

Our trip started at the low-key and charming Tarpon Lodge Hotel and Restaurant. Located on Pine Island, Tarpon Lodge gives a glimpse into the rustic, farm to fork comforts we were after. Tarpon Lodge was one of the many places affected by Hurricane Ian in 2022, but it was a pleasure to see them bouncing back into business with their warm hospitality. There is plenty of fresh seafood on the menu as well as a delightful filet mignon, while you can also experience breathtaking sunsets from the marina, relaxing on the tropical grounds and listening to their live music. We even spotted a couple of dolphins one morning over the calm waters.


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Where to eat and drink in Florida’s Gulf Coast

Cabbage Key Restaurant

You can reach Cabbage Key only by boat, and there are several cruises from Pine Island marina. If you’re feeling peckish, it’s worth visiting the infamous Cabbage Key Restaurant. The restaurant’s main claim to fame is that it is reportedly the inspiration for late Jimmy Buffet’s song ‘Cheeseburger In Paradise’, although this is just a rumour. The walls and ceiling of the restaurant inside are overloaded with one dollar bills; each customer can write on a bill with a marker pen and stick it to the wall to make their mark. Of course we left one of our own.

As well as the cheeseburger, there were plenty of fresh seafood offerings such as shrimp and crab claws, and beans, rice, salad and strong cocktails. It has a very laid-back demeanour and stunning ocean views, the perfect relaxing day trip.

Things to do in Florida’s Gulf Coast

Visit Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key is a unique island off the coast of Southwest Florida, which you can get to by boat (and hopefully see dolphins while you’re at it!) The water is so calm and shallow that we also saw a manatee near the docks of Cabbage Key. They have a degree of gentleness and respond warmly to people because of their lack of natural predators.

This is an excerpt from an article by Alicia Watts published on