Traveling has always been one of the great joys of life. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and have visited 15 countries and 31 states so far.

I’ve seen spectacular vistas, breath taking mountain ranges, sugar sand beaches and turquoise waters. But when someone asks me where my happy place, I always tell them it’s Pine Island and Cabbage Key without any hesitation.

The dock at Tarpon Lodge at sunset.

Don’t get me wrong I love Florida and traveling the world but there’s something that always brings me back to Pine Island and Cabbage Key.

Balcony view of Tarpon Lodge overlooking the pool, the lawn, and the distant waterfront at sunset.

And it’s not just about the spectacular sunsets and the peaceful laidback way of life. It’s about the feeling you get when you first drive onto Pine Island.

The old Pineland Florida post office

First off you won’t find any traffic lights and the scarcity of chain stores and restaurants is evident.  What you will find are locals eager to strike up a conversation and help you enjoy your stay on their Island paradise.

Woman reclines in a hammock beneath the Island House at Tarpon Lodge.

Think of Jimmy Buffets song Wasting Away in Margaritaville and that pretty sums up the way of life on Pine Island.

Close up view of Cabbage Key's famous cheeseburger in paradise.

In fact, rumor has it that Jimmy wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise one afternoon at Cabbage Key.  And that my friends is most definitely believable!  Great Burgers, Boat Drinks and Paradise…..sigh.  Who could ask for more?

Pan Seared Tripletail at Tarpon Lodge

Well there is more, because both Tarpon Lodge and Cabbage Key have restaurants that will rival any 4 star restaurant.

Islander for Two Dinner at Cabbage Key: ½ lb. of Peel & Eat Shrimp with 1 lb. of Fresh Stone Crab Claws

Serving local fresh seafood that will leave you speechless (because your mouth is just too busy to talk!).

Caramel Turtle Fudge Ice Cream Pie at Cabbabe Key

And make sure to save room for dessert, you’ll be glad you did!

Who would have thought this tropical paradise could lure chefs with that kind of talent to their shores? But when you think about it who wouldn’t want to work and live the island life, instead of the hustle and bustle of a city?

Boats docked at Cabbage Key. A white heron perched on a boat canopy overlooking a horizon of blue water met by a blue sky.

Hopefully you’re starting to understand why I love visiting Pine Island and Cabbage Key.  But there is one other important piece of my personal paradise I haven’t mentioned.

Dolphin playfully jumping out of the water as it follows a boat

And that would be the Wells family that runs Tarpon Lodge and Cabbage Key.  Let’s talk about Old Florida Hospitality, the kind that’s hard to find these days no matter where you travel.  The Wells family not only opens up their properties to you, they open up their hearts with warmth and friendliness that makes you feel like you’ve gone home.

Couple sits, embraced, on the dock at Tarpon Lodge overlooking the bay and a golden sunset.

So, when I need some time to unwind and recharge my spirit, I head home to Tarpon Lodge.

Why not join me and make Tarpon Lodge and Cabbage Key your new home away from home.

You can read more about Tarpon Lodge and Cabbage Key on my blog A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis.