Best Weekend Getaway (2005)

Cayo Costa State Park

Tired of paying through the nose for an oceanfront view? Had it with crowded beaches and car exhaust? Try this rustic isle just a couple of hours' drive from South Florida. There are 30 tent sites and 12 cabins here. There's also eight miles of beach, much of it deserted, and a surfeit of herons, egrets, and inner peace. But beware. You have to plan ahead. There's running water and cold showers but no stores. No cars are allowed; a shuttle carries you the one mile from the dock to the campsites. The place was whacked by Hurricane Charlie; the winds knocked down most of the Australian pines, an invasive species, leaving intact the native palms and sea grapes. So there's plenty of wood for fires. Costs? A tent site goes for $18 per night and a cabin for $30. (The cabins have three sets of bunk beds.) The island, which is just north of Sanibel and Captiva, is a 45-minute ferry ride from Pine Island. The ferry costs $29 round trip for adults and about half that for kids 6 and under. For reservations, call 800-326-3521. Book ahead. The place is popular during the winter and spring.