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Best Weekend Getaway Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 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.

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