Beach + Island

Hidden Beaches

by Bob Payne

Come Shell or High Water

Spread Your Towel: Cayo Costa, Florida

Shore lines: There was a time, before Florida and beachfront and development evolved almost into one word, when just about all of the Sunshine State's beaches looked like Cayo Costa's—soft white sand, chill-out serenity, and nary a high-rise at the tide line. What's allowed it to remain so pristine is its isolation in one of Florida's state parks. On a barrier island off Florida's southern Gulf coast, it is reachable only by private boat or a small public ferry that charges $25 per person for day visitors. Once you arrive, though, count on having at least some of its nine miles of soft white sand all to yourself. If you score one of the 12 primitive cabins or a coveted spot in one of the 18 campsites, you can be among the first to head for the south end of the island at sunrise, where the best shells wash up, especially during the winter months.

Best Bunk: The primitive cabins are just that—each is not much more than a shelter, sans electricity, for six bunks, plus a picnic table outside. Bathrooms and showers are in a common building nearby. But it is only steps away from the beach.

Cayo Costa State Park
Tel: 800 326 3521, cabin reservations; 239 283 0015, ferry reservations
Cabins cost $30, ferry price for overnighters, $30 per person

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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