Growing up in Maitland, one of the most anticipated occasions of the year was when my mom would take us all to Cocoa Beach. But en route we always passed a place I wanted to see, but never did. Until last week.
I’m not sure how long the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp has been hidden here on SR 520 between 528 and I-95, but it still is and that’s good. It’s good because I got to do two things I’d never done: Ride in an airboat and eat at their restaurant. Let’s start with the airboat.
It was cool. Cooler than that, even. Captain Kenny was at the controls, and when we zipped beneath Highway 520, we were riding on an entirely new highway – one made of water and reeds. If you think Florida’s getting congested, get on this airboat and you’ll be amazed when the pilot literally skims over the surface of the water as he navigates deeper and deeper into the waters of the St. Johns River on road-sized liquid lanes. For tourists, the desire is to see alligators, but, having already seen my share, I was more thrilled to round a corner and encounter something totally unexpected: cows. How they got out here is beyond me, but here they were grazing out in the middle of what passes for nowhere. Ever so often Captain Kenny would stop and wait for alligators to appear and, as we waited, fill us in on the behavior of alligators and other wildlife. I felt like I was getting a lesson from the Crocodile Hunter. He even told me that a blue heron has a beak so sharp and so powerful it can put a deeper dent in the dock than Kenny could with a clawhammer.
Then it was lunchtime. Even though I probably should’ve ordered catfish or gator tail, I chose a bacon cheeseburger, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was excellent. This was one of those purely magic days when I could sit in a booth at an “only in Florida” diner, gaze out the window at countless square miles of undisturbed wilderness, and realize how fortunate we are to have destinations like the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp waiting for us when we’re ready to see the real Florida.