The location: The Cabin in the Everglades

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A drug pusher's hidden cabin.


Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Deep in the Florida Everglades.

    On Dexter's GPS navigator, it is listed as "661 Lehigh Drive, Naples, FL 33048", but that's not a real address.

    ( Naples is near the Everglades, but the street doesn't exist, and the zip code - 33048 - doesn't even match the city - or any other U.S. city, for that matter. )


Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. Often.

    We first see it in Episode 8 (of Season Two), "Morning Comes", when Dexter follows Santos Jiminez from his bar ("The Swamp") out to his cabin in the Everglades, where he finds that Jiminez is still dealing drugs.

    Dexter kills Jiminez there. But Sgt. Doakes tracks Dexter to the cabin and realizes that Dexter is the "Bay Harbor Butcher". He tries to take Dexter in, but instead Doakes winds up becoming Dexter's prisoner.

    Dexter can't quite decide what to do with him, since Harry's Code prohibits killing the innocent. So Dexter keeps him caged there, while he looks for a solution.

    Hence, the cabin appears in all of the episodes following Episode 8. Subsequent scenes at the cabin include various confrontations between Dexter & Doakes, a scene where Doakes escapes the cage (only to run into a gang of drug smugglers), the rather spectacular finale (in which Lila shows up and raises hell), and the aftermath when the police come to investigate the explosion.


Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A public garden and lake, where the producers built a temporary cabin - and it's not in Florida.


Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. The cabin itself was just a temporary set, but the surrounding park and lake are very real.

    You can find the spot at the South Coast Botanic Garden, at 26300 Crenshaw Boulevard, in Rolling Hills Estates, CA (on the way up the Palos Verdes peninsula).

    Some of the big trees were fake (most notably the rooty cypress trees they pan up at the start of Episode 10, "There's Something About Harry"), and they brought in some extra plants and hung some moss around to make it look more like the Everglades. They also built a small wooden pier nearby (where Dexter docked his boat), and occasionally added a touch of fog for atmosphere.

    But the lake, surrounded by reeds & rushes, does look a bit swampy, even in its natural state. And since they shot most of the footage at night, they didn't have to worry that much about the details.

    You catch a short glimpse of that lake on the first night shot of the cabin. But you get a good look at it in the daylight scene where Doakes flags down the smuggler's airboat (in Episode 11, "Left Turn Ahead").

    The lake is east of the main garden entrance. They built the cabin on a clearing, on what appears to be the northern edge of the lake/lagoon at the garden, so the cabin was facing south/southeast. (You can find a .PDF file map of the park here.)

    The garden itself is a man-made creation. Until 1961, the area had been a landfill (and before that, an open pit mine). The county (and local volunteers) did a marvelous job of converting what could have otherwise been an eyesore into a lush, tropical Eden. Most of the garden isn't swampy, of course - beyond the lake, they have rose gardens, white gazebos, grassy lawns, a children's garden with nursery rhyme cottages, a cactus garden, a gift shop, flower shows, etc. (They also have their own website, at southcoastbotanicgarden.org.)

    To find the garden, from Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance, just turn south up Crenshaw and go less than a mile up the hill. The entrance to the garden will be on your left (east) side. Keep an eye out for it, it's easy to miss.

    As of 2008, admission to the garden was $7.00 ($2.50 for kids).

    (One word of caution: Pay attention to the map they give you when you come in, and the paths you take - or bring a compass. At 87 acres, it's not a huge garden, but it's still fairly easy to lose one's sense of direction here, if you aren't careful, and to wind up wandering around looking for the exit.)

    Here is an aerial photo of the garden, with the lake location marked. And here is a map link.


    I shot the photos below in August 2008


    (Above is a partial panorama of the lake, with the cabin area near the center of the photo.)


    (Above is a close-up of the clearing where the "Dexter" cabin was built.)


    (Above is a view of the lake, looking out from the cabin clearing.)


Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. Normally, I might have written this one off as an impossible location - at first glance, it looks like it might have actually been filmed in the Everglades of Florida, and if not, it still doesn't look anywhere like Los Angeles.

    But I had luck on my side this time. I have a friend who happened to be visiting the South Coast Botanic Garden, and saw that they were filming something there. He spotted the fake swampy trees they had trucked in, and the cabin they had put up by the lake. Knowing of my interest in filming locations, he asked someone what they were shooting, and learned that it was "Dexter". So naturally, he passed on the info to yours truly.

    It made perfect sense. I've been to the South Coast Botanic Garden before, and I knew that the lake there has always had a rather swampy look to it, with tall rushes growing out of the water, and tropical palms visible in the background. If you were looking to recreate the Everglades in the South Bay, that lake would be a pretty good place to start.

    So I went to investigate. But by the time I visited the garden myself, the filming crew had finished and pulled up roots, and there was no sign that the cabin had even been there...

    But it was obvious where they had most likely built it - there is only one major clearing at the edge of that lake (on its north side) - most of the lake's periphery is blocked off by rushes and other vegetation.

    (Oh, about that white egret you see in one scene?  It's really there. You can see it above, perched in the tree to the right, in one of the photos I shot at the lake.)

    ( I found out later that they filmed one more, brief scene at this garden: one of the last shots in the final episode of season 2, where we Dexter, Rita and her kids running in slo-mo across a wide, green lawn. )



 
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The Dexter screenshots from the show and all related characters & elements are trademarks of and © Showtime.
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