Cedar Key is in North Central Florida on the Gulf of Mexico in Levy County.
It is an Old Florida fishing village of about 700 full time residents that has become one the more surprising tourist attractions in this part of the state.
To reach Cedar Key, travel to the end of State Road 24, crossing the salt marshes and channels over four small low bridges.
This delightful destination is a straight shot from Gainesville and the University of Florida.
The Cedar Keys are a group of small islands, and the island city of Cedar Key is located on Way Key.
Of the surrounding area, 13 of the Keys make up federally protected land called the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, totaling 762 acres of natural beauty.
Some of the more well-known of these islands are North Key, Snake Key, and Bird (Deadman's) Key, and Seahorse Key. Later, nearby Atsena Otie Key was added to the Refuge.
One of the interesting things about the nearby Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is that rather than protecting animal species it was established to protect the water quality of the Suwannee River.
The area offers excellent fishing and an abundance of wildlife.
The many nature trails attract bird watchers from around the world who come to view countless shore birds, migratory and nesting birds including bald eagles.
For such a small town, Cedar Key has a prominent place in Florida History. Early history of the area shows it was settled long ago.
Arrowheads and spear points dating back 12,000 years have been found in the area, along with various shell mounds created by the ancient Native Americans.
The name is derived from the Spanish name, Las Islas Sabines, or The Cedar Islands. The islands had an abundance of cedar trees among the wild natural lands.
Modern settlement of Cedar Key began about 1839 when General Zachary Taylor built Fort No. 4 on Depot Key; it became Army headquarters during the early part of the Seminole Wars.
In the years before the Civil War, Cedar Key developed into a major Florida port. Lumber and naval stores from the mainland were shipped out of the small village to major cities around the world.
By 1860, there were two saw mills producing cedar slats for shipment to pencil factories up north.
Also in 1860, David Levy Yulee completed his Florida railroad that crossed the state from Fernandina to Cedar Key. Yulee was a U.S. Senator and an interesting character in Florida history.
Right about the time the railroad was completed, Parson and Hale's General Store was completed. Today it is known as the Island Hotel.
During the Civil War, a lot of salt was produced around Cedar Key for use by the Confederate Army. Much cotton was also shipped out of Cedar Key.
The Union army and navy destroyed a lot of Cedar Key during the war, and finally occupied the village until the end of the war.
When Henry Plant's railroad reached Tampa in 1886, Cedar Key's importance as a port declined and it began to lose population and industry.
About ten years later, a major hurricane hit Cedar Key, killing 100 people and wiping out the saw mills and most other buildings.
A couple of months later, a fire just about finished the job of destruction.
By the early 1900s, the major industries in Cedar Key had become sponging and oyster harvesting.
Over harvesting exhausted these resources, and Cedar Key became a quiet place where people liked to spend weekends.
The State of Florida helped local fishermen learn how to farm clams, so clam farming has become a major village industry. So also is tourism.
Cedar Key is one of the few remaining places in Florida that retain most of the charm of its earlier years, with its historic buildings and friendly people.
It is still an example of what we love to call "Old Florida."
There are several very good seafood restaurants in Cedar Key, and numerous lodging facilities.
The area does get a bit more lively a few times a year. Each year a couple of festivals are held here:
The Old Florida Celebration of the Arts Festival (held every spring) brings in thousands of visiting and local artists, vendors and tourists, as downtown fills with street-style art galleries.
The Cedar Key Seafood Festival (third weekend in October) is the big "fall" celebration, bringing in thousands of hungry people celebrating their rich fishing history, and is a boon to local businesses.
The area is especially known for its oysters, stone crabs and clams, and actually is now one of the largest producers of farm-raised clams in the eastern US.
Dock Street, or "The Dock" as locals call it, is the old waterfront area with many shops and restaurants.
The rest of the town, including the old downtown section, is natural and weathered and somewhat run down, giving you a special feeling of being in Old Florida.
Many of the homes are more than 100 years old and in all kinds of condition.
Driving through the quiet streets you will see completely rehabilitated cottages next to weather beaten old houses that have never seen a paint brush.
There are several newer low rise condominiums and motels near the downtown area that are typically designed to fit in with the Old Florida feel.
Newer homes are in the wooded areas that surround Cedar Key.
These newer homes are usually built up on stilts or columns to give them protection from storm surges that often accompany hurricanes.
An unusual feature that makes Cedar Key different than most communities on this sparsely settled Gulf coast is the small beach in a downtown city park near The Dock.
Cedar Key has a museum, and the entire village has national historic status through the Cedar Keys Historic and Archaeological District and the U.S. National Register of Historic places.
Cedar Key Historical Society Museum, 609 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5549. Nestled in the heart of Cedar Key, this museum is a treasure trove of historical artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that chronicle the unique heritage of the city. You'll gain a comprehensive understanding of the city's rich chronicle and the events that shaped it into the charming place it is today.
Cedar Key State Museum, 12231 SW 166 Ct, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5350. Wander amidst a display of relics, including marine shells and indian artifacts, or simply lounge in the picnic area with beautiful views of the surrounding woods. It's a delight to lose oneself in the echoes of the past.
Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, State Road 24. The vast rolling scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood forests are home to a variety of wildlife sure to enchant you. From bird watching to nature trails and horseback riding, there's something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Atsena Otie Key, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 493-0238. A short kayak ride away, this little slice of paradise offers magnificent views of the surrounding Gulf. Known for its calm, serene beauty, you'll enjoy the peaceful island experience.
Cedar Key Canvas Shop, 4051 D Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5198. This humble shop is filled with carefully crafted products made by local artists. Lose yourself in the colorful handbags, totes, and other unique fabric accessories on display.
Shell Mound Park, 17650 SW 7 Pl, Cedar Key, FL 32625. (352) 221-4466. This historical site, shaped by Indians over a thousand years ago, is an excellent spot for camping or a leisurely stroll. The tranquil nature setting offers a beautiful backdrop for picnicking.
Cedar Key Artists Co-op, 457 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5801. Showcasing works by talented local artists, this is a must-visit for art lovers. From watercolor paintings to handmade jewelry and pottery, you'll find each piece captivating.
Tidewater Tours, 302 Dock Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-9523. Enjoy an eco-tour of the area’s most impressive sights. Spot dolphins in the wild, explore marine life during low tide or experience a mesmerising sunset cruise.
Tony's Seafood Restaurant, 597 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-0022. Famous for their award-winning clam chowder, Tony's offers a delicious seafood menu. It's an experience not miss out on when in Cedar Key. They also have one smaller restaurant in Mount Dora, where I live.
Island Room Restaurant and Sand Bar, 192 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-6520. Another stellar dining option for seafood lovers is the Island Room. With a stunning view of the Gulf, the savory food complements the atmosphere beautifully.
Big Deck Raw Bar, 331 Dock St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-9992. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at this local bar. The food, music, and wonderful views make this a delightful place to stop for food and drink.
Cedar Key Pier, 2nd Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625. A peaceful spot to walk, fish or just soak up the views. The pier offers stunning views of the Gulf's sparkling water and the Sunset is a treat to the eyes.
Seahorse Landing Beach, 4050 G St, Cedar Key, FL 32625. A tranquil beach spot perfect for a quiet read or a leisurely stroll. The serene atmosphere makes this an ideal location for deep relaxation amidst nature.
Faraway Inn, 847 3rd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5330. Stay at this charming, pet-friendly motel and enjoy comfortable accommodation and outstanding service. Its tranquil setting and picturesque water views offer a simple yet unforgettable stay.
Kayak Cedar Keys, 6027 A St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-9447. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Cedar Key with a personalized tour. Their friendly and knowledgeable guides will ensure you have a memorable trip.
Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center, 450 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5600. Drop by the chamber to meet the friendly locals and gather great information about the area.
Low-Key Hideaway Motel & RV Resort, 12050 State Road 24, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-0700. This is a perfect place to stay for those who travel with an RV and want a cozy and relaxed experience. They also have a neat little tiki bar.
Southern Cross Sea Farms, 12170 FL-24, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 543-5980. A perfect outing for shellfish enthusiasts. The farm offers a chance to learn about the clam cultivation process and even purchase some to enjoy later.
Nature Coast Biological Station, 552 1st St, Cedar Key, FL 32625, (352) 325-6078. For travelers fascinated by the local marine life, a visit to this research station will give you an insight into the area's marine and coastal ecosystems.