August 2, 2020
Ozello, Florida is on Florida's west coast between Crystal River and Homosassa. Although it is not incorporated, it is a tight knit little community of about 400 people.
That's not many people unless you compare it to the 49 people who lived there back in 1910.
Most residents of modern times pronounce their little town "Ozella."
Ozello is the general name for a series of small keys that are connected by a winding road known as The Ozello Trail. The trail is designated on the maps as Country Road 494, and extends west from US-19 south of Crystal River.
The Trail is a curvy road that meanders for 10 miles through the salt marshes to the furthermost point of Ozello. Motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts love this lightly traveled paved road.
Ozello was recognized for many years as "The Isle of Knowledge" featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not cartoons. The isle referred to the small key where the schoolhouse was located.
Local children in the early days rowed a boat to school; in more modern times they were picked up by a school boat.
The old schoolhouse no longer exists. Kids go to school on the mainland.
The community's isolation is probably preserved forever because of its location adjacent to the 23,000 acre St. Martin's Aquatic Preserve. This land is owned by the State of Florida and managed by the state's Department of Natural Resources.
Residents and visitors to Ozello are water oriented. Fishing and nature watching are popular.
You will see a fair number of kayaks, small motor boats, and air boats. Some of the keys have canals and people keep a boat behind their house.
The center of Ozello is noted for its small civic club, church, fire department, and water tower. Several business offer boat tours and rentals.
The elevation of most of Ozello is only about three feet above sea level. Most newer homes are built on columns to elevate them several feet above ground level.
Ozello has a water system, but no sewer system. All homes and business are serviced by septic tanks that have to be elevated above the groundwater table.
There are three nice restaurants with the Old Florida feel in Ozello. It is amazing to find this kind of good food and ambiance in such a small community.
The first one you will see on your left as you come into Ozello is Backwater Fins Restaurant. It is a casual place with good seafood and both inside and outside dining.
The next one on the right looks like a convenience store but is also a nice barbecue, shrimp, and wings place called Island Outpost with both inside and outside dining.
Further down the road, near its end, you will find Peck's Old Port Cove Seafood Restaurant. It has great seafood and both inside and outside dining.
The birdseye view above shows you what the very end of Ozello Trail looks like. The small sandy area in the upper right is a community park and boat ramp. The day I was there the park had a very welcome porta john.