Cedar Key is located about one hour west of Gainesville, 2 hours north of Tampa, and 3 hours southwest of Jacksonville, Florida. A bit off the beaten path, Cedar Key is a haven for fisherpersons, artists, and eco-tourists. Whether you’re coming to fish, boat, kayak, birdwatch, or just relax – we invite you to stay awhile in our Cedar Key condo, kick off your shoes, and learn why our guests can’t wait to return to Cedar Key…
The hundred-plus islands which make up the Cedar Keys and the shoreline to the north have remained almost totally in their primitive state, despite the development of most of Florida. Thirteen of these islands comprise the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The many bays, marshes, rivers, and creeks provide a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty. Take a kayak trip around the islands or up the famous Suwannee River, looking for dolphins, manatees, and birds, or try your luck with a rod and reel to catch some of the many species of fish that are found in this area.
The city of Cedar Key is one of the oldest in the state. In its time, it was a bustling port at the western end of Florida’s first large railroad line. Pencil blanks made from local cedar trees were part of a thriving manufacturing industry which also included fiber broom and brush manufacturing, turpentine and salt production, and the harvest of seafood and sponges. Much of that manufacturing is gone today, but the seafood industry is still very important. When you visit, be sure to try seafood specialties such as farm-raised hard shell clams, oysters, and smoked mullet dip.
WAY Off the Beaten Track
- Things to do in Cedar Key Florida
The most common way to get to Cedar Key is to follow State Road 24 out of the tiny community of Otter Creek located along U.S. Highway 98 until you reach the Gulf of Mexico–a distance of about 22 miles.
Now, when your destination is 22 miles farther down a rural backroad from a place called “Otter Creek,” you know the place where you’re going is not just off the beaten track, it’s WAY off the beaten track.
But, if you like seacoasts and the quaintness of old Florida, I promise you, the drive will be worth every single mile.
Things to do in Cedar Key Florida
This quaint and charming Gulfshore village of about 1,000 residents is located in the heart of what’s called Florida’s Nature Coast–that approximately 200 linear miles of lonesome Sunshine State coastline stretching from the Ochlochnee Bay down to the City of Clearwater.
No one stops in Cedar Key on their way somewhere else. The nearest cities, Ocala and Gainesville, as well as the main highway, I-75, are 60 miles away. That is why it is worthwhile to make the trip to Cedar Key.
One big tourist activity here is simply walking around town, checking out the pier, ducking into the little shops, and eating great seafood at any of the town’s fine eating establishments.
Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
16450 NW 31 Place, Chiefland, FL 32626
Thirteen offshore keys or islands–including Atsena Otie, Snake, and Seahorse–are currently part of the 762-acre Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge established in 1929 to protect nesting birds from plume hunters.
Although the plume hunters are long gone, today’s birds are threatened by lost habitat, and the preservation of these islands helps protect the variety of nesting birds found here, including brown pelicans, egrets, herons, cormorants, ospreys, and bald eagles. Some of the more uncommon species include frigatebirds and roseate spoonbills.
I’ve seen quite a few spoonbills in the Everglades, but I had never seen one this far north until recently when I was lucky enough to see this one here at Cedar Key.
Wading birds, bald eagles, shorebirds, fish, crabs, manatees, and even reptiles are among the wildlife species that can be found on the islands and marshes that comprise Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. During the 1800s, a large number of birds in the south were slaughtered for their plumage so that ladies could wear the latest hat fashion. Refuges were established to protect birds during breeding and nesting in response to the rapidly declining bird population. The Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, comprised of 13 islands, was established in 1929 to protect the 200,000 birds that used the keys to raise their young.
Cedar Key Historical Society Museum
A collection of archival material tracing the history of Cedar Key from 1842 to the present is housed in two historical buildings. Our museum’s artifacts and genealogical records provide visitors with a glimpse into the history of this vital rail, land, and seaport during the Seminole War and the Civil War. The railroad, which ran from Fernandina to Cedar Key, was a vital link to the Gulf of Mexico for lumber, turpentine, cotton, and passengers from as far away as Scotland.
609 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Cedar Key State Museum
Exhibits in the museum depict the city’s colorful history during that time period. Items collected by Saint Clair Whitman, a local who founded the first museum in his home, are on display. His collection included a wide range of sea shells as well as locally discovered Indian artifacts. These, as well as dioramas depicting life on Cedar Key, are on display at the museum, which also houses a large collection of related historical information.
12231 SW 166th Ct, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Kayak Cedar Keys
The Cedar Keys, which are federally protected sanctuaries, are a chain of barrier islands that are ideal for a wide variety of migratory and shore birds, including the elusive white pelican, roseate spoonbill, and bald eagle. The diverse natural habitats, ranging from salt marshes to Indian shell mounds, make this a true nature lover’s paradise.
6027 A St, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is one of Florida’s more remote National Wildlife Refuges, spanning two counties and protecting a swath of more than 53,000 acres of coastline along the Big Bend, an important haven for migratory birds and wildlife. The majority of the refuge is a watery maze of floodplain forests and estuaries, where the Suwannee River completes its 246-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
16450 NW 31 Pl, Chiefland, FL 32626
Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail
This short out-and-back nature trail on a small island off the coast of northwestern Florida follows the path of an old rail line that once connected Cedar Key to Fernandina Beach. The remains of the old bridge can be seen at the trail’s end, near the water’s edge. The trail is dirt and sand, and it is only accessible to hikers. The trail is short, but it provides plenty of beautiful scenery and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Grove St, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve
For more outdoor activity, there is Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, a no-fee state park open 365 days a year, consisting of over 5,000 acres of wild Florida scrub lands.
Located about 5 miles east of Cedar Key, the Reserve is divided by County Road 347 into an eastern and western sections. Twelve miles of trails await hikers. Gotta horse? Bring it. The Reserve is also open to horseback riding.
The spectacular Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve is divided into east and west tracts by CR 347. The east side has 4 miles of color-coded multi-use trails and firebreaks to explore, with Flatwoods, sandhills, and scrub. Bring water and be prepared to hike or bike. At times, portions of the trails may be flooded. In the fall, there is limited hunting; please click here for more information. Although there is no launch within the reserve, paddlers can explore the tidal creeks and salt marsh; canoes and kayaks can be rented in Cedar Key.
FL-24, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park
8312 SW 125th Ave, Inglis, FL 34449
Numerous rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, as well as commercially important marine species, can be found in the preserve. This preserve, which is only accessible by boat, is a favorite of anglers because it offers both saltwater and freshwater fishing.