Looking to beat the florida summer crowds? Interested in exploring small islands rich with bird life? Cedar Key, Florida may just be the perfect little getaway trip for you.
Sitting just at the northwest part of Florida, Cedar Key is an island city at the gulf coast. Cedar Key sits about 3 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Here you won’t find any massive high rise condos or boardwalks full of tourist traps. It’s a quaint fishing town with small cottages and houses, a lovely little beach, and cute bridges crossing the barrier islands.
Cedar Key was recently named one of the top ten coolest small cities by BudgetTravel.com, and I think it’s because it’s so different compared to the rest of hustlin’ and bustlin’ coastal Florida. The town is known mostly for its fishing, clamming, and quaint charm. But just because it is quieter than it’s neighboring coastal Florida cities, that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of adventures here.
1. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
You will need a rented vessel, paddling kayak, or to join a tour guide on a boat to visit the refuge’s islands. A bird watcher’s dream, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge nests near 20,000 birds such as brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and night herons to name a few. Although 20,000 birds seems like a high number, at one point 200,000 birds nested here.
When I was a kid, my parents took my brother and I along the Pacific Northwest coast’s lighthouses. I’ve loved lighthouses ever since. The National Wildlife Refuge has some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the United States. Long before the days of GPS and navigation systems, stood these beautiful lighthouses shining the way, guiding maritime travelers.
Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge is a dream for wildlife photographers. Take a kayak out to the islands, enjoy some bird watching, hike a trail, or relax on the beach. The possibilities of relaxation for the soul are endless.
2. Cedar Key Fishing Pier
Another place for excellent wildlife photography is the Cedar Key fishing pier, where you can see flocks of pelicans soaring near the water, and even jumping families of dolphins! And of course, you can do what the pier is there for…fish!
Now I’m not a fisherwoman, however I get extremely giddy when I know I’ll be visiting a new pier. Florida is full of them, and I love walking the piers here. The Cedar Key fishing pier has unobstructed 180 degree views of the Gulf of Mexico, and the sunsets are glorious. Take a seat on a bench, and feast your eyes on one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. The pier has bathrooms nearby, and a beautiful beach!
3. Cedar Key Beach
Cedar Key has a stunning little beach, that reminds me of a European beach. Perhaps it’s the calm waves, almost lake-like that make it so quaint. The sand is white and fine and the pier sits in the distance. Bring a beach towel, a picnic, and enjoy the entire day wading in the water and sunbathing.
If you have little ones, they’ll be thrilled by the huge playground right on the beach!
4. Explore The Shops
The shopping district is centered around 2nd street and Dock street. There’s a local art gallery, cute coastal shops offering beachside jewelry and gifts, and a bookstore. If you need to pick up some groceries to take to your hotel or rental, there is a local grocery store called Jiffy.
I don’t know about you, but I love grabbing a few local gifts for family and friends when visiting a new place. There’s no shortage of goodies here!
5. Dining with Gulf of Mexico Views
What better way to finish off a day of adventure than with a scrumptious dinner? Seafood lovers rejoice, because Cedar Key is known and famous for its seafood.
There are several restaurants offering a view of the water right on Dock street: 83 West, a restaurant featuring traditional American cuisine, the Tipsy Cow Bar and Grill, Steamers Clam Bar and Grill with so much fresh seafood, and Duncan’s on the Gulf. There’s also a little shack called the Big Deck Bar and Grill on the other side of the street.
I can’t recommend Steamers enough! I was expecting the clam chowder to be exceptional considering Cedar Key is a clamming town, and it truly did not disappoint! We loved the casual coastal atmosphere, and all the dishes were fantastic.
Look, Cedar Key is not a flashy town full of vacationers and partying. If you’re looking to enjoy a quiet, peaceful day on the gulf coast, you need to pay Cedar Key a visit. It’s the perfect place to get away from the busy hectic lifestyle, slow down and experience the old world Florida coast.
Try some delicious food with a view, do some bird watching and kayaking, find a trail or two, and then unwind at the beach. But don’t tell too many people about Cedar Key! Because its unique peaceful vibe is what gives it its charm!