Looking to escape to get away from the madness? Consider Scenic Cedar Key – A slow pace Gulf Beach Town Gem along the Hidden Coast
Located on what is known as Florida’s Hidden Gulf Coast, the island city of Cedar Key has managed to retain its small town feel while providing a very hospitable vacation experience for visitors.
There’s some great restaurants serving up some great seafood, lots of neat little shops and galleries, top notch kayaking and paddle-boarding, island tours boat trips, charter fishing, sunning and swimming at the spacious Cedar Key Beach & city park, some interesting hiking trails, and just plain fun hanging out in a friendly island community.
While the town of Cedar Key is situated on about 6 islands, the Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the town of Cedar Key has thirteen named islands, plus perhaps hundred more islands too small to have a name encircle the town.
Florida’s Clam Capital
The village is located on a collection of small barrier islands connected by bridges. Its main commercial industry is Clam Farming and it is Florida’s largest center of commercially raised clams. It also has a very hospitable beach resort community that is more laid-back and has far less commercial glitz than you’d find in Destin or Panama City Beach. There’s no high-rise resort buildings or huge apartment complexes. There are a few medium-size ocean-side condos and hotels, but a good deal of the lodging for visitors is provided in quaint cottages and mom & pop style motels.
Things to Do and See in Cedar Keys
There is a decent city swimming and sunbathing beach adjacent to the city park that has picnic tables, a playground area, a pavilion, and a bath house. Nearby, within walking distance of the beach are several good restaurants and raw bars offering fresh seafood, some of which is locally caught.
Most of the bars, restaurants, and boutiques are located along Dock Street which runs down the center of a narrow hook-shaped peninsula that juts out into the Gulf and Suwanee Sound. The buildings on the Gulf side of the street are built on stilts and actually sit out in the water.
Besides sunbathing, swimming, dining and drinking other fun activities offered in Cedar Key include browsing gift shops and galleries, canoeing and kayaking among the islands and channels, sailing & parasailing, boat tours of the islands and dolphin watching, airplane rides, charter fishing, and renting a golf cart of bike to drive around town. Cedar Key is very walkable town, although many seem to like riding around town in a golf cart. In addition to browsing the shops and restaurants, you can browse the historical district near the main entertainment center. The Trestle Nature trail is built on the bed of the old railroad that used to serve the town. Over fifty species of trees and shrubs are identified.
The many islands of the Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge provide great shelter for kayaking and canoeing and also a chance to see dolphins, birds, and other wildlife.
The Island Tours Boat Rides offers an interesting narrated tour of a few of the islands in the Keys. Seeing some dolphins is just about a guarantee as they seem to be attracted to the boat, as if they were hired performers!
For more Cedar Key Attractions, see our list of Top 12 Things to Do in Cedar Key
Cedar Keys RV Parks & Campgrounds
There are three private RV parks/campgrounds located within Cedar Key or within 5 miles of the center of town. They are a good deal more expensive than the Shell Mound County park that we prefer, but also a few miles closer to town and have a few more amenities. We drove through two of these three parks and found the sites too cramped together for our tastes. We also don’t care about swimming pools, horseshoes, game room, and many of the amenities offered by private campgrounds. But some may like these features and in addition, the three RV parks are closer to town.
Our favorite Cedar Keys campground is a few miles out of town at theNorth end of the Keys Wildlife Refuge: Shell Mound County Park Campground (see our article). The park offers both RV and Tent Camping and the nearby nature trails provide some interesting hiking and bird-watching. There’s also a boardwalk and fishing pier and a canoe/kayak landing. We camped at the County RV park and found the camp hosts very friendly and helpful. The RV sites offer water and electricity; the bath houses have running water and showers; and the campsite fees were quite reasonable. The campground is first come, first served – no reservations.
Another RV or camping option is about 30 miles away: Manatee Springs State Park. The state park offers very nice RV sites, good spacing, nice shading, 8 miles of hiking trails, kayaking, biking, and swimming/snorkeling in the spring pool. And the rates are quite a bit less than the private parks nearer to town. Another feature of Manatee State Park that attracted our interest was the fact that the Chiefland Golf Course was only about a mile from the park. We found it a nicely, maintained 18 hole golf course, with a friendly staff, and modestly priced green fees. It is also a very walkable course.
More Places to Visit and Things to around Cedar Keys:
- Top Cedar Key Visitor Attractions
- CAMPING & HIKING
Hiking and Nature Trails in and around Cedar Keys
Campground Review: Manatee Springs State Park
Campground Review: Shell Mound Park and Natural Area
Lower Suwanee Wildlife Refuge
- RESTAURANTS, CAFES, PUBS
Best Places to Eat in Cedar Key Florida
Review: Steamers Clam Bar & Grill
Review of Annie’s Cafe
Review: Away from the World Raw Bar
Review: Tony’s Seafood Restaurant
Review: Chiefland Golf Course
- SCENIC DRIVES
Florida Gulf Scenic Drive – Grayton Beach to Apalachicola
Cedar Key Motels, Hotels, B&Bs, Cottages
- BOAT, BIKE AND CART RENTALS
Tidewater Tours & Boat Rentals
Golf Cart Rentals
Canoes and Kayaks
Charter Boat Fishing
Have you been to Cedar Key Florida? If so tell us how you liked it in the comments below.
Your Scenic Travel Guide: Ross Reinhold