Shell Mound Hiking & Nature Trails, RV Campground and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
A few miles out of town at the north end of Florida’s Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge is the Shell Mound County Park. From the town of Cedar Key it is about an 8 mile drive. You go north on Highway 24 about 3 miles, then Highway 347 for about 3 miles, and then turn left when you get to Highway 326.
The Cedar Keys Nature Area is at the end of the road that runs past the campground. There’s a small park there with boardwalk leading to an observation deck overlooking a portion of the Keys, a canoe/kayak launch area, and two nature trails offering short day hikes and bird-watching and wildlife viewing. The area is particularly popular with canoeists and kayakers as the many islands provide great shelter for paddling, exploring and a chance to see dolphins, waterbirds, wildlife and unique plants up close.
Shell Mound Campground
Nestled within the wildlife refuge and nature reserve is a campground managed by Levy County that offers both RV and Tent Camping. The RV sites have both electricity and water-hookups and there are full-service washrooms and showers on the grounds, plus an RV dump site. The campground also has its own boat launch and a place to park trailers. The campground managers are on-site during the day and we found them very friendly and helpful. There are no reservations, site occupancy is first come, first served. There’s a 7 day maximum stay, So even during popular times of the year, you might be able to get a site there. The camping fees are very reasonable.
Since the campground is set within the Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge it is remote, surrounded by woods and is generally quite quiet. The only noise we heard during our stay there was when an airboat launched at the boat landing. Some of the RV sites have a decent slope to them so some leveling blocks would be necessary for these particular sites. The road that circles through the park is paved and many sites are graveled. The camping sites generally have some shade, and adequate separation from neighboring sites. The sites that are electric-only (no water and lower priced) are more open and on grass vs. partially graveled.
The washrooms are little rustic in construction, but very clean and the hot water came quickly in the showers. The camping fees are a half or a third of what you play at the private campgrounds a little closer to the town of Cedar Key. Neat little place and affordable. A bonus are the hiking and nature trails in the adjacent wildlife refuge. And for canoe and kayak enthusiasts the refuge offers a decent launch site to explore the bayous and among the islands of the keys.
During our stay in the Cedar Keys area we also camped at the Manatee Springs State Park campground which is about 33 miles from the center of town. Manatee Springs has an excellent campground, reasonably-priced and offers other amenities we like. They do offer reservations so if you want to guarantee a camping spot for your visit to Cedar Keys, this is a good option.
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