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The Complete Travel Guide to Cedar Key: Explore Old Florida

Cedar Key, Florida
Photo by Thomas from AdobeStock

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Please be advised to stay informed about the impact of Hurricane Idalia on Cedar Key and regularly check here for updates.

Nestled on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Cedar Key is an unspoiled paradise where time seems to have stood still. In stark contrast to Florida’s bustling tourist hubs, this tranquil cluster of islands offers a genuine taste of Old Florida charm. With its rich history, thriving wildlife, vibrant arts scene, and culinary delights, Cedar Key is the perfect retreat for those seeking a slower pace of life. Let’s dive into the treasures Cedar Key has in store for its visitors.

If you’re concerned about how welcome you’ll feel in this old Florida fishing town, all we can say is that Cedar Key seems to welcome all exactly as they are. We’ve even spotted a few rainbows flags in town.

This Cedar Key Travel Guide offers everything you need to know to have a welcoming stay.

Historical Highlights

Cedar Key has a history dating back to the 19th century, playing a pivotal role in Florida’s early development. It was a thriving port town known for its prosperous pencil and timber industry. The town’s storied past is well-preserved at the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum, where you can learn about the area’s indigenous people, its boomtown era, and its transformation into a peaceful fishing village.

Where to Lodge in Cedar Key

Cedar Key offers a variety of accommodations to make your stay comfortable and memorable. Whether you’re looking for the privacy of a cottage, the amenities of a hotel, or the natural setting of an RV park, you’ll find the perfect lodging to complement your Cedar Key experience.

Cottages and Vacation Rentals

Pirate’s Cove Cottages – If you’re seeking a homey atmosphere, cottages and vacation rentals are a perfect choice. Pirate’s Cove Cottages offer charming, colorful cottages with well-equipped kitchens, just steps away from the Gulf waters. It’s a serene spot for couples or small families.

Fenimore Mill Condos – Another option is Fenimore Mill Condos. Located near the historic district, these condos offer a choice between one to three-bedroom units, all with waterfront views. With lush surroundings and a pool, it’s ideal for a relaxing stay.

Hotels

Island Hotel – For travelers who prefer traditional hotel amenities, the Island Hotel is a great choice. Situated in the heart of downtown, this hotel offers rooms and suites with balconies overlooking the Gulf. It’s walking distance to restaurants, shops, and galleries.

Cedar Cove Hotel – Another option is the Cedar Cove Hotel. It offers hotel rooms, suites, and townhouses with spectacular views of the Gulf. With its private beach and swimming pool, it’s a perfect spot for a luxurious stay.

RV Parks

Low-Key Hideaway – For those traveling with an RV or seeking a camping experience, Cedar Key has you covered. Low-Key Hideaway is an adults-only RV park and motel, offering a serene environment with waterfront views. The Tiki Bar on-site is a favorite spot for sunset watching.

Sunset Isle RV Resort is another fantastic option, particularly for families. It offers RV sites, motel rooms, and a clubhouse. With its welcoming community atmosphere, it’s a place where you can easily feel at home.

Natural Beauty

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge – Surrounded by a protected network of islands and home to the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, the town is a haven for wildlife. For bird watchers, Cedar Key is a paradise with a multitude of avian species calling these wetlands home. The most notable among them are the roseate spoonbills and ospreys.

Cedar Key Marina – Fishing enthusiasts will also find the local waters bountiful, providing opportunities to catch redfish, trout, and tarpon. Cedar Key Marina offers boat rentals and fishing gear, making it easy for visitors to enjoy a day out on the water.

Paddles Outdoor Rentals – For the more adventurous, kayaking through the surrounding islands offers an exhilarating way to explore the area’s natural beauty. Local businesses like Paddles Outdoor Rentals provide kayak rentals and guided tours, enabling you to navigate the area’s pristine waters and hidden mangroves.

Local Cuisine

Dining in Cedar Key offers a delightful experience for the palate. The town is famous for its farm-raised clams, served in a myriad of ways at local restaurants.

Tony’s Restaurant is a must-visit with its clam chowder earning world championship status three times. Seafood lovers will find a variety of dishes to satisfy their cravings, from fried shrimp and grouper sandwiches to their acclaimed clam chowder.

Island Room Restaurant and Sand Bar – For a more intimate dining experience, reserve a table at Island Room Restaurant and Sand Bar. This restaurant provides a spectacular waterfront view and a menu brimming with fresh, locally sourced seafood. Their Cedar Key clams and selection of fine wines are particularly noteworthy.

Annie’s Cafe – If you’re in the mood for a casual meal, head over to Annie’s Cafe. They offer a delicious array of breakfast and lunch options, with their homemade crab cakes and shrimp po’ boys being favorites among regulars.

Local Shopping and Art

As you stroll through the town, you’ll notice an abundance of shops and galleries, each brimming with the vibrant spirit of Cedar Key.

Dilly Dally Gally is a delightful boutique offering a range of merchandise. From clothing and jewelry to home décor and local art, this store is the perfect place to find a unique souvenir.

Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-op – For art enthusiasts, the Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-op is a treasure trove. The gallery showcases the work of local artists, giving you the chance to take home a piece of Cedar Key’s vibrant arts scene.

Cedar Key Canvas – Another unique stop is the Cedar Key Canvas, where you can find handcrafted bags made from durable marine canvas. Each item is made by local artisans, adding a special touch to your Cedar Key memento.

Vintage Kuriosities – If you enjoy browsing for vintage items, make your way to Vintage Kuriosities. This charming shop is filled with antiques, collectibles, and curiosities, a treat for both history enthusiasts and casual shoppers.

Unwind and Relax

After a day of exploration, what better way to unwind than with a visit to one of Cedar Key’s inviting bars?

The Big Deck Bar & Grill is a local favorite, offering a laid-back atmosphere with its open-air deck, live music, and an assortment of drinks. It’s the ideal place to watch the sunset while enjoying a refreshing beverage.

Tiki Bar – For a more unique experience, nestled within the charming Low Key Hideaway, the Tiki Bar invites you to indulge in a delightful oasis of exotic flavors and laid-back vibes

Activities and Festivals

Old Florida Celebration of the Arts – Beyond its natural beauty and charming shops, Cedar Key also hosts several events throughout the year. The Old Florida Celebration of the Arts is a highly anticipated event, showcasing local and regional artists in a festival setting. Held annually in April, this event attracts artists and visitors from all corners of the country.

Cedar Key Small Boat Meet – For those with a passion for fishing, the Cedar Key Small Boat Meet is an event worth checking out. Taking place in May, this meet sees an array of small boats hit the waters for a friendly competition. It’s a fun-filled day for participants and spectators alike.

Seafood Festival – In October, Cedar Key hosts the Seafood Festival, a celebration of the town’s seafood industry. With fresh seafood, live music, and arts and crafts vendors, this festival brings the community together and offers a delightful experience for visitors.

Plan Your Visit to Cedar Key

Cedar Key may be a small town, but it offers a world of experiences for its visitors. With its tranquil beaches, rich history, thriving wildlife, delicious cuisine, vibrant arts scene, and friendly locals, it’s the perfect destination for anyone seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, a food lover, or just in need of a peaceful retreat, Cedar Key promises an unforgettable experience. It’s more than just a destination; it’s a glimpse into a slower, simpler time where the natural beauty of Florida is right at your fingertips. So why wait? It’s time to discover the magic of Cedar Key, Florida’s hidden gem on the Gulf Coast.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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