Cedar Key: The Treasures of Florida’s Hidden Coast

Cedar Key makes a wonderful place for a romantic getaway, an ecoadventure, or a literary retreat. Roughly the midpoint between Tallahassee and Tampa, Cedar Key is a remote island community on the Western Gulf Coast of Florida. Rich in natural and social history, the islands offer much to enjoy and discover.

The natural beauty is unlike almost any other. Thanks to protected habitats and the natural properties of the tidal waterways, Cedar Key is a birder’s paradise. Every day, the rising tides fill the waterways. And every day, the outgoing tide completely transforms the waterways into tidal flats, nearly completely draining the water.

The tidal cycles, spectacular in themselves, bring ever-changing wildlife. The exposed flats are teeming with life, and all this life draws waterbirds. These patterns are also vital to the local economy.

Although the population is under 700, Cedar Key is an essential source of shellfish throughout the US. This is a relatively new industry for the area, but it’s perfectly suited. !n 1995, new laws banned mass netting, ending the fishing culture that thrived in Cedar Key. A successful retraining program gave new livelihood to fishers, now as clammers.

The islands are surrounded by mangroves, hardy saltwater trees that essentially have the power to form islands just by growing in shallow waters. For a fantastic adventure, kayak through the swamps and explore the emerging islands. If you’re lucky, you might come upon a flock of roseate spoonbills, festooning the trees! Just watch the tides. You’ll need to plan your trips, so you don’t run out of water.

Don’t miss the delicious seafood. The Island Room is mandatory if you’re a foodie. The service is exceptionally attentive and accommodating. And the food couldn’t be fresher. I chose the stone crab claws, which were perfectly prepared and visually stunning for their distinctive coloration. I used to catch and eat stone crabs as a kid, so this really brought me back to Old Florida.

As shorter trip would be ideal for a romantic or family getaway. A longer trip would make for a great sojourn, writing retreat, or settling in with nature and the local life and history. John Muir wrote about Cedar Key in his famous “1000 mile walk to the gulf.” You’ll find Cedar Key is a breathtaking place for inspiration and recreation.