"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, April 1, 2013

Florida's Nature Coast III: Cedar Key

We had planned on staying at the Cedar Key RV Resort for a month, but due to needed repairs, we ended up at The Great Outdoors for that month instead. We still wanted to visit Cedar Key, so we are here for just three days. It's a very nice, lightly wooded park in a rural area about seven miles from Cedar Key. The sites all have very large grassy spaces around them, concrete pads with asphalt aprons and full hook ups.  There are laundry facilities on the main buildings porch (that's a first!), very clean new bathrooms, a large multi-purpose club house with full kitchen, and a large, sparkling pol. The managers are very pleasant and helpful.  I'd recommend it to anyone, except maybe a family with kids who want activities. I also think it would be a great place for a rally.

Pre-dawn at Cedar Key RV Resort

Our first morning here I got up before dawn and drove into Cedar Key proper and situated myself in a spot where I thought I might catch the sunrise.

Pelican just before dawn.


A black skimmer at sunrise.

While pulling out of my morning photo spot I caught this osprey near her nest, also taking in the sunrise.

Just before downtown proper, I stopped at Kona Joe's for a cup of coffee and a pastry. They have a back porch overlooking the water that also would have been a great place to watch the sunrise.

Fishing decor at Kona Joe's

The town of Cedar Key used to be primarily a fishing community, but as a result of the gill net fishing ban they have had to change their economic reliance to tourism.  The town still depends on the ocean for its livelihood in many forms, with homemade signs along the road for fishing guides, smoked mullet, mullet dip, oyster, crabs and clams.  Many fisherman are now clam farmers, who got their start with support from government agencies that introduced the science of clam farming to the area.

Cedar Key seems proud of its history, retains much of its old charm, and has no chain stores, chain motels or chain restaurants - so unusual  The old downtown area is the most interesting, but I can't tell how business is doing there. There is a famous restaurant that draws a crowd, Tony's, which was recognized as having the world's best clam chowder for three years in a row. (We tried it and I loved it. It was a little spicy for Rick.)

There are several historical buildings and older rental homes downtown in addition to hotels, B & B's and a few motels.

The old Hodges House

The old Lutterloh store

A local artsy boutique

The waterfront is busy with clammers, boat tours and recreational boating of all sorts.

Cedar Key marina

Low tide exposes the oysters and barnacles

Horseshoe crab at low tide on Seahorse Key

We took a three hour boat tour of the area with Captain Doug's Tidewater Tours, around a few of the many off shore islands.  The water here is very shallow, making it difficult to navigate at low tide, which is was when we went out. Our captain was very skillful and entertaining, with lots of stories about the sea life around here and the history of Cedar Key.  Near the end of the tour we were graced with a playful porpoise in our wake, escorting us back to the marina.

A view of Cedar Key from the north side of town

The sugar sand town beach

The Captains Table, recently closed

Fishing off the new town dock

It looks like the town has had some destructive storms in the past few years, or else some of the older structures have just collapsed over time.

Scenic ruins off shore

The newer part of town has a few touristy shops, bars, restaurants, etc. It's all very relaxed, colorful and a little funky, like a mini Key West. The town is described as what Key West was like 30 years ago, and I'd say that seems pretty apt.

Manatee drawing the tourists in to this restaurant
The whole of the newer commercial area right on the water
Overall, I'd say that the "Nature Coast" has a lot of unspoiled natural areas and unique smaller towns with just enough amenities for travelers who are looking to get away from the cities and suburbs that are typical of much of the USA. It certainly is different from Orlando.  It's got the fresh water springs, the ocean, a few beaches and plenty of opportunities for nature lovers on land or sea.

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