Travel Guide for Cedar Key Florida: Your Essential Itinerary

Cedar Key, Florida, is a hidden gem nestled along the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State, offering travelers a unique combination of natural beauty, history, and leisure. Known for its tranquil atmosphere and charming small-town feel, this island community is an ideal retreat for those looking to escape the hustle of modern life. A paradise for nature lovers, Cedar Key boasts a rich ecological environment with numerous opportunities for birdwatching, fishing, and kayaking through its serene waterways.

The town’s storied past adds to its allure, with a history that extends back to the 19th century, when it thrived as a port city integral to Florida’s development. Visitors to Cedar Key can immerse themselves in this history by exploring local museums and historical sites that chronicle its significance. Despite its evolution from industry to idyllic haven, the town retains an old Florida charm that is visible in its art galleries, seafood restaurants, and waterfront shops that invite leisurely exploration.

For a distinctly laid-back vacation, this coastal enclave provides a variety of activities without the overcrowding found in more conventional Florida destinations. Cedar Key is the perfect destination for those who appreciate the outdoors, offering direct access to the unspoiled splendor of the Nature Coast and nearby sanctuaries like Atsena Otie Key. Whether looking for a solitary retreat or an engaging family getaway, visitors will find Cedar Key to be a refreshing blend of relaxation, recreation, and history.

History and Culture

Cedar Key, a city with a rich past, carries the legacy of old Florida through its historical sites. The area’s culture and history are best experienced through its museums and preserved buildings, each telling a story of Cedar Key’s development from a 19th-century port town to its current tranquil lifestyle.

Cedar Key Historical Society Museum

The Cedar Key Historical Society Museum serves as a cultural cornerstone, offering visitors a glimpse into the island’s storied past. Housed in two historic buildings, the museum’s exhibits showcase Cedar Key’s evolution from prehistoric times to the 20th century. Artefacts and photographs narrate the lives of the early inhabitants and the industries that shaped the town.

Pencil Factory

Once pivotal to Cedar Key’s economy, the pencil factory capitalised on the abundant red cedar that grew on the island to produce pencils that were shipped across America. The industry left an indelible mark on the town’s history, although the pencil factory is no longer operational, its impact is still felt in the community and remembered as a testament to Cedar Key’s industrial past.

Island Hotel

The Island Hotel, a historic structure built in the mid-1800s, offers more than just accommodation; it is a living exhibit of Cedar Key’s history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it embodies the architectural style of the period and has hosted a number of distinguished guests, contributing to the town’s cultural heritage.

Natural Attractions

Cedar Key, Florida, is renowned for its unspoiled natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Visitors can immerse themselves in pristine environments, explore unique ecosystems, and observe a diverse range of bird species and marine life that call this part of the Nature Coast home.

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

The Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for both wildlife and nature enthusiasts. It comprises a group of islands in the Gulf of Mexico known for significant bird nesting colonies, where one can see pelicans, egrets, bald eagles, and ospreys in their natural habitats. The refuge’s protected waters also offer sightings of playful dolphins along the coastline.

  • Birding: Exceptional opportunities for birdwatchers to spot migratory and nesting birds.
  • Wildlife: Home to various species, including protected and endangered birds.

Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve protects a diverse range of habitats including pine forests, scrubby flatwoods, and salt marshes. Hiking trails allow visitors to delve into the heart of these ecosystems, where the chance to encounter wildlife such as gopher tortoises and numerous bird species is high. The reserve’s natural trails are perfect for those seeking a quiet escape into nature.

  • Trails: Numerous trails for hiking and exploring diverse ecosystems.
  • Nature: A haven for terrestrial wildlife and native vegetation.

Shell Mound Park

Dating back over 1,000 years, Shell Mound is not only of archaeological interest but also a unique natural feature of Cedar Key. This ancient mound, created by the deposition of shells by indigenous peoples, is adorned by oaks and offers a peaceful setting for a walk with views of the surrounding salt marshes. The park is surrounded by water, providing locations for fishing and enjoying the serene beach.

  • Historic Site: A natural and historical landmark.
  • Recreation: Ideal for fishing, nature walks, and enjoying the beautiful beach setting.

Outdoor Activities

Cedar Key, known for its serene coastal charm, offers an abundance of outdoor activities that cater to water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. From the bountiful fishing opportunities to the scenic trails for biking and hiking, visitors can indulge in an array of pastimes amidst the natural beauty of this historic Florida key.

Fishing and Boating

Cedar Key’s waters are a haven for fishing with species such as redfish, trout, and tarpon aplenty. The Cedar Key Marina provides boat rentals and fishing gear, enabling anglers to venture out for a productive day on the sea. The fishing pier offers a scenic spot for those who prefer to stay on land, yet still enjoy the thrill of the catch.

  • Boat Tours: Several operators offer guided tours, perfect for those looking to combine fishing with sightseeing.
  • Fishing Licenses: Visitors should ensure they have the appropriate licenses for fishing, which are easily obtainable locally or online.

Kayaking and Paddle Boarding

Kayakers find Cedar Key a paradise with destinations like Atsena Otie Key that promise an atmospheric paddle through history. Rentals are available via Paddles Outdoor Rentals, making it straightforward for guests to set off on an adventure, be it by kayak or paddle board.

  • Kayak Loops: Marked kayak loops guide paddlers through the most picturesque areas.
  • Wildlife Spotting: These activities also provide opportunities for observing local wildlife in their natural habitat.

Hiking and Biking

For land-based exploration, the Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail is a highlight, offering a leisurely walk or bike ride with enlightening historical context. Rental golf carts present an alternative for those who wish to traverse the area with less exertion, while still taking in the sights.

  • Biking: Local shops provide bike rentals, including maps of trails and notable points of interest.
  • Trail Accessibility: Trails are well-maintained, ensuring a pleasant experience for hikers and bikers of all skill levels.

Beaches and Parks

Cedar Key offers a variety of beach and park experiences, from the tranquility of Cedar Key Beach to the historic Atsena Otie Key. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, outdoor activities, and the area’s natural beauty.

Cedar Key Beach

Cedar Key Beach is known for its peaceful atmosphere and scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico. The beach is dog-friendly, allowing visitors to relax with their furry friends. The sunsets here are particularly renowned, and it’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists to witness the sun dip below the horizon.

  • Amenities: Benches, Picnic tables
  • Activities: Sunbathing, Strolling, Fishing, Birdwatching

Cemetery Point Park

Cemetery Point Park is unique due to its combination of natural beauty and historical significance. The park is named for the nearby historic cemetery and is shaded by majestic cedar trees, creating a serene environment.

  • Features: Nature trails, Observation deck
  • Wildlife: An abundance of bird species for observation

Atsena Otie Key

Once the original site of Cedar Key, Atsena Otie Key is an island reachable by boat or kayak, offering a remote beach experience and a glimpse into the area’s past with visible historic remains. It’s an ideal location for those interested in combining outdoor activities like kayaking with learning about local history.

  • Highlights: Historic ruins, Cemetery dating back to 1877
  • Access: Boat or kayak rental available at local marinas

Dining and Cuisine

Cedar Key is renowned for its fresh seafood and quaint dining establishments that captivate with local flavors. Visitors to the island can indulge in a diverse gastronomic experience ranging from award-winning clam chowder to casual coffee shop fare.

Seafood and Local Delicacies

Cedar Key’s dining scene thrives on the abundance of seafood, prominently featuring clams which are not only a local delicacy but also a staple in many restaurant menus. One notable establishment is Steamers Clam Bar & Grill, strategically located on Dock Street with views of the Gulf. They offer a variety of seafood with a focus on clams, ranging from raw to steamed preparations.

  • Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, praised for their World Championship Clam Chowder, is a must-visit for clam enthusiasts.
  • The Island Room Restaurant at Cedar Cove impresses with their coastal cuisine, serving up dishes like savory crab bisque and baked oysters.

Coffee Shops and Casual Dining

For a more relaxed dining atmosphere, Cedar Key’s coffee shops and casual eateries are ideal for a comforting meal. Visitors will find:

  • A variety of fresh, savory crepes and Greek pasta salads.
  • Hearty breakfast favorites to start the day right.

These casual spots also often double as a gathering place for both locals and tourists, creating a cozy environment for enjoying a cup of coffee or a quick bite. The charm of Cedar Key’s coffee shops and casual dining lies in their simplicity and the freshness of their offerings.

Places to Stay

Cedar Key, Florida offers a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. Visitors can choose from traditional hotels and motels, to charming cottages and condos, as well as RV parks and camping facilities for those seeking a more outdoor experience.

Hotels and Motels

In Cedar Key, travelers will find the Cedar Cove Hotel, boasting comfortable rooms and amenities suited for couples and families alike. Budget-conscious visitors can consider motels that offer basic services and a cozy place to rest after a day of exploration.

  • Cedar Cove Hotel: Traditional rooms, some with ocean views.
  • Other Options: Various motels providing affordable lodging.

Cottages and Condos

Those looking for a more intimate stay can rent cottages or condos in Cedar Key. Pirates Cove Cottages offer a homely atmosphere and come with a full set of amenities. For an extended stay or more privacy, condos can provide the comfort of home with the added benefit of stunning seaside views.

  • Pirates Cove Cottages: Private, well-appointed cottages.

RV Parks and Camping

RV enthusiasts have access to places like Shell Mound Campground, where they can park their vehicle and enjoy the natural surroundings. Campers looking for a less rustic experience can find amenities and convenience at RV-friendly sites.

  • RV Parks: Spaces for RVs with varying levels of facility access.
  • CampingShell Mound Campground and other areas for tent camping.

Arts and Entertainment

Cedar Key offers a vibrant arts scene and festive entertainment options, reflecting its cultural spirit and historical significance. Visitors seeking to immerse themselves in local creativity have several venues to explore, ranging from the central Cedar Key Arts Center to numerous galleries featuring regional artists, and the annual celebration of local marine fare and culture at the Cedar Key Seafood Festival.

Cedar Key Arts Center

The Cedar Key Arts Center serves as the cultural hub for the local community and visitors. Operated by volunteers, the center hosts art exhibits, workshops, and events throughout the year, showcasing the talents of Cedar Key’s artisans. It is a must-visit for those interested in experiencing the region’s artistic expressions up close.

Art Galleries and Studios

Island Arts and Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op and Gallery are prominent venues where visitors can explore the creativity inspired by Cedar Key’s environment. These galleries display a mix of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and more, all crafted by local and regional artists. Art enthusiasts may find unique pieces to take home as a memory of their visit.

  • Island Arts: Offers a variety of media, a testament to the diverse artistic community.
  • Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op and Gallery: Operated by the artists, this location allows visitors to meet the creators behind the works.

Cedar Key Seafood Festival

The Cedar Key Seafood Festival is an annual event that celebrates the town’s maritime heritage and local seafood bounty. Taking place in October, the festival features seafood booths, live music, and a parade. It provides an opportunity for visitors to savor fresh local seafood while enjoying the waterfront atmosphere and engaging with the community and its traditions.

Shopping and Local Businesses

Cedar Key offers a variety of shopping experiences, from unique boutiques to local galleries, providing visitors with an opportunity to take home a piece of this coastal gem. Shopping in Cedar Key reflects the town’s diversity and charm, with offerings that range from artisan crafts to essential groceries.

Shops and Boutiques

Cedar Key is home to an array of shops and boutiques brimming with coastal treasures. Visitors will find Cedar Key Canvas, well-known for its handcrafted totes, purses, and luggage. For those interested in art, Cedar Keyhole operates as a co-op gallery showcasing local artists’ creations. Cedar Keys Emporium offers beach-themed gifts and jewelry for those looking to bring a bit of the seaside home. For book enthusiasts, Curmudgeonalia stands out as a unique bookstore with a focus on Florida’s history and culture.

Cedar Key Welcome Center

Operated by the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce, the Cedar Key Welcome Center serves as a cornerstone for visitors. It is the go-to place for obtaining comprehensive information about local businesses and attractions. The Chamber’s commitment to supporting the local economy ensures a steady stream of up-to-date recommendations for shopping, which greatly benefits both visitors and local vendors.

Dilly Dally Gally

Dilly Dally Gally represents the quirky and eclectic spirit of Cedar Key’s local businesses, offering an assortment of items that ranges from whimsical gifts to practical goods. Shoppers can expect to find something for everyone at this charming store, whether looking for unique souvenirs or necessary groceries to enhance their stay on the island.


Travelers to Cedar Key will find that transportation options cater to the island’s relaxed atmosphere and coastal charm. Given its small size, traditional cars are often substituted with more leisurely modes of transit.

Golf Cart Rentals

Visitors can navigate the island with ease by renting golf carts, which are an ideal way to enjoy the scenic views at a leisurely pace.

Where to Rent:

  • Island City Golf Carts: Located near Dock Street, known for their friendly service and a wide selection of carts.


  • Starting at approximately $30/hour.
  • Daily rentals available.

Additional Information:

  • Golf carts are allowed on most roads on Cedar Key.
  • Parking is readily available, especially near main attractions like the boardwalk and pier.

Boat and Kayak Rentals

Cedar Key’s proximity to the Florida Gulf Coast makes it a prime spot for water activities such as boating and kayaking.

Kayak Rental Providers:

  • Cedar Key Paddling: Close to the main pier, they offer a variety of kayaks for all skill levels.


  • Single kayaks from $35 for two hours.
  • Tandem and fishing kayaks also available.

Dock Facilities:

  • Several docks are available for launching kayaks, with City Marina being the central location.
  • Maps provided for easy navigation of the surrounding keys and waterways.

Events and Festivities

Cedar Key, Florida, is renowned for its vibrant events that celebrate the local culture and history. These festivities offer visitors unique opportunities to experience the charm and richness of this coastal town.

Cedar Key Seafood Festival

Date: Annually in October

Experience: The Cedar Key Seafood Festival is a hallmark event, attracting visitors with its promise of fresh seafood and lively entertainment. This two-day event celebrates the area’s fishing heritage, featuring local seafood specialties prepared by Cedar Key’s expert chefs. Festival-goers can enjoy a variety of dishes from clams to oyster delicacies while browsing through arts and crafts exhibits by local artisans.

Cedar Key Pirate Invasion

Date: Annually in September

Experience: Visitors can step back in time during the Cedar Key Pirate Invasion, where they are immersed in a weekend of pirate-themed festivities. The event includes a mock invasion of the city by seafaring reenactors, followed by a parade that showcases elaborate costumes and floats. The invasion brings together enthusiasts and families for a memorable experience, complete with live music, street performers, and a treasure hunt for all ages.

Tips and Recommendations

In planning a trip to Cedar Key, travelers benefit from insights on navigation, timing, and ensuring safety. These tips equip tourists with practical information to enhance their Cedar Key experience.

Getting Around Cedar Key

Cedar Key’s small size makes it an ideal place to explore on foot or by bicycle, which can be rented from local vendors. For those looking to venture onto the water, boat rentals are available at the Marina for fishing or visiting nearby islands like Atsena Otie.

Best Times to Visit

The optimal time to visit Cedar Key is during spring (March to May) and fall (September to November), avoiding the peak heat and humidity of summer. These seasons also dodge the Atlantic hurricane period, which can pose threats to the area, particularly from June to November.

Safety and Preparedness

Due to Cedar Key’s susceptibility to tropical storms, always check weather forecasts for potential hurricane alerts, including recent Hurricane Idalia advisories. Tourists should respect local wildlife regulations and be mindful of private properties while enjoying the friendly atmosphere and outdoor activities Cedar Key offers.

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1988 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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