J. Dawg Journeys

Cedar Key – A Charming Old Florida Hideaway

Sunset Isle RV ParkAfter leaving Fort Myers Beach, the next part of our snowbird journey was to travel up the west coast of Florida towards the Panhandle.  We were in no rush, so I planned a three-day stop over 250 miles up the coast at Cedar Key.

Cedar Key is a small tourist town (pop. 900) on Florida’s west coast about 100 miles north of Tampa.  It’s a small funky town that is 30 miles from anywhere.  It got its start as a small railroad terminus port on the Gulf Coast in the early 1800’s.  It’s a remote end-of-the-road outpost like Key West, except without all the people, cruise ships, condos, and bars.  It’s old-time Florida that’s low-key and laid back.

I was in Cedar Key once back in 2006 while on a Bike Florida bike trip.  A group of us (15 riders) did a 75 mile out and back ride to Cedar Key.  That visit was just a day trip, but I saw enough to make a mental note to go back someday.

Sunset Isle RV Park and Motel

For this visit, we booked our stay at the Sunset Isle RV Park and Motel.  The is a small 6 room motel with about 60 RV sites.  It’s about 1 mile from the town center and sits right on the water.  It caters to snowbirds who want a quiet out-of-the-way place to relax.  Kayaking, bird watching, and sunset watching seem to be the main activities.

Here’s a short video that shows what Sunset Isle RV Park looks like.

The park is small and sites are very close together.  But everyone seems to be on island time and are very laid back.  The amenities are very good (full hook-ups, cable TV, wifi), there are daily activities, nightly campfires, and an onsite cafe with great food.

Sunset Isle SIte 8

Site 8 at Sunset Isle RV Park

Attractions

Cedar Key MapKayaking seems to be one of the big draws.  Cedar Key is surrounded by a small collection of islands and tidal marshes.  The calm protected waters are perfect for kayaking.  Many of the islands are part of the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge and can be accessed by boat or kayak.

It’s also a place that attracts many migratory birds so bird watching is a major attraction.

KayakerIts easy to go all over the island on a bicycle.  We biked over to the Cedar Key Museum State Park.  The small state park has exhibits on the history of the island and houses an artifact collection of former resident St. Clair Whitman. Whitman lived on the island in the early 1900’s and was a collector of shells and historical artifacts.  His restored house sits on the museum grounds and depicts what life was like in the 1920’s.

St. Clair Whitman House

J. Dawg at the St. Clair Whitman House

After visiting the museum, we biked down to explore the town center.  The main street, which is named 2nd Street, has a collection of historic buildings that give the feeling of a small sleepy southern town. Many of the buildings house art galleries, offices, and small restaurants.

The town center and nearby streets are a historic district.  Here we saw some beautiful old homes that depict the Florida cottage style of construction from the 1920’s.

Historic House on 2nd Street

Historic House on 2nd Street

2nd Street Cedar Key

2nd Street Cedar Key

Cedar Key Historical Museum

Cedar Key Historical Museum

The Cedar Key Historical Museum is worth a visit.  It houses a some small exhibits and local artifacts.  It has a nice exhibit on the Standard Manufacturing Company which was located in Cedar Key and made palm fiber brushes.

Some locals say that Cedar Key is a “drinking town that has a fishing problem.”  Perhaps the best place to experience that problem first hand is at the Hideaway Tiki Bar.  This small local watering hole is part of the Low Key Hideaway Motel.  It’s a small funky “shack” that looks to be made out of bar trash, flotsam, and demolition debris.  Words just can’t describe it so here are some pictures.

  • Note the flip flops nailed on rail posts
  • The Tiki Bar
  • Love Key Hideaway Motel
  • A wall made from old bottles

The Tiki Bar was a fun place to hang out with some locals and take in my daily rum ration.  The former managers of the Hideaway were RVer’s and photographers.  They also did most of the current decorating of the motel grounds.  They write a nice blog and you can see their write up (along with some great pictures) about Cedar Key at this link – Low Key Hideaway.

One of the best attractions at Cedar Key are the sunsets.  Cedar Key juts out into the Gulf and making it a great place to watch the setting sun.  It reminds me of Key West where everyday at sunset people stop and gather at the water’s edge to watch the sunset.  We were only here for 3 days and got lucky with a couple of sunsets.  Here are some pictures.

Cedar Key Sunset 1

Sunset on day 1

Cedar Key Sunset 2

Sunset on day 2

Sunset Cedar Key

Sunset on day 3

J. Dawg Sunset

J. Dawg sunset silhouette (photo courtesy of M. Gagne)

Our stay at Cedar Key was nice.  The slow pace and laid back people made it very relaxing.  It’s a place where the clocks seem to run a little bit slower.  Cedar Key will be a return visit next year.

Change of Plans

Our plan for this trip was to continue north onto the Florida Panhandle for most of March.  But some serious health issues with my elderly parents came up at the end of February that required us to head home early.  The Panhandle will have to wait until next year.  There’ll be a pause in my travel and posting, but I should be back to traveling in the late spring.

Overall, our trip to Florida was a great 3 month snow bird journey.

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