Sunday, March 11, 2012
Cedar Key (March 11)
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We knew we were going to be working our way north out of Ft. Myers toward the Florida panhandle and the Gulf shore, and while researching places to stay I came upon Cedar Key. We took a chance and booked a week at Cedar Key hoping it would live up to some of the good reports we'd read--boy, did it!
Cedar Key is literally in the middle of nowhere. Most Floridians I'd mentioned it to had never heard of it. It is about 2 hours north of Tampa on the Gulf coast, about an hour out of Gainesville at the end of Route 24. Surrounded by wildlife refuges and state parks, Cedar Key is at the heart of what they call Florida's "nature coast". It was the terminus of a railroad that ran from St. Augustine in the late 1800's and became the cedar pencil and whisk broom capital of the country for a while. What it is today is a charming small town of about 1000 people that is home to thousands of birds, millions of shellfish, hundreds of tiny islands and a slow "old Florida" way of life that is just plain wonderful.
We stayed in a small RV park about a mile up the road from "downtown" Cedar Key. This was the most friendly, laid back RV park we've found. The people were wonderful and they had low-key events almost every night--karaoke on Sunday, bluegrass picking on Friday and Saturday, bingo on Thursday. We watched beautiful sunsets from the docks and met some really terrific people. We rode out bikes to the docks at Cedar Key and watched people fish among the pelicans, gulls and other shorebirds. We ate melt-in-your-mouth gulf shrimp, clams, grouper and bruschetta. We visited a 5000-year-old native American shell mound that was 25 feet high and several acres across. Cedar Key is described as being like Key West 50 years ago and there is something to that. Quirky homes, restaurants and shops, working fishermen, stunning natural surroundings and little commercialization make Cedar Key a real treasure. We're planning to come back and stay a month next year instead of the week we spent this year.