The Nature Coast ~ Cedar Key

There is a place on Florida’s Nature Coast where time seems to stand still and the winds even seem to quiet themselves, leaving a hush over land and water as the sun dips below the horizon.

At this moment, all seems right with the world.
At this moment, all seems right with the world.

Welcome to the sleepy little fishing village of Cedar Key, laid back natural beauty, tranquility at its finest.  No, we haven’t had the best weather every day since we arrived, but the vibe here helps you forget all that as you line up with others, camera in hand, waiting for the big show.

This eclectic little village of ~ 700 residents sits three miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, occupying 2.1 square miles, of which only 0.97 square miles is land. Aerial views of Cedar Key give you a great perspective on just how many channels and bayous occupy the watery part of this island.   Whether you are a birder, love to delve into local history, are intrigued by interesting little boutique shops, your passion is to cast a line into the water, or you are a foodie, you can get your fix in Cedar Key.  It is no wonder this small island, large on personality, was designated one of the Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America by Budget Travel Magazine in 2011.

When I look back over the past week, I realize that as much as Cedar Key has to offer, we have done relatively little, preferring instead to set aside our watches, get into the rhythm of “island time” and spend our days visiting with new-found friends, a couple we have followed for some time (no, not stalking, just blog following) and a new blogger.

We have tracked down Cherie and Chris of Technomadiawho are wintering in Cedar Key.  We arranged a meet-up, got a tour of their funky vintage bus (very cool), met lizard-stalking Kiki the cat, and shared a few glasses of wine.  They are as awesome as they seem online and amazingly tech-savvy.  Terry and I have learned much from them through their blog and are always so grateful to those who share so much with RVers like ourselves who still feel like novices.

Chris, Cherie, me, & Terry in the Technomadia vintage bus.
Chris, Cherie, me, & Terry in the Technomadia vintage bus.

During a casual get-together at a local bar we also met Jim and Barb of Bounding the Borders, and immediately felt a connection.  We were fortunate enough to meet them again the next day for a fun-filled afternoon of kayaking.

Jim & Barb "Bounding the Borders"
Jim & Barb “Bounding the Borders”

Whether you kick back and relax like we have or like to be on the go, here are just a few ways to soak in the ambiance of Cedar Key:

1)  Taste the local fare

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, awarded the coveted title of World Champions three years in a row for their clam chowder, was a place we had to try, and we had to admit it was pretty darn special.  Cedar Key is the top farm-raised clam producing community in the country so we knew we were getting some seriously fresh seafood.

We had a tip that Kona Joe’s Island Cafe  was a great place for breakfast and it did not disappoint.  New Jersey transplants, Joe, the front man, and his wife Edie, serve up yummy casual fare, like crab quiche and shrimp and grits, and the coffee is great!  Joe is big on personality and is eager to help make your stay in Cedar Key the best possible.

Kona Joe's
Kona Joe’s

2)  Kayak the boundary waters

If you like to kayak, Cedar Key is the perfect place for you, being 54% water but watch out for those oyster beds.  They can easily slice through an inflatable and have been known to do damage to hard-sided kayaks as well.   The tide tables are most important as you do not want to get stranded in the mud and silt for hours during low tide.  And getting out of your boat during low tide, we were told, can find you in mud and silt up to your waist!

While inflating our kayak for an afternoon paddle to Atsena Otie Key, we spotted Jim and Barb lining up a kayak with a local company.  We launched and began our 3/4 mile paddle across the channel, to what was the original site of Cedar Key until a hurricane sent residents over to the present-day site.   The weather was perfect, the water like glass.  We had a great day scouting the shore for shells, exploring the old cemetery and finding a mysterious hatch in the forest.  A few glasses of wine shared later that evening rounded out a very enjoyable day.

3)  Swim with the manatees

Several companies offer opportunities to see and swim with the manatees.  We had heard so much about Crystal River and Three Sisters Spring, where manatees love to congregate in the 72-degree waters.  We chose Crystal River Watersports and Captain Sam was very informative.  Beyond that he knew just where to take us for an up-close experience.  We had a private tour besides, being the only two there at 7am.  Unfortunately the Three Sisters Spring was closed due to the colder weather this part of Florida has experienced. Officials do not want we two-legged creatures to disturb the 100-150 manatees crowded into the spring, pushing them out into the colder waters where they are at risk of hypothermia.  The waters where we swam were not as clear but the experience was just as awesome, with us getting nose-to-nose (literally) with these docile creatures.  Captain Sam took us down to the boundary of the springs afterwards so we could see just how many manatees were hanging out.

4)  Catch a sunset

We found the best place to watch the spectacular light show at dusk was from the docks behind the Low-Key Hideaway Motel & RV Resort, owned by Pat and Cindy Bonish.  We stayed at the Cedar Key RV Resort a few miles down the road but we would definitely try to stay here when back in Cedar Key.  With  only three sites available, it is a funky little place and the Low-Key Tiki Bar seems to be the place in town to go for that perfect island sunset experience, and Pat makes a mean margarita.

Our exploration of Florida continues tomorrow as we head for Clearwater to meet up with friends.  We are taking away some awesome memories of this little gem sitting out in the Gulf of Mexico, with its laid back island vibe.  We will be back! 🙂

81 thoughts on “The Nature Coast ~ Cedar Key

  • AWESOME!!! So glad you were able to do so much while you were there, regardless of some of the weather. Looks like you had a lot of fun and saw some great places in Cedar Key. Thanks for sharing, especially the sunset pix.

  • What a wonderful time you’ve had in Cedar Key, despite the chilly weather! We were there last month for only two nights, but are heading back for a week mid-February. Thank you for sharing your adventures and gorgeous photos — we had already planned for kayaking, but now I’m inspired to check into swimming with the manatees. (Yes, those margaritas at the Low-Key tiki bar are awesome, aren’t they? How did I not see that crazy barstool???)

    • We had a great time and thanks for recommending the margaritas Laurel. They were really yummy! Swimming with the manatees was fabulous, only wish the water would have been clearer but the experience was wonderful. I did not even see the barstool until Pat suggested he take a picture of Terry and me, with Terry in the “big seat”. 🙂

  • Awww, we spent a week at Cedar Key a year or so ago. We truly enjoyed our time in this sweet place!!! It is quite unique and special!! We enjoy birding and it definitely not lacking in that department!! The food is fantastic as is the ambiance!!

    • I didn’t do as much with the birding as I thought I might but am sure there will be plenty of opportunity yet this winter. Cedar Key was great and we met some wonderful folks. 🙂

  • We stayed at Sunset Isle when we took the RV to Cedar Key and we watched the sunset from the campground every night. It’s right next to the motel where you went to watch the sunset. So glad you got to go to Ansena Otie Key and snorkel with the manatees!

    • We know exactly where Sunset Isle is. Cherie and Chris of Technomadia are there and have the most perfect dock right outside their door. We would definitely return for a visit. 🙂

  • We were just at a bar/restaurant the other day with the same bar stools. How funny. Cedar Key is definitely on our radar and you’re heading to my old stomping grounds of Clearwater…..a regular winter get away during my airline years. Looks like your getting back in the swing of things and having a fun time. Great photos and continue enjoying those sunsets 🙂

    • Very interesting that you had just seen the same barstools. I was quite oblivious to it until it was pointed out to me by the owner of the bar. I have never been to Clearwater so have no idea what to do there. We have many friends and one relative to visit so am sure we will be quite busy. The sunsets at the Low-Key Tiki Bar were the best yet in FL. 🙂

  • I don’t think we have ever met up with RVers that we did not make an immediate connection. RVers are just the best.

    HAHAHA…Paul and I just love those bar stools. No getting fresh now.

    • RVers are the very best, free spirits with a great love for nature. The barstool was quite fun and I didn’t even notice it until the owner Pat suggested the photo op. 🙂

  • rvers rule–have made a whole bunch of friends doing rv jobs and traveling around the country–we still keep in touch over the airways and some with snail mail who do not do computers’. we loved the pictures and posts –thanks for sharing ( maybe a margarita is in order) have a safe trip and also a great time–hugs–chaelie and kay
    those stools are great how fun

  • What an awesome place!! We need to head there at some point. Thanks for such a great tour. How neat to swim with the manatees:) I love the special “chair!” Too funny!!

    Hope to meet up in Clearwater!

  • What a breathtaking capture, LuAnn! I’d go there just for the sunset, then they have the fresh seafood… Enjoy the tour! That bar stool 😀 😉
    Happy travel!

  • What a lovely place, LuAnn. It looks like time stands still there, especially at sunset. Love that bar stool. I did a double take when I saw you standing there in your red unmentionables. 😀 How lovely to meet up with other bloggers. The kayaking and the manatee visit sound like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing your wonderful time at Cedar Key. xx

  • I can’t stop staring at that first photo. I keep staring at it thinking that if I stare hard enough – it will suck me in to a warmer climate. 😉

    • I cannot believe the weather that is occurring north of us. We haven’t had the warm balmy weather Florida is known for, but what you are experiencing is ridiculous. Be safe RoSy. 🙂

  • As I opened this post and saw the sunset I thought the photos can’t get better than that yet they did all the way through… as for Terry’s ass “nice shorts bud, nice shorts” this really sounds like the place one could easily put down temporary roots and chill… diving with the manatees.. oh wow what a privilege that would be… great post LuAnn.. regards to Terry in his red hot pants… his looks good maybe ’cause your having a grab at it

    • Thanks Bulldog! I’m a cheap date so give me one drink and you never know what I might do! You’ve got the hubby chuckling over here. 🙂

    • It is always nice to find the personalities behind the blog just as neat as what you had imagined. Enjoy the remainder of your time in Cedar Key…and until next time. 🙂

  • Years ago we checked out Cedar Key with our toad and didn’t see any “decent” campgrounds in the area so we never went back with Beluga. I’m going to check out your spot because the area certainly looks like fun!

    • The Cedar Key RV Resort was originally designed for Class A motorhomes, with full cement pads, cable, etc., about 7 miles outside of Cedar Key. It is a nice, clean, quiet resort and the fun seems to happen in Cedar Key. We had a great time. 🙂

    • That stool was rather fun but when I look back at the one I posted of Terry with me doing the sneak attack, thanks to Pat’s goading, I cringe a little. Me after a drink or two, and me pre-alcohol, are just a tad different!

      We are still talking about how fortunate we feel to have met you and Barb and so wish we were heading in the same direction, travel-wise. We do hope that we will meet again soon. The connection with you two was immediate and very comfortable, as if we had known you a lifetime! 🙂

      Be safe and enjoy the remainder of your winter! 🙂

  • The rhythm of island time sounds wonderful and something from either a shipwreck story or the most perfect holiday, as ever I remain very jealous of your exploits but demand more because I am contradictory like that. Purely stunnning.

  • What a lovely place and post LuAnn! Love all the pictures and so cool you got to meet two bloggers you follow! Looks like you are having a great time in Florida. Wish I was there too! It has been very cold here! 🙂

    • I cannot believe how cold it has been in the midwest. I don’t remember a winter like this. It has been unseasonably cool here as well but nothing like what you are experiencing. Stay warm!

      • Thanks LuAnn. Yes it is unbearable. I hate to complain but it has been so hard. I love being outside and we have had so many below zero days. Today it is -25 F and tomorrow too. School has been canceled for the fourth day since Jan. 1! it is crazy. It just gets hard because I hate being stuck inside the house and the kids are getting anxious to get out too. A long winter….hopefully things will turn around soon!:)

    • Yep, give me just one drink and you never know what might happen! Actually that is probably the most risqué I would get and I was prodded into that by the owner. 😉

  • What fun and great shots you’re having. My folks moved to Safety Harbor after they retired. I think it’s right next to Clearwater. Never could find much to do there, but then I was pretty much stuck at the house. 😦

    • We are now in Clearwater and most of our time will be taken up visiting friends and some family, and running errands. We have found a nice bike trail and walking path, so that will most likely sum up our entertainment for the next week. 🙂

  • Seeing that sunset takes me back to my childhood days growing up in Tampa…been a long time and of course only now would I truly appreciate it! I’m with Rosy…in hoping to stare long enough to get sucked in and join you guys there!! So gorgeous! Happy to see you have fun in such a gorgeous locale with awesome people…doesn’t get any better than that…unless I was there too haha!! Huge huge hugs and tons of love to you ❤❤❤!!!

  • LuAnn, I love Cedar Key and you totally captured it! Amazing photos and thanks for all the suggestions of things to do. It’s always been one of our go-to destinations when we’ve in that area. It looks like you and Terry are having a blast! 🙂 ~Terri

  • These photos are just great – and amazing meeting bloggers in real life! That sounds wonderful 🙂

  • What a beautiful and informative post Luann. And fun! 🙂 Happy to be catching up with your wanderings finally.
    Love the new look, particularly the colour scheme 🙂

    • Thanks Madhu. Hope all is well with you! As far as the new look, I’m still not sure about the theme I have and may still make a few more changes but I’m liking the changes so far. 🙂

  • Lu and Terry, If you’re on your way to Clearwater, that is where Gayl and I traveled on our honeymoon. My son played with the Philadelphia Phillies and that is where the Phillies have their spring training complex. Also Terry, I believe the original Hooters was started in Clearwater. It looks like you guys are having a lot of fun with your RV friends. Happy for you.

    • We have been quite the socialites since arriving in Clearwater. Many of Terry’s former high school classmates now live in the area so there has been lots of catching up going one. 🙂

  • You really prove it to be one of the top 10 coolest small town. That first pic is FTW, including your peir shots. I would like to experience the swim with the manatees. Most especially, I really like your pictures with Terry.

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