Cedar Key

Day Trip: 24 Hours in Cedar Key

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Located just over an hour northwest of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Cedar Key is a quaint beachfront community that fully embraces the "Old Florida" lifestyle. You won't find many chain stores or restaurants here, but you will find a unique little town that is always a fun place to visit.  

If you have been looking for a different destination for your next day trip, Cedar Key offers the perfect combination of close proximity to our community, unique atmosphere to enjoy, and plenty of fun things to do.  

Let's take a walk through what a perfect day trip to Cedar Key might look like for a resident here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

Morning Activity: Cedar Key Fishing Pier 

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After enjoying a beautiful drive up the Gulf Coast, you will find yourself pulling into Cedar Key at just about the perfect time for a morning stroll down the Cedar Key Fishing Pier.  

This trip is all about embracing the relaxing charm of "Old Florida." And that is exactly what you are going to feel as you kick back and relax watching the fishermen in action on the pier.  

If you are an angler, you might feel compelled to cast a line yourself, but you don't have to fish here to enjoy the sights.  

Lunch: 83 West 

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From the Cedar Key Fishing Pier, it is just a short walk over to one of the best lunches in town at 83 West. This unique restaurant offers two different experiences under one roof, but for lunch, we are going to focus on the more casual version downstairs.  

With everything from shrimp tacos and crab bites to smoked mullet dip and bourbon marinated gator kabobs on the menu, there is plenty of authentic local food to choose from.  

Afternoon Activity: Cedar Key Historical Society Museum 

After lunch, we are heading over to the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum to see the most popular tourist attraction in town. This friendly little museum does a great job telling the story of Cedar Key to anyone who might be interested.  

There are lots of local artifacts on display throughout the museum's self-guided tour, and at only $3 it is also one of the best deals in town as well.  

Dinner: Duncan's on the Gulf 

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When dinner time rolls around, we are heading back to the Cedar Key Fishing Pier for reservations at Duncan's on the Gulf. This hidden gem is known for handling all things seafood-related, but they also have a fantastic selection of steaks and pasta dishes.  

If this is your first time dining at Duncan's, you can feel comfortable choosing any of the specials that might sound interesting. But if that doesn't do the trick for you, there are plenty of great entrees in the Island Dinner section of their menu.  

After enjoying two fabulous meals and a couple of fun destinations in Cedar Key, you are probably going to be ready to get home as quickly as possible. Fortunately for you, the Villages of Citrus Hills is only a little over an hour away, so you will be back home before you know it!

 

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

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Seafood is extremely popular across the state of Florida, and shellfish is practically a way of life along the Gulf Coast. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the luxury of being located right next to the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which is where you will find one of the best sources of fresh shellfish in the entire country.  

Whether your preference is for clams, oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, or stone crabs, you can find all of them as you make your way up and down the trail. But with so many options to choose from, figuring out how to best enjoy the trail can be a bit overwhelming.  

Let's take a closer look at what exactly the Big Bend Shellfish Trail has to offer! 

About the Trail 

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is comprised of the working waterfront communities in Dixie, Levy, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties ranging from Steinhatchee to Yankeetown.  

At one time, this area was better known for its fishing boats, but a 1995 ban on gill net fishing forced the local workers to evolve into shellfish harvesters. Today, you will find large piles of crab traps sitting on docks the entire way up the coast, and it isn't too hard to find the shellfish that make their way into those traps either! 

Types of Shellfish 

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Scallops and Stone Crabs are probably the most sought-after shellfish you will find along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Both are limited in terms of fishing season and restricted to certain catch limits, which means that supplies are almost always limited, making them rather expensive.  

On the flip side, you will find all of the clams, shrimp, and blue crabs you could ever want throughout the salty marsh waters of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail.  

Big Bend Destinations 

Because the entire Big Bend Shellfish Trail is located within a short driving distance of the Villages of Citrus Hills, each of the popular stops along the trail would be an excellent day trip for our residents.  

Cedar Key is probably the most popular tourist destination along the trail, and it is also a favorite day trip spot for local residents. In addition to being a beautiful island, this is also a prime spot for oysters and clams, and there are also a number of farm-to-table shellfish restaurants on the island.  

If you are looking for a scalloping adventure, Steinhatchee is the place to find your charter service. And that won't be hard here considering the area is filled with working shellfish boats.  

Another excellent destination for a Big Bend Shellfish Trail day trip is Suwannee, where you will find some of the best stone crab fishing of the entire Gulf Coast. This is also a great place to track down clams, oysters, and blue crabs as well.  

Whether you are looking to get out on the water and catch your own shellfish or stay on dry land and enjoy a fantastic seafood experience at a locally owned restaurant, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail can help you out either way. So if you are passionate about your shellfish, it's time to get out and start exploring the trail!

Nature Coast Recommended Reading

If you are an avid reader, you will be thrilled to discover that there are a number of fiction and non-fiction books that have been published about Florida’s Nature Coast over the years

It’s no secret that the areas surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills has a way of commanding the attention of various artists, and authors have been no exception.

Here are some of the interesting history, tour guide, and fiction books that cover the Nature Coast that current and prospective residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills might want to check out. 

Cedar Key, Florida:  A History by Kevin McCarthy

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The history of Cedar Key, Florida is a fascinating story, and author Kevin McCarthy presents that history in a well-researched manner that keeps the reader engaged while still hitting on all of the facts about Cedar Key.  This tiny island community has seen and survived plenty over the years, and McCarthy does a great job of capturing exactly what makes “Old Florida” and the Nature Coast so popular.

 

Disaster at Dawn:  The Cedar Keys Hurricane of 1896 by Alvin Oickle

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If you like the historical perspective presented in McCarthy’s book, this is an excellent follow-up read that takes a closer look at one particular event in Cedar Key’s history.  In 1896 there was a hurricane that leveled everything on the island and killed dozens of people.  Oickle chronicles the devastating impact of that hurricane and how it forever changed the way we would experience Cedar Key.

 

 Levy County (Images of America) by Carolyn Cohens

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A picture is worth a thousand words.  This is another great book that shows the history of Levy County through pictures.  The pages are packed with great photos of Cedar Key, Chiefland’s Train Depot Museum, the Suwannee Valley Theater, the Watermelon Festival, the Christmas Parade of Lights and the Williston Peanut Festival.  Touching on all the history that makes Levy County such a fascinating place.

 

A Naturalist’s Guide to Cedar Key, Florida by Harriet Smith

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With this book, author Harriet Smith takes on the role of travel guide as she profiles 19 different self-guided walks and boat trips that she recommends taking to explore the areas surrounding Cedar Key.  She includes plenty of detailed information about the different types of wildlife and foliage you will find on each of these trips.

 

 

Backroads and Byways of Florida by Zain Deane

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This is a really interesting book that profiles 12 different day trips and weekend excursions that you could take through less-traveled areas of Florida.  No matter what type of excursion you are looking for, this book promises to deliver on memorable trips to must-see Florida attractions that are often overlooked by tourists and even locals.

 

 

Cedar Key:  A Jack Shaw Adventure by James West

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If fiction reading is your preference, this is a great place to start!  This book tells the story of Jack Shaw, a jaded personal injury lawyer turned private investigator who finds himself wrapped up in a wild plot to instigate war in the Middle East.  There is a large portion of the book that is set in Cedar Key.

 

 

Shadow Over Cedar Key by Ann Turner Cook

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This mystery novel features Brandy O’Bannon, a Florida reporter who is investigating the disappearance of a mother and daughter during Hurricane Agnes.  Parts of the story include a private detective who placed a classified ad asking the woman to come forward and the possibility that her skeleton was found in the basement of a Cedar Key hotel.

 

While these particular books are all currently available on Amazon, a quick trip to on the of local libraries will allow you to find many more books on the Nature Coast that are not as widely available.

Great Day Trip from the Villages of Citrus Hills to Cedar Key

With all of its unique shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of great history and wildlife attractions, Cedar Key contains all of the amenities of a great tourist town without all of the tourists!

This once-small fishing village has gradually turned itself into one of the more popular day-trip locations for Florida residents who are looking for a location that is not so tourist-focused.

Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills can drive to Cedar Key in about an hour and fifteen minutes by taking US-41 north to Country Road 40 and then US-19 North, then turning left and taking FL-24 all the way to the coast.

The breathtaking views you will see driving from the mainland out to Cedar Key alone make the whole trip worthwhile!

Once you arrive in Cedar Key, you will definitely want to see some of the wonderful historic sites, museums, wildlife preserves and state parks.

There are also great locations for fishing and boating, as well as great small town shopping and restaurants to keep you busy for the day.

Cedar Key Historical Museum 

One of your first stops in Cedar Key should be the Cedar Key Historical Museum. Even if you aren’t curious about the interesting history of the island, you will still want to grab all of the visitor information located here to plan the rest of your day.

If you are interested in the history of Cedar Key, this great little museum will walk you through the entire history of the island including Civil War artifacts and brooms made from palmettos.

You will learn all about the town’s storied history with the railroad industry, cedar and palm products, and gulf coast seafood. 

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve

Another popular attraction in Cedar Key is the nine-mile drive through the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve.

As you drive through the preserve, you can expect to see alligators, turkeys, otters, and many different types of birds. You will also want to stop near the Shell Mound Campground to see the 28-foot high mound of ancient shells. 

Seahorse Key Lighthouse 

Just south of Cedar Key is Seahorse Key, which is home to the Seahorse Key Lighthouse.

This key is only accessible by boat, and the lighthouse is only open on certain days of the year, but there are a number of tour companies in Cedar Key that will either take you past Seahorse Key or allow you to get out and look around the island.

Like everything else in this area, the lighthouse has a storied history including the pivotal role it played in the Second Seminole War and the Civil War.  

Shopping in Cedar Key

If shopping is what you are looking for, Cedar Key is perfect for that as well!

Most of the shops are on either Dock Street or Second Street, so that is the best place to start your shopping spree. You will definitely want to check out Cedar Key Canvas, Dilly Dally Gally, The Island Trading Post, and The Salty Needle Quilt Shop.

Dining in Cedar Key 

Your long day of history, wildlife, boating, and shopping will probably cause you to work up quite an appetite. That won’t be a problem though, because Cedar Key has an excellent collection of local restaurants.

One of the most popular restaurants in Cedar Key is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, and they are known for their famous clam chowder. 

If you plan to visit Cedar Key more than once, you will also want to try eating at Kona Joe’s Island Cafe, Ken’s Cedar Keyside Diner, and the Big Deck Raw Bar. Each of these restaurants is known for putting out outstanding food accompanied by friendly service. 

As you can see, there really is something for everyone in Cedar Key.

And because it is only 75 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, this might be the type of place you find yourself going back to over and over again!