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20 Top Attractions and Things To Do in Cedar Key Florida

Welcome to Cedar Key, Florida, a hidden gem nestled along Florida’s Gulf Coast. With its natural beauty, charming small-town atmosphere, and array of attractions, Cedar Key offers a unique getaway for nature lovers, history buffs, and art enthusiasts alike.

Place yourself in the breathtaking scenery as you explore Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, home to diverse wildlife and stunning panoramic views. Take a boat tour and spot dolphins, manatees, and a variety of bird species that call this coastal paradise home.

History buffs will be captivated by the rich heritage of Cedar Key. Visit the Cedar Key Historical Museum and learn about the town’s fascinating past, from its Native American roots to its booming 19th-century era as a key port for the pencil industry.

Art lovers will appreciate the thriving arts scene in Cedar Key. Stroll through the town’s art galleries, showcasing the works of local artisans, or attend one of the many art festivals and exhibits held throughout the year.

Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or a tranquil escape, Cedar Key has it all. So come and discover the top attractions and things to do in Cedar Key, Florida – a destination that offers a little something for everyone.

cedar key things to do and attractions birding
Scenes like these at the Cedar Key National Wildlife Preserve make your journey to Cedar Key worthwhile.

Historical Significance of Cedar Key

Cedar Key, a coastal town on the Gulf Coast of Florida, has a rich and varied history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, including the Timucua and Seminole tribes, who relied on the abundant natural resources of the region for sustenance and trade.

In the early 19th century, Cedar Key became a thriving seaport and center for the fishing and sponge industries. The town experienced significant growth with the arrival of the railroad in the 1860s, which facilitated the transportation of goods and passengers to and from the mainland.

In addition to its economic activities, Cedar Key has a fascinating cultural history. During the Civil War, the town served as a strategic military outpost for the Union Army due to its access to the Gulf of Mexico. However, it faced several attacks from Confederate forces seeking to disrupt Union operations along the coast.

Cedar Key also played a prominent role in the pencil industry, with the discovery of high-quality cedar trees used for pencil manufacturing. However, the devastating impact of hurricanes, over-harvesting and the decline of the sponge industry in the early 20th century led to a period of economic decline for Cedar Key.

 In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cedar Key became a popular destination for tourists seeking relaxation and recreation. Visitors arrived by steamboat to enjoy the town’s natural beauty, including its untouched beaches, abundant fishing grounds, and scenic waterways.

Throughout the 20th century, Cedar Key evolved into a thriving artist colony, attracting painters, writers, and musicians drawn to its inspiring landscapes and bohemian atmosphere.

Today, Cedar Key is a quaint and charming coastal community of about 700 people known for its artistic community, historic architecture, and abundant natural beauty, attracting visitors from near and far to its scenic shores and laid-back atmosphere.

things you need when flying
attractions and things to do in Cedar Key Florida - waterside of dock street.
This is the waterside view of the restaurants and shops along Dock Street in Cedar Key.

Natural Attractions in Cedar Key Florida

While man can attempt to compete with Mother Nature for attention and attraction to natural surroundings, we rarely can match the flora and fauna that naturally exists.

Cedar Key is alive with the beauty, fury, and wrath that has made the town what it is today – a natural attraction on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Here are some of the natural attractions and things to do in Cedar Key.

Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge

Cedar Key is renowned for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. One of the must-visit attractions is the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge. Spanning over 13,000 acres, this refuge is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including salt marshes, tidal creeks, and seagrass beds. Explore the refuge’s trails and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico.

things to do in Cedar Key Florida - sunset
Catching a sunset is high on the list of things to do in Cedar Key.
Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve

For a unique outdoor experience, head to Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve. This protected area boasts a variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, and birds. Hike through its trails and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Catch A Sunset at Cedar Key

Cedar Key is also famous for its stunning sunsets. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and witness the sky ablaze with vibrant hues as the sun dips below the horizon. This magical experience is one you won’t want to miss during your visit to Cedar Key.

Shell Mound Archaeological Site

Visit the Shell Mound Archaeological Site, a testament to the area’s rich Native American heritage. This ancient shell mound, dating back thousands of years, provides a glimpse into the lives of the early inhabitants of Cedar Key.

While these attractions and things to do in Cedar Key are fun and interesting, a simple walk to the end of the fishing pier on Dock Street will give you a panoramic view this waterfront community.

cedar key things to do - white pelicans
See a flock of white pelicans at Cedar Key. One of the many attractions of Cedar Key.

Exploring the Wildlife in Cedar Key

Cedar Key is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Embark on a guided boat tour and venture into the waters surrounding the town. Keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins and gentle manatees as they swim alongside the boat.

The clear waters also offer fantastic opportunities for snorkeling, where you can observe colorful fish and vibrant coral reefs up close.

Birdwatchers will be in paradise in Cedar Key. The area is a prime spot for birding, with over 250 species of birds recorded. Grab your binoculars and head to the coastal scrubs and bays, the heavy cover of the islands or the small patch of beach on the east end of the island.

Each area will have a different species of birds in their own natural habitat.

Water Activities in Cedar Key

Cedar Key’s coastal location makes it a paradise for water enthusiasts. Rent a kayak and paddle through the calm waters, exploring the hidden coves and mangrove forests. If you prefer a more leisurely experience, hop on a fishing charter and try your luck at catching some of the area’s abundant fish species.

Here are some attractions and things to do in Cedar Key on the water:

Fishing Charters from Cedar Key

Kayaking Cedar Key -
Kayaking the islands of Cedar Key is one of the short list of things to do in Cedar Key.

Take a Tour of the Islands or Rent a Boat

Take a Sunset Cruise or Tour

Take a Clam Eco-Aquaculture Tour

For a unique adventure, book a clamming tour. Learn about the new method of clam harvesting and aquaculture necessary to produce clams in shallow waters.

 It’s a fun and educational experience that will give you a taste of the local lifestyle.

Art, Culture and Museums in Cedar Key

Cedar Key has a thriving arts scene that is sure to captivate art enthusiasts. Take a leisurely stroll through the town’s art galleries, where you can admire the works of local artists. From paintings and sculptures to pottery and jewelry, there’s something for every art lover to appreciate.

Here are some artistic attractions and things to do in Cedar Key:

Visit the Cedar Key Arts Center

Visit the Cedar Key Historical Society

Visit the Cedar Key Museum State Park

Visit the Cedar Keyhole Artist’s  Co-Op Gallery (25 artists)

To involve yourself in the local arts culture,cedar key arts center plan your visit around one of the many art festivals and exhibits held throughout the year. The Old Florida Celebration of the Arts is a highlight, showcasing the works of talented artists from across the state.

Explore the outdoor exhibits, listen to live music, and indulge in delicious food from local vendors.

If you’re interested in the performing arts, check out the Cedar Key Arts Center. This center hosts a variety of events, including live music performances, theater productions, and film screenings. Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts community of Cedar Key and be inspired by the local talent.

Cedar Key things to do - Co-op art gallery
The Cedar Key Co-op Art Gallery is a must see in Cedar Key if you like artistic local creations.

The Cedar Key Seafood Industry

Cedar Key, Florida is particularly renowned for its thriving seafood industry, especially aquaculture, which is the farming of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Here’s a breakdown of what makes Cedar Key one of the most interesting coastal Florida cities:

  • Aquaculture Hub: Cedar Key is known as one of the best places for aquaculture in Florida, thanks to its clean waters, rich estuaries, and ideal location near the mouths of several rivers. These factors create a perfect environment for raising shellfish like clams and oysters.
  • Clams Rule: Cedar Key is the largest producer of farm-raised clams in the state. Over 90% of Florida’s total clam cultivation happens in the Cedar Key area. These hard clams, specifically, are a major source of income for many Cedar Key residents, with an annual harvest exceeding 200 million clams!
  • Sustainable Practices: Clamming in Cedar Key is often praised for its sustainable practices. The clams are raised in hatcheries and then transferred to nets in coastal bays where they naturally feed and grow. This method helps minimize environmental impact.
  • Oysters Too: While clams take center stage, Cedar Key also produces a significant amount of oysters. These shellfish benefit from the same ideal conditions as the clams.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Freshness assured: Because of the local aquaculture, you’re likely to find incredibly fresh seafood in Cedar Key restaurants and seafood markets.
  • Clams on the Menu: Expect to see Cedar Key clams on menus in various preparations, from raw on the half shell to steamed or fried. We have been served Cedar Key clams and oysters all the way down in Key West at the Half-Shell Raw Bar.
  • Support Local: By enjoying Cedar Key seafood, you’re supporting the local economy and sustainable aquaculture practices.

If you’re a seafood lover and ever find yourself in Cedar Key, be sure to try the local clams and oysters! You can even visit a working clam farm to learn more about the aquaculture process. Clam production has become a Cedar Key attraction.

cedar key attractions - oysters and clams at steamers
We just ate fresh Cedar Key oysters and clams at Steamers on Dock Street.

Dining Options in Cedar Key for Seafood

After a day of exploring, indulge in the culinary delights that Cedar Key has to offer. The town boasts a variety of dining options, ranging from casual seafood shacks to upscale waterfront restaurants. Here are the best restaurants in Cedar Key and the first three restaurants serve fresh clams and oysters from Cedar Key.

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant

For a taste of the local cuisine, head to Tony’s Seafood Restaurant. This family-owned establishment has been serving fresh seafood since 1952. Feast on mouthwatering oysters, shrimp, and crab cakes while enjoying views of the water.

Steamers Clam Bar & Grill

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more upscale, make a reservation at Steamers Clam Bar & Grill. This waterfront restaurant offers a menu filled with delectable seafood dishes, including their famous Cedar Key clams. Pair your meal with a glass of wine and savor the flavors while taking in the picturesque views. This is our favorite place for clams and oysters served with a view of the bayfront.

Cedar Key Attractions - Fishing Pier
If you want your own fresh seafood, catch it at the Cedar Key Fishing Pier – or better yet catch a sunset there!

Island Hotel & Restaurant

For a unique dining experience, visit Island Hotel & Restaurant. This historic inn not only offers charming accommodations but also a delightful dining experience. Enjoy a meal in the hotel’s rustic dining room, where you can savor dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.

2nd Street Cafe

For a more casual breakfast and lunch, the 2nd Street Café is the place to go. Enjoy classic diner style food at a reasonable price. Located in the heart of Cedar Key among the shops and galleries.

Places to Stay in Cedar Key

Cedar Key offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs. From cozy bed and breakfasts to waterfront cottages, there’s something for everyone.

For a relaxing getaway, consider staying at the Cedar Cove Beach Hotel. This waterfront resort offers spacious suites with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico. Relax by the pool, go for a swim in the ocean, or simply unwind on your private balcony as you take in the serene surroundings.

If you prefer a more intimate setting, book a stay at the Faraway Inn. This charming bed and breakfast is nestled among lush gardens and offers cozy rooms with a home-away-from-home atmosphere. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the porch and soak up the peaceful ambiance of this hidden gem.

For a unique experience, consider renting a VRBO cottage or condo. Wake up to stunning views of the water and enjoy direct access to the beach or marina. It’s the perfect option for those seeking a private retreat in the heart of Cedar Key.

For a spirited stay in Cedar Key, try the Island Hotel in the center of town. There are persistent stories of their ghostly past.

cedar key attractions - pirate invasion
The annual Cedar Key Annual Pirate Invasion is a blast with pirates, parades and lots of fun.

Events and Festivals in Cedar Key

Cedar Key is known for its vibrant events and festivals that celebrate the town’s culture, history, and natural beauty. One of the most anticipated events is the Cedar Key Seafood Festival. Held annually in October, this festival showcases the best of the town’s seafood offerings. Indulge in fresh oysters, shrimp, and fish while enjoying live music and entertainment.

Another popular event is the Cedar Key Pirate Invasion. This family-friendly festival transports visitors back in time to the era of pirates and buccaneers. Enjoy reenactments, live music, and treasure hunts as you immerse yourself in the swashbuckling atmosphere. Generally held in November.

Throughout the year, Cedar Key hosts a variety of art festivals and exhibits. The Spring Arts Festival and the Fall Arts Festival are highlights, featuring the works of local artists and artisans. Explore the outdoor exhibits, browse the arts and crafts booths, and enjoy live music and entertainment.

Final Thoughts on Attractions and Things to do in Cedar Key Florida

Cedar Key, Florida, is a hidden treasure of a coastal town in Florida that offers a little something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or a tranquil escape, Cedar Key has it all.

Engage yourself in the town’s rich history, explore its natural attractions and things to do in Cedar Key.

Indulge in the local art scene, and savor the culinary delights. Come and discover why Cedar Key is a top destination along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Map of Cedar Key

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