Cedar Keys

April 13, 2020

On one of those lists like”One Thousand Places to See Before You Die” Cedar Key would rank 7,413th — but at least it would make the list.

The charm of the Cedar Keys are their isolation (60 miles from Gainesville and Ocala) and the town’s reputation as an artsy/hippe/fishy town that has been described as a “little Key West.”   Hmmm, apart from the presence of cars, Key West about 1905.  But sprinkling of little islands is a nice break along the Mangrove Coast and fantastic weather made it a good stop.

The Cedar Keys are one of the stepping stones along the Gulf to get up into the resorts, beach towns  and bayous of the Panhandle, the original destination of this cruise.  But my son John wanted to come down to cruise for a while, and with news of the virus growing, we thought it would be really nice to marina-hop down the coast back to Fort Myers.  But then the thought of flights and rental cars and a lot of people around cancelled that out, so the new plan became to make Cedar Key the northern cruise terminus, then anchorage-hop single-handed down to Fort Myers to stay isolated, stopping for gas and a shower in some new places.

Cedar Key was a 40-mile hop from Crystal River, a lot of it in the shipping channels into the power plants along the coast, which cut down on the crab pots.  The channel through the keys into the actual town of Cedar Key is well-marked but crazy, with a couple S-turns and switchbacks that seem to be taking you back out into the Gulf, but eventually get you there.  The town itself is a couple of streets, motels, art galleries and a grocery store,   During April 20,000 people come to the Arts Festival, but I don’t know where they put them.

I think people from the outside world mostly come to Cedar Key to eat, since out on a little island near town connected by a bridge and short causeway, there is actually a Restaurant Row — nine big places all lined up with huge decks and bars looking out over the Gulf.  Cedar Key is famous for clams and oysters, which you can have raw or fried.  The fish cuisine is quite sophistacted, Steve, consisting of fried OR blackened.  I had one of those  a-little-bit-of-everything plates, and it was really good.

And the real attraction for Katie and Jessie fans is the Low Key Hideaway RV Park, Adult Motel and Tiki Bar, a major location on the National Register of Katie and Jessie On a Boat Historic Places.  They washed ashore here in December, 2012 after their Gulf crossing, and were treated to food, drinks, showers and an actual bed by the folks who owned the place then, recognizing that two interesting 20-ish young women and a big dog on a 6,000-mile trip in a tiny sailboat were worth getting to know — and perhaps a great reason for the locals to order rounds of drinks as they heard their tales.  I made the long, hot hike over to the mainland for a couple margaritas at the Low Key and it was worth the trip.  The apotheosis of a Tiki Bar.

Sadly for the cruiser, Cedar Key is just not a very safe destination.  The anchorage is wide-open, and pre-season I was the only boat.  If the wind comes up, you have to find an island to hide behind, and it’s a long dinghy ride into town.  There is a town marina over by Restaurant Row, but it got torn up in the last hurricane and has never been really repaired.  The bridge to the island is being rebuilt, but only to an eight-foot height, so only the smallest boats can get in and out,  So I may go back, but it will be weather-dependent, and bailing out for the delights of Steinhatchee might be the better move.

Cedar Keys anchorage — it was calm like this for two days.

Cedar Key Main Drag

That’s Tardis way out there in the Cedar Keys anchorage.

Jeff and Molly came out to ask about the Tardis

Cedar Keys — more water than land, really quite pretty

Town marina — pretty sad

Cedar Keys second-best marina

Entrance to the famous Tiki Bar at the Low Key Hideaway Motel

Have a seat at the Tiki Bar

And there they are back in the day. Two terrific voyagers.




2 comments on “Cedar Keys

  1. Ray Gaulke
    April 13, 2020 at 3:15 pm #

    Fun read Ray


    • James Trebowski
      October 3, 2020 at 12:11 pm #

      I love Cedar Key! The food is amazing and the freshest oysters I’ve ever eaten. I don’t actually own a boat, but I always rent a boat and head over to Seahorse Key for the day to relax and party. Hope your next trip there is better


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