Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Cedar Key, FL

  • Published 2022/06/07

Cedar Key is a beautiful island city in northwest Florida, named for its numerous populations of eastern red cedar trees.

Located in Levy County, Cedar Key is home to several archeological and cultural sites.

These sites are all on the National Register of Historic Places list due to their cultural and historical significance.

A thriving community of wildlife also flourish in this historic city.

You can hike several nature trails or watch for various wildlife species in their natural habitat.

Here are the best things to do at Cedar Key, FL:

Learn about Prehistory at the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum

Exterior of Cedar Key Historical Society Museum

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most tourists who visit Cedar Key for the first time start their trip at the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum.

This museum houses critical historical artifacts and exhibits that detail the rich history of Cedar Key.

This iconic historical museum has preserved all the essential memorabilia and natural relics of this island city from prehistoric times.

The Cedar Key Historical Society Museum first opened its doors to the public in 1979.

Since then, it has attracted tourists with its wide range of collections.

Discover fossil findings, cultural artifacts, and even exhibits on the history of railroading, dental and medical history, and more.

There’s so much to learn at this museum that showcases the rich and fruitful past of Cedar Key.

Explore the entire museum!

Rent a Kayak at Kayak Cedar Keys

People kayaking on the waters of Cedar Key

Stacey Lynn Payne /

Kayaking is a must-do at Cedar Key, with its breathtaking views, lakes, and the diverse wildlife that thrives there.

Kayak Cedar Keys is a rental service in this city initially founded in 2004.

This company is one of the prime establishments that have made Cedar Key the top paddling destination in Florida.

Group of kayakers on Cedar Key water

William Eugene Dummitt /

This establishment is complete with all the safety gear and equipment you need, which you can also get at affordable prices.

There are many great sites to paddle to, including Sea Horse Key and Manatee Springs State Park, so gear up and get ready to explore!

Enjoy Your Meal with a View at Steamers Clam Bar and Grill

There’s nothing better than enjoying a delicious meal with a breathtaking view.

Steamers Clam Bar and Grill is a Dock Street restaurant in Cedar Key with lovely views of the Gulf of Mexico!

This casual restaurant prides itself on using only fresh and local ingredients to ensure the best quality and the best flavor.

They also host private and public events and serve drinks with live music and entertainment!

Whether you’re dining in for lunch or dinner, you’ve ensured a great meal with land and sea entrees and delicious drink options.

Try their house wines, local beers, island cocktails and craft martinis.

Explore the Cedar Key Museum State Park

Exterior of the Whitman house at Cedar Key Museum State Park

caleb kurtz /

Cedar Key Museum State Park is a state park and museum in one, spanning over 18 acres.

The museum showcases the rich history of Cedar Key, including the home of Saint Clair Whitman.

He collected important artifacts at the Whitman House.

Built in 1880, the Whitman House has undergone restoration after the death of Saint Clair.

A canon displayed on Cedar Key Museum State Park grounds

caleb kurtz /

It’s also open to the public, letting you peek at what life was like in 1920s Cedar Key.

This establishment was once named after the Whitmans when the museum first opened its doors in 1962.

However, the museum changed its name to Cedar Key Museum State Park.

This park is a perfect tourist destination for exploring the short nature trails where you can spot native wildlife and vegetation.

Whitman trail at Cedar Key Museum State Park

caleb kurtz /

Satisfy Your Seafood Cravings at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant

Located in the historic Cedar Key downtown, Tony’s Seafood Restaurant serves some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the entire city!

This restaurant first opened to the public in 2005.

Since then, the owner and executive chef Eric Jungklaus has drawn many diners with his delicious seafood offerings.

In addition, they also serve traditional seafood dishes such as crab cakes, shrimp skewers, and more.

This restaurant is often jam-packed with hungry visitors, so either book a reservation or line up early to get a table.

See Wildlife at Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome sign of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

LittleT889, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you love wildlife, check out the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.

The United States National Wildlife Refuge owns and manages this refuge that spans over 891 acres.

Silhouette of birds at Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

PAK Images /

They initially constructed Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge to protect and provide refuge for over 20,000 native birds.

This refuge is open to the public to admire the elegant species of birds that fly overhead.

You can also go fishing at the pier and wildlife watching for both land and sea creatures.

The waters of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

Norm Lane /

Hike along the Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail

Hiking is another must-do at Cedar Key with its natural terrains, hills, and hiking trails, where the local wildlife also lives.

The Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Cedar Key, covering about 1,700 feet.

You can find thriving native vegetation along the trail, including native migratory and shorebird species.

This nature trail provides a relaxing and leisurely hike as you admire the natural features of Cedar Key.

Towards the trail’s end, you’ll find several old trestle posts where this trail gets its name.

You’ll also find remnants and debris of the railroad that once stood on this land.

However, you can’t ride a bike there due to the bumpy and uneven surface that could pose a danger to other visitors.

Enjoy the Open Air at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

Entrance of Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A ten-minute drive northeast takes you to Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, a popular 5,000-acre Florida state park.

Besides being a public park, this establishment is also a refuge for some of the most beautiful animals in the state.

For example, the native Florida scrub-jay and endangered gopher tortoise live on the reserve.

Nature trail at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can spot some of the preserved habitats of this wildlife, so keep an eye out for them.

Their multi-use trail is also open to the public for walking, biking, and even horseback riding!

Enjoy the open-air while surrounded by nature and wildlife at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve.

Plants and trees at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ride a Boat to Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park

Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park is one of the unique state parks in Florida, as it is only accessible by boat!

Guests who want to visit this establishment are required to take a boat ride where you’ll be able to see the sweeping vistas and waterways.

This park borders Florida’s Gulf Coast between Cedar Key and Yankeetown and houses some of Florida’s most endangered species, which the state seeks to protect and preserve.

The final remains of the Gulf Hammock can also be found here, which was once the largest hydric hammock in all of Florida.

This state park is best known for being a hotspot for individuals with fishing licenses, nature lovers, wildlife watchers, and more, with all the outdoor amenities it offers for the whole clan!

Go on the Open Water with Voyles Guide Service

One of Cedar Key’s best coastal touring companies, Voyles Guide Service, connects tourists to the beauty of this island city.

With over 20 years of experience, U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain D. Voyles ensures a fun journey on the open water.

Enjoy various water activities such as fishing, scalloping, or sightseeing.

Other activities include inshore fishing, backcountry airboating, or simple excursions on Cedar Keys’ beautiful waters.

These amenities are available year-round, which you can check out any time on your visit!

Book a Room at the Island Hotel and Restaurant

Signage of Island Hotel and Restaurant

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a great place, look no further than the Island Hotel and Restaurant.

The Island Hotel and Restaurant is one of the most sought-after accommodations in Cedar Key, with competitive prices, high-quality service, and many amenities.

Exterior of Island Hotel and Restaurant

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1946, this hotel has retained its rustic ambiance to help guests relax during their stay.

Each room contains rustic and nautical furnishings and offers full complimentary breakfasts for each guest.

Throughout the 20th century, the Island Hotel and Restaurant was known for its restaurant that served some high-quality seafood entrees.

Attend the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts

Every year, art lovers, aesthetes, and artists gather for the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts at Cedar Key.

This celebration of the arts began as early as 1964 under the previous name of “Cedar Key Sidewalk Arts Festival.”

This festival drew attention and attracted more visitors before recognition as a Small-Town Art Fair in Cedar Key.

Artists can submit their artworks for a chance to win awards and prizes while interested guests check out their art on display.

You can grab food and drinks at the festival.

This festival is also free.

Explore the Ghost Island of Atsena Otie Key

Aerial view of Atsena Otie Key

skyflyer56 /

The original Cedar Key was once the island of Atsena Otie Key.

Settlers first lived on this island before they left for modern-day Cedar Key.

Over 200 settlers lived on Atsena Otie Key in the 1860s.

They even opened businesses there, but a hurricane swept through the island and destroyed the city.

A dock at Atsena Otie Key

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, Atsena Otie Key is now under the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.

The public can go there to see the remains of the old city.

Likewise, rumors abound that the old city is haunted, thanks to the cemetery left behind.

People have also found unidentified remains throughout the island.

Visit Atsena Otie Key if you’re brave enough.

The waters of Atsena Otie Key

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn about the Arts at the Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-op

Founded in 1977, The Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-op is an artist cooperative that brings together a community of artists.

Cathy Christi started the co-op initiative.

She wanted to share her passion for the arts with fellow artists.

So, she created a space where small and local artists could get recognition for their work ​​through exhibits and art sales.

Over the years, this co-op has expanded and gained traction.

Both first-time tourists and locals check out this establishment to see all the art on display.

They cover various mediums to promote diversity, including oil, acrylic, watercolor paintings, and even pottery, wood-crafting, jewelry-making, and photography.

Go Camping at Shell Mound Campground

Boardwalk at Shell Mound Campground

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shell Mound Campground is one of the facilities in Cedar Key that offer camping options, both in an RV or in a tent!

This establishment is northeast of the city center, providing pretty competitive prices for your camping trip.

There are also many surrounding trails and hiking paths that you can explore while camping.

Likewise, you can visit some fishing piers nearby, and you can also go kayaking or canoeing.

Trail at Shell Mound Campground

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the tent sites have complete utilities such as water and electricity.

You might also notice the thick woods and forests around you, which can give way to a creepy vibe.

Scare your friends with a few campfire ghost stories.

Get up early to see the beautiful sunrise; see the orange sunset later in the day.

Final Thoughts

Cedar Key caters to indoor and outdoor lovers.

Explore historical museums and establishments and outdoor refuges to spend time with nature and wildlife!

This island city has a rich history that you can explore by touring the city and the island, whether on land or sea.

There are also hiking trails that lead to some secluded forest areas where endangered animals live in their native habitat.

Look no further for your ideal vacation and book a trip to Cedar Key, Florida!

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