No one likes to say it, but vacations can be exhausting. Now, don’t get us wrong; we love one good adventure just as much as the next, but it seems that at some point, the value of our vacations began to be judged against the relative crampedness of our itineraries. It is our special pleasure, then, to present the cure: two by three miles of unpretentious, unspoiled, and utterly un-Disneyfied Florida: Cedar Key. Laid back and mellow, it’s a place where everything seems to take on the steady rhythm of the tub-warm sea, a place where—we’ll venture to say—you’ll get more out of the trip if you avoid doing anything at all, and in the spirit of the island, we’ve assembled a new kind of itinerary. Not one that lists what to do, but what not to do, while in Cedar Key.
- Don’t settle for snowbirds With 13 islands totaling 800 acres, Cedar Key is one of the largest nesting sites for wading birds in the southeastAccept only the real thing, and with feathered residents far outnumbering the human ones, there’s no reason not to. Whether you’re an experienced birder who’s set their sights on the Cedar Key Wildlife Refuge, or an armchair ornithologist propped on a front porch overlooking the sea, you’re guaranteed to be taken aback by the sheer abundance and variety of the island’s bird population. Snowy egrets, brown pelicans, herons, ibises, dowitchers, and ospreys—a veritable who’s who of bird-dom—await.
- Don’t order it frozen or friedTender and sweet, Cedar Key clams are one of a kind (photo courtesy of Larry Hoffman)All you’ll be served is a funny look. Not only is Cedar Key home to the three-time World Champion New England Clam Chowder (and here you thought it’d be in New England), Tony’s Seafood Chowder, it’s perfect position in the warm waters of the Gulf make it the ideal place to farm Cedar Key’s famous clams. Tender and sweet, perfect raw on the half-shell, steamed in water, dunked in wine, or tumbled with your favorite pasta, fresh Cedar Key clams will make you forget that seafood ever came any other way.
- Don’t take the busCedar Key is the perfect host for bird watching, kayaking, or fishing (photo courtesy of Lenna Young Andrews)Because there isn’t one. Or too many cars, for that matter. There are, however, ample bicycles, kayaks, golf carts, and walking trails, and, trust us, you wouldn’t want anything between you and the view anyhow. As anyone who’s made their way to Cedar Key knows, life here just seems to naturally drop into a lower gear; come with an itinerary and you’ll leave having traded in half the things on your list for a few hours spent watching the tide roll in, contemplating the stoicism of a perched pelican, or following the wind-rippled patterns through the grassflats. And you’ll be all the better for it.
- Don’t mention The Mouse Florida’s Cedar Key is a far cry from nearby Daytona and Disney (photo courtesy of Mike Walker)This is Old Florida, the land of sunsets and salt marshes, sea birds and clams and fish and their tales. It’s a place where “Gone Fishing” signs aren’t ironic, where the souvenirs are still handcrafted just next door, and where the barkeep always remembers your name. This isn’t “realistic;” it’s just real. Genuine, unfiltered, sweet and slow, the way things were a hundred years ago and will be a hundred years from now.