I pride myself on finding out of the way places and recently stumbled upon Cedar Key. Not as you may imagine, one of the famous Floridian Keys down south, but an offshore island tucked away on Florida’s Gulf Coast about 2 hours north of Tampa.
I was drawn to this tiny fishing community by its claim to be ‘Clam Capital of the USA’. I love clams as much as the next person but enough to bring me 4,000 miles from home? A big YES as Cedar Key offers clams and much much more.
It is a long and quite monotonous drive up from Tampa, or just 1 hour from the state capital, Gainesville. This cluster of islands, or Keys, is located 2 miles out from the mainland in the Gulf of Mexico, in the heart of Florida’s Nature Coast. This truly is ‘Old Florida’ as it was before the theme parks took over the state and changed vast areas of the Floridian lifestyle forever.
As you drive over the bridge into town you pass by a colorful motel with the inviting name of Low Key Hideaway.
Although the motel and adjacent RV park is situated on the main road, I didn’t find it too noisy, and 4 of the 5 rooms open out to the back of the property overlooking the water. I especially enjoyed taking my morning coffee and sitting on the dock to watch dolphin and an array of birdlife including the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills, Ibis and Herons.
As the sun goes down make for the lively and eccentric Hideaway Tiki Bar attached to the motel. The eclectic art work will raise a smile, especially the hoards of action man dolls scaling the walls! Certainly something to tell the grandchildren. Open to locals and residents alike, it is a local institution for some good chatter over a cold beer or two.
Downtown Cedar Key you will find a lively pier with local artisan shops, boutiques and galleries as well as restaurants and bars. But for a real treat you have to try the world famous clam chowder at Tony’s. As clam chowders go, this is five star, thick and creamy and full of … well clams!
When you have had your fill of clams a dolphin-watching cruise is an enjoyable pastime with boats leaving the dock throughout the day. Or you can rent a boat for a fishing trip or to visit a nearby beach. Cedar Key beach is small and not the best in the area, but you can arrange be ‘dropped off’ by boat at a beautiful spot and picked up later in the day.
Leaving town why not paddle a kayak through the tidal creeks of Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park or while away the day at Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, but be sure to take sunscreen and water as temperatures can soar.
When it is time to leave you will be rested and relaxed and probably had enough clams to last quite a while.
British Airways fly direct from London Gatwick to Tampa.
For more information, visit American Sky.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky.