It's really hard for me to describe Cedar Key because I see so few places like it. I went on a crowded day but the town still seemed slow paced. People were enjoying what they were doing instead of planning their next activity.
It's a small community of about 800 year- round residents on Way Key Island. Artists, clam and oyster fisherman, shop workers, people with second homes and lots of tourists are there. The cluster of islands it's part of is called Cedar Keys. It's located off the Northwest Coast of Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. The only road coming in or out is Highway 24. That makes it a destination rather than stop along the way to someplace else. Gainesville is the nearest big city and that's 50 miles away. Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville are all within a 3 hour drive.
Downtown is very neat. Has some restaurants, art galleries, hotels and government buildings. Street art is everywhere if you look close. A historical society museum is at one end and at the the other there's a park with a swimming beach. In downtown there is also community garden. They have free seeds there and signs to pick only what you planted.
The Island Hotel is probably the most well known building downtown and on the Island. It's made of Tabby construction. It was built in 1860 and used a General Store before it was converted into a hotel. It's the oldest commercial building in town and the only one the Union Army didn't burn down during the Civil War, probably because they were able to use it for something. A lot of famous people stayed at the hotel and went to the bar. In the 1980's, Jimmy Buffett visited and would sometimes would give impromptu concerts in the Neptune Bar. And during one arts festival he went up to the balcony and sung to people passing by on the street. The mural behind the bar is famous and has been restored. Hotel has slanting floors and very interesting art. I did order the steak sandwich there and it was very good.
The most crowded area of town and where a lot of tourists go is The Dock. It's the area where lumber, cotton and fishing boats used to dock. Now it's has hotels, restaurants and shops. It also has a cool fishing pier that's very well used. I saw a lot of Pelicans there. From the signs, I guess they get hung up on fishing lines a lot.
They think Native American history in the area goes back as much as 7000 years from the artifacts they found. The island also has Seminole, Spanish and British history.
The town of Cedar Key was settled in the early 1840s. After the second Seminole War officially ended 1842, industry started to take off. Ships carried lumber and cotton along the Gulf coast and to other countries. Yulee built a railroad from Cedar Key in the West to Fernandina Beach in the East. The railroad carried salt, lumber, turpentine, cotton, seafood products, and passengers. Lots of hotels and warehouses were built in Cedar Key. Faber, who bought up tracks of land with cedar for his pencil factories, made a factory in Cedar Key in 1865. By the 1880's, Cedar Key was the second largest city in Florida and had thousands of tourists.
Tampa got a railroad and became the major port instead. They cut down all the cedar trees in the area and that ruined the lumber industry. And the big blow was the 1896 Cedar Keys hurricane which destroyed the docks, practically destroyed the town and killed 100 people.
The town never fully recovered economically after and that, so in a way it's frozen in time. Storms have continued to raise havoc over the years. And building codes prevent high rises from going up. But people appreciate the beauty and the life they have.
Next trip, I visit some of the surrounding islands and sites.