Hi, everyone! If you don't already know me, I'm Carly, a marine life artist, wife, and mom of two, traveling the state of Florida to share my work in Art Festivals and Exhibitions (learn more in my bio
). I figured after a few years of exploring this gorgeous state, it's time to start sharing some of our favorite travel destinations and tips for things to do. With two active boys, we are always looking for fun!
There is no better place to start this blog series, then with my favorite spot, Cedar Key. This little known, coastal town has been around since 1850. It has a long and rich history, but I will let you research that part on your own, or just visit one of the museums while you are vacationing there. You will definitely want to vacation there... trust me!
This year we stayed a whole week, to really get a feel for the place. If it were up to my husband and his brother, this list would be fish, fish and fish. Fish from the pier, fish from the bridge, fish from the boat... We were completely enthralled, as it was actually our first time inshore fishing. We were all born and raised in Southeast Florida and are use to offshore fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico. It is a completely different experience, with different poles, tackle and techniques! If you are interested in fishing or learning how, number one on my list is definitely…
1. Hire a Fishing Charter
With a fishing Charter, you can go all around the Cedar Keys, including Seahorse, Snake, and North Key, getting a better feel for the shallow water and scattered islands. You are taught some local wisdom from your captain, and can try it out yourself later on your vacation, or on your next trip. They put you on the good spots, they know the conditions, they have the right tackle, and they clean the boat and the fish! So many perks to having a charter with locals. We went with…. In the Slot, but Salt Assassin is another one that came with great recommendations.
2. Rent a Pontoon
If you are already familiar with inshore fishing or really not interested in fishing, but still want to get out on the water and pull up to an empty island beach to play for the day, renting a pontoon is the way to go. We did a full day rental, and even though it was cold out and we reapplied sunscreen often, we all got pretty fried. Be warned and don’t forget your hats and UPF 30+ performance hoodies. We came up on some redfish in the shallow areas, and caught speckled trout near the islands, so I’m thinking of making another shirt for those fun and tasty fish soon! If you want to be notified when that happens, be sure to sign up for my emails at the bottom of the page.
With 5 adults and 5 children, the extra seating of a pontoon boat was a necessity...
3. Eat Fresh Seafood
Buy some fresh crab claws (boil, put on ice and dip in some local crab sauce or make your own). Get fresh oysters to shuck yourself, or purchase them already shucked for you. Find some of your own clams if you are lucky while you're out on the pontoon, or grab them from a local fisherman as well. You can always cook your catch from the fishing charter. Hopefully, you get a redfish because it is now one of my favorite tasting fish.
There are so many unique restaurants to choose from. We loved Annie’s for breakfast, (their vegetable omelette had such a large and surprising variety of vegetables in it!) Steamers had the most intense Bloody Mary's, and of course I always love to see 83 Degrees West and 29 degrees North. They are featuring two of my Cedar Key Limited Edition Canvases right now. Tell them I said "hi" if you stop in!
None of the restaurants had much wait time, even when we were traveling 10 people deep...
Don't forget to grab Ice cream and stroll or cart around the island with it!
4. Rent Golf Cart or Bikes
We were lucky enough to rent an Airbnb that included two golf carts this time, but in the past we have rented them for the day, because it’s so nice to get around the island and explore with a little cart, rather than taking your car or truck through backroads and neighborhoods. It was especially nice with so many kids to just climb in and hold on instead of buckling carseats for every outing. I hope in the future we can all bike around as a family, because there is little to no traffic to compete with.
5. Check out the Airport
While you are carting or biking around, go an see the airport! Many locals fly their planes into the island throughout the weekend and sometimes during the week. If you or your kids are fans of airplanes (like mine), it is a pretty exciting place to watch them all land and take off.
6. Go Birding
This is the place to see some birds! One morning we woke up and looked out the window and an Osprey was cleaning a fish on this low hanging branch less than 10 feet from the house! All types of birds are at the shoreline fishing together at any given time, which is why I painted Heron Hunt last year for this location on a nautical chart. It includes a snowy egret, great white egret, great blue herons, and a little blue heron! There was also some talk of bunting sightings, which I have only seen one other time in my life, so I’m hoping maybe the next trip we will get lucky enough to spot one.
7. See the Sunset
I know you hear that with every gulf coast town in Florida, but the islands, tons of flying bird silhouettes in the sun, and the fact that there aren’t crowds of people also watching it, make this my favorite place to see the sunset. We took some fun photos while watching it this year. Use flash if you want to capture your faces and the sunset behind you at the same time.
8. Gaze at the Stars
Imagine seeing every star in the sky, like every single inch is filled with a star! I haven’t seen a sky like that in a long time. If it’s a clear night, definitely lay back in a hammock and stare at the expansive night sky. We were so busy enjoying them, we forgot to get any photos. You’ll just have to use your imagination on that one… until you see it in person.
9. Admire Local Art
There are several little galleries and shops downtown, including the center for the arts, but the artwork is evident everywhere! Many of the restaurants and houses are really unique with all hand- made decor. I especially loved the Center for the Arts, and the Community Vegetable Garden near by. Both are so full of character and charm, you get a real sense of all the interesting and creative people in the community. That welcoming, artsy vibe is what really sets this town apart for me. The Old Florida Celebration of the Arts Festival is named so appropriately, because it truly seems like this town celebrates the arts. For one weekend of the year, I look forward to being a part of it.
10. Visit the Springs
If all that isn't sufficient for you, and you can’t find enough to do in Cedar key, you can always take a day trip to the springs. You want to go in the winter to see Manatees, because they come in from the gulf to stay warm in those cooler months. Most were already back to sea while we were there (early April). One spring that we were hoping to see, but it was a little overflowed with rain water at the time, was Devil’s Den. Check out the pictures on their site! Some others nearby are Manatee Springs and Three Sisters. We made a trip to Three Sisters a couple years ago, which inspired The Manatee Spring Run Panoramic below.
Well, that's my list! Cedar Key was one of my favorite family vacations to date. We loved trading South Florida traffic and congestion, for breezy rides down empty roads.
Special Thanks to the Cedar Key Community, and the Art Festival for hosting us. Thank you for accepting my work into your outstanding, juried show for the past few years, and for giving it the Award of Distinction this year! Until next time...