Cedar Key, Florida and the Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, Florida, USA
Cedar Key, Florida
Paintings by Lily Azerad-Goldman
Cedar Key is certainly not about a typical Florida beach, as one does not exist, unless you consider its tiny beach to be one! However, what really sets this hamlet apart from other Florida destinations is that it is a place so removed from it all that once you discover it you may not want to budge. And herein lies its allure – it is a place where you can lose yourself while reflecting on the simpler things of life, and where some residents prefer to drive golf carts instead of cars for local trips. It is a place that offers the traveler a taste of what was when Florida was devoid of amusement parks, high rise condos and all the tackiness that has taken over many areas of the state.
There is only one road leading into the town and it crosses over salt marshes and channels on four low bridges. Known as the capital of Florida’s nature coast and sometimes referred to as the other Florida Keys, this sleepy old Florida hamlet with a population of approximately eight hundred and fifty people is bounded to the north by the historic Suwannee River and to the south by Withlacoochee. It is approximately a three hours drive from Tampa or three hours from Jacksonville, and it is fifty five miles southwest of Gainesville.
First established on Atsena Otie in the 1840s, the town played a pivotal role during the Civil War – blockade runners would export cotton and lumber while importing food and supplies for the confederacy. Senator David Levy Yulee was very much impressed by its deep water facilities and thus was instrumental in building the first cross-Florida railroad from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key in 1861. As a result, the tiny village served as a very important commercial point, as well as the point of transfer for travelers wishing to continue onward by steamer to southern Florida.
At one time much of the wood for the world’s pencils came from Cedar Key. Unfortunately, however, as there was never any reforestation, the red cedar forests were eventually depleted, resulting in Cedar Key’s economic downfall. This continued after the railroad was rerouted to Tampa in the 1880s. Another of Cedar Key’s claims to fame is that it was also here where John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, ended his one thousand mile walk from Kentucky in 1867. Today, the seafood industry (comprising clam farming, crabbing and oystering) and tourism form the economic base for the town.
It didn’t take us long to discover that the historic and quaint Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast is the perfect place for pure relaxation. It is also unquestionably the only authentic B&B in Cedar Key.
The focal points of the B&B’s public space are its enclosed breakfast room and its open-air porch, both of which overlook the beautiful gardens. It is here where you can easily take your shoes off and kick up your feet while relaxing in a comfy chair or sofa sipping a cup of tea or coffee and munching on the delicious cookies from the bottomless jar that the hosts provide throughout the day. Incidentally, you will have the family cat to keep you company!
Also provided is complimentary popcorn, wine glasses, purified tap water, candy, pretzels, various blends of herbal teas, hot chocolate, delicious biscottis, books and games.
Each of the B&B’s modest six rooms, with their unique names and emphasis on comfort, are individually styled, but they do have a few things in common – all come with Floridian dÃ©cor, private baths, paddle fans, central air conditioning and ample space to move around.
A full breakfast is served on the enclosed porch that comprises the dining area and is a sheer delight with a wide choice of dishes including hot and cold cereals, toast, eggs, pancakes and other goodies. This is sure to be a treat after an early morning jog or walk where you can savor the bird chorus that fills the air as well as the cool breezes that drift off the Gulf of Mexico.
Hands-on owners Alice and Bill pay great attention to details and enjoy chatting with their guests, offering helpful advice pertaining to local restaurants and sights to see, such as the two nearby state preserves and the national refuge. They can also arrange for the countless activities in the area such as boat tours, fishing expeditions, hikes, kayaking, biking and bird watching.
Just minutes away are several fine restaurants that can be found along its main street and the old dock front. Be sure to try the clams that are farmed in the gulf just offshore. The town is also known for its artist community with its full-fledged art center and its two arts and crafts cooperatives.
And for those seeking an intimate place to exchange nuptial vows, Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast can provide everything for your wedding: photographers, catering (Side Dish Catering Company), music, flowers and practically anything else you may need to make your wedding a special day. You may also wish to take advantage of the nearby shoreline with its spectacular sunsets. In fact, one creative future groom used a sandbar to set up a table with candles and dinner before proposing to his wife-to-be. Apparently, according to Alice and Bill, when the moment came for his proposal, there was a lightening storm in the distance. Now that is what I call romantic!