|Tim and his friend, Mr. Pelican|
Untouched by plush hotel resorts or fast food franchises, Cedar Key is definitely off the beaten path. But the birds know how to get here.
Pelicans, skimmers, cranes, spoonbills, ibis, egrets, herons and even a bald eagle or two call this place home. It's a nature lover's paradise. No wonder noted naturalist John Muir in 1867 ended his 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf here.
"Today I reached the sea. For 19 years my vision was bounded by forests but today I beheld the Gulf of Mexico, stretching away, unbounded, except for the sky." ~ John Muir, 1838-1914
Named for the Eastern Red Cedar which once grew abundantly in the area, Cedar Keys encompasses several small islands which are surrounded by marshes, wetlands and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1929, President Herbert Hoover established the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge by naming three of the islands as a breeding ground for colonial birds. Today the University of Florida in Gainesville maintains a marine biology research center here.
The birds, however, are not the only ones who live here. Cedar Key has a vibrant artist coop and a modest tourist economy.
Mostly, though, this is a fishing village where men of the sea harvest clams and oysters.
Tony's Seafood Restaurant serves such wonderful clam chowder that they've had to figure out a way to deliver it canned to their many enthusiasts. After sampling a cup and calling that lunch, we picked up Tony's online order form with plans to indulge ourselves again at some future date.
Dock Street along the waterfront is only a block in length but there were enough tourist shops to satisfy us.
Tim treated me to dinner at Steamers, a seafood restaurant and bar on the waterfront.
While we were seated on the deck, a flock of birds careened towards us, skimming over our heads in a manner reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, The Birds. The locals at the next table informed us that they were aptly named skimmers. Twice the skimmers dived towards us only to veer off to the restaurant's roof, fortunately without dropping doo doo on our amazed faces. I wish I'd thought to switch my cell phone's video camera on, but all I got were still photos that I uploaded into a Flipagram. See that here!
The Cedar Key Historical Museum, though small, gave us an excellent introduction to the town's history. The town was the terminus of the Florida Railroad which transported slats of red cedar to northern pencil manufacturers.
Before pulling up stakes Sunday morning, we attended worship at Christ Episcopal Church. There, among other beautiful stained glass windows, was one of Jesus walking on water as his disciples watched from the boat.
Postscript--We camped at Cedar Key RV Resort and would do so again. Generous campsites and friendly staff.