When discussing the Florida keys, people tend to think about the chain of islands south of Miami, like Key West. But there are keys all over the state. The term key derives from the Spanish word cayo, meaning small island. Cedar Key, on the Gulf coast of Florida, 134 miles north of Tampa, embodies small island life. It offers a tranquil getaway from the grind of city living
We visited Cedar Key for the first time during a winter stint working remotely as Florida snowbirds. We were impressed with its authentic vibes due to a lack of chain restaurants and hotels. Cedar Key is one of the best destinations in Florida to enjoy delicious fresh seafood. Here are some of our best tips for visiting Cedar Key.
Cedar Key Restaurants
Steamers Clam Bar
There are fantastic places to eat all over the island, and this is one of the highlights of Cedar Key. There are no chain establishments in this town, so it is a foodie haven in Florida. Our first night we had dinner at Steamers Clam Bar and Grill and the seafood was fantastic. The grilled scallops on the salad were cooked perfectly, and the pasta sauce was spicy, with a plentiful portion of seafood.
We normally don’t return to the same restaurant when there are other good options. But we we chose to eat at Steamers a second night since the first meal was so delicious. The fresh jumbo shrimp grilled to perfection are as good as they come.
Neptune Lounge at the Island Hotel
We really enjoyed eating at Neptune Lounge and Bar at the Island Hotel. The atmosphere in the Neptune Lounge and Bar is lively and rustic. Quality food, a friendly vibe and live music make it a great place for couples to dine. The bartender even invited us behind the bar for a photo with their beautiful and historic King Neptune painting.
King Neptune, a striking painting behind the bar of the Neptune Lounge, was painted by Helen Tooker in exchange for room and board in 1948. The Island Hotel’s history dates back to 1859 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They also serve a fantastic Key Lime pie that’s as good as they come!
Island Hotel Location & Phone Number
373 2nd Street · Cedar Key, Florida 32625
Phone 352-543-5111 · Toll Free 800-432-4640
Breakfast and Lunch in Cedar Key
For breakfast or lunch we highly recommend 1842 Daily Grind and Mercantile. The guys running this small place make awesome coffee and baked goods. Alternatively, grab a coffee from Daily Grind and pick up some delicious donuts from Holey Moley Donuts.
For a tasty casual lunch, Tony’s Seafood restaurant is great. Their clam chowder is a favorite amongst locals and visitors.
Things to do in Cedar Key, Florida
The key is known for Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, a group of small islands with trails and a variety of birds. Cedar Key Museum State Park offers a nature trail, a 1920s home and artifacts depicting the town’s history as a bustling port. Cedar Key Historical Museum explores the town’s past through documents, photos and Civil War memorabilia.
There is a great art scene on the island and we really enjoyed perusing and shopping at the art cooperatives. We had a wonderful afternoon talking to some of the locals and learning about life on Cedar Key. For those who like to run, you can see a lot of the island this way. I stayed on the roads but enjoyed the scenery as most of the roads run along the water. You can also rent kayaks. And as there is a beach in Cedar Key, you can also just relax and read a book!
Cedar Key Hotels
We stayed at Park Place, which is made up of individual condominiums. As they are independently owned, each unit is uniquely furnished. We didn’t plan to spend quite as long as we did on the island, so we had to switch rooms when we extended our stay. Both rooms were comfortable and had a great balcony overlooking the beach. We highly recommend staying here as the location is wonderful and the staff are also lovely!
There are several charming hotels in Cedar Key perfect for a couples getaway. Several offer rooms with lovely views of the Gulf of Mexico. Check options on booking.com.
More Tips on Visiting Florida
We’ve previously resided in Orlando and Tampa. We currently reside in Tarpon Springs, 2.5 hours south of Cedar Key. Tarpon Springs is home to the largest per capita Greek population in the USA. Alex graduated UCF with a history degree and took MBA classes there too. So we know a lot about Florida vacation destinations. Here are some of our other articles you will find useful for planning a trip to Florida:
Planning a trip to Florida and have questions? Leave a comment or email Alex at [email protected] if you need any assistance planning your trip to the Sunshine State!