The Cedar Keys
Cedar Key is a city located 50 miles southwest of Gainesville, Fl on SR 24, in Levy County. The Cedar Keys are named after the Eastern Red Cedar tree, which played a predominant role during the 1800s. Cedar Key was actually offshore from where the city is located now, on the island key of Atsena Otie. “Atsena Otie” is from the Muskogean language “acheno ota” which translates to Cedar Island. It was here that settlers established the town of Cedar Key in 1842.
In 1868 the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company built a lumber mill on Atsena Otie, supplying cedarwood to its pencil factory in New Jersey. A major hurricane and 10’ storm surge destroyed the mill in 1896. Much of the salvaged homes as well as wreckage from the mill were floated over to re-establish the town of Cedar Key on Way Key.
Remnants from the old town, as well as a cemetery still remain on Atsena Otie. It is now managed as part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
This was our first time exploring The Cedar Keys by pontoon boat. Previously we have made numerous kayak trips across Atsena Otie Key and have also taken the Gheenoe on a few occasions. Now, with Pon Tiki, we have the ability to venture further out and view a couple of the other keys beyond Atsena Otie.
Paramount to planning this trip out on the gulf, is knowing the tides and making sure our trip would begin on a rising tide, as these waters are quite shallow! …James
The Cedar Keys Notes
Cedar Key Marina Gulf Side & Basin Side Boat Ramps
Dock & A Streets
Cedar Key, FL 32625
The Cedar Key Marina boat ramp basin side offers; 1 very wide launching lane & courtesy docks.
The bridge clearance at the far end of the basin limits boats depending on tidal conditions.
The facility overall offers; 43 paved boat trailer parking spaces for both ramps & restrooms on-site.
Launching fees are payable at the automated kiosks. $15.00 for cash, $16.00 for credit card.
Distance: Our total trip was an 18-mile trip that took us out to Atsena Otie, Snake Key, Seahorse Key, Deadman’s Key, and North Key.
This is open water and very shallow. Tides are important to know ahead of time and best to head out on a rising tide
There are numerous oyster beds around these keys and it is important to be familiar with safe, sandy beaches before venturing too close to any of the keys. Also along the southeast side of Atsena Otie Key, there are numerous, submerged tree trunks.
Atsena Otie Key
Atsena Otie Key is located a little over a half-mile south of Cedar Key and is a great key to visit. Both the land and lagoons cover about 140 acres.
Coordinates: 29.122468°N, -83.0267871°W
There are a few places on the key that are nice sandy beaches where it is safe to the beach on a pontoon boat. If desired, due to the shallow water, you can also anchor offshore.
One of the beaches to approach can be found on the northwest point of the key. Here, walking along the shoreline, you’ll find numerous shells, pieces of brick, Sand Dollars, and Horseshoe Crabs, both dead and alive. The bricks are leftover from the 1800s when the key was settled, had a sawmill, and a few hundred residents. The cemetery is still in the center of the key with graves dating back to the 1800s. A trail will take you to the cemetery. Be mindful of mosquitos and noseeums!
On this side of Atsena Otie is the old abandoned pier. This is the roost for hundreds of Cormorants, Pelicans, and Seagulls.
There are a couple of sandy beach areas along the Eastern shoreline as well, but be very careful along the southeast side of the key, as many tree trunks are submerged
Atsena Otie Key offers a nice place to relax and enjoy the wildlife. Plenty of birds including Ospreys and Eagles, and often you will watch Dolphins playing alongside.
Seahorse Key is located about 3 miles offshore of the present town of Cedar Key and is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
Coordinates: 29.0971909°N, -83.0659545°W
The 165-acre island is a former dune with the highest elevation on the west coast of Florida. Atop the 52-foot tall ridge forming the spine of the key is the historic Cedar Key Light.
The lighthouse is closed to the public and is used only as quarters for researchers affiliated with the marine laboratory. Open houses are held about four times per year that allow visitors to come to the island and tour the lighthouse. Check this link for current open house dates. During the open houses, tour companies offer excursions to the island, or visitors may come in a private boat or kayak. In addition to the historic lighthouse and marine laboratory, there is also a historic cemetery on the island. ( This excerpt is from the Florida Nature Coast website )
Once noted for having the largest population of wading birds in North Florida, in April of 2015 all the birds mysteriously abandoned their nests and left. Now Snake Key is beginning to see an ever-increasing population of these birds.
Snake Key is an irregular-shaped, 30-acre, oblong key with a small cove. It is located about 2.5 miles, due south of Cedar Key.
Coordinates: 29.0974688°N, -83.0303978°W
What was striking about Snake Key was the numerous palms that stood tall and gave the key a tropical island look. As mentioned above the Snake Key bird population is steadily increasing and as a protection, you must stay 300′ offshore from March 1st – June 1st
North Key another irregular-shaped key, has numerous white sandy beaches and shallow coves
Coordinates: 29.1310786°N, -83.0865116°W
The Cedar Keys Photo Gallery…
Guides, Maps & Info…
- Atsena Otie Topo Map…
- Cedar Key Tides…
- Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge…
- Atsena Otie History…
- University of Florida website for Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory…
- Seahorse Key lighthouse info…
- Seahorse Key Topo Map…
- Snake Key Topo Map…
- North Key Topo Map…
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