Towards the Nothern region of Florida sits Cedar Key. Commonly referred to as “Florida’s First Key” it is an island unlike the tropical scenes that are often home to cabana boys and drinks served in coconuts. Instead it is an island of old Florida.
I’ve written about Cedar Key a few times because my parents live here and it is one of my favorite places to spend a weekend. It’s relaxing, low key, slow paced, and pretty affordable too. One of the most fun and unique activities here is free. (They don’t say “the best things in life are free” without good reason).
Cedar Key is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico. Though the Gulf is known for crystal blue calm waters and soft sugar sand, such is not the case here. Thanks to the close proiximity of the Suwannee River with its mineral rich, murky water, Cedar Key’s water is almost grey and the sand is thick. Most interesting of all, the waters are shallow.
At low tide a stretch of sand that is normally covered during high tide becomes a mile long sand spit, enabling people to walk up to a mile off shore. This is known as a sand spit. For fans of wikipedia, a sand spit is described as “A spit or sandspit is a deposition bar or beach landform found off coasts. It develops in places where re-entrance occurs, such as at a cove’s headlands, by the process of longshore drift and longshore currents.”
Waking along the sand spit is my favorite free activity in Cedar Key. There aren’t many places where you can walk side by side neighboring islands and boats heading in and out of the island. Kids love it and if low tide occurs around sunset it can be a little romantic too.
Here are some tips for “walking the spit”
- Check the tide schedule. Low tide is marked by an “L” at the end of the height.
- Get there about 15 minutes before the low tide prediction time
- The sand spit emerges along the shoreline near G Street
- Be sure to wear shoes, particularly water shoes. In fact, if you are visiting Cedar Key and going into the water, then I suggest wearing water shoes due to oyster beds and horseshoe crabs.
- When you visit walk out onto the sand spit be vary careful around oyster beds, they can easily cut up your feet. When walking around oyster beds stay flat footed.
- Admire let it be. If you come across any little treasure like a starfish, a sand dollar, or a shell with a crab or conch in it, don’t take it with you.
- The tide comes back in pretty quickly. Keep an eye on the time, low tide rolls back in after about 30 minutes.
As you stroll out along the sand spit be sure to take in all the views; look ahead as far as the spit stretches, look behind you to see how far away from the shore you’ve made it, look to the neighboring islands. Some of the best views you’ll ever take in at Cedar Key are found here.