Jutting 3 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, this windswept, isolated island feels like a frontier outpost mushed with a tacky seaside resort. The ramshackle downtown is stuffed with historic buildings and Harley motorcycles; we prefer the uninhabited bayou, meadows and bay on the outskirts. The otherworldly landscape sings with marshes that reflect candy-colored sunsets, and tiny hills offering sweeping island views. Cedar Key is just one of 100 islands (13 of which are part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge) that make up this coastal community, which is gloriously abundant with wildlife.
As the western terminus of the trans-Florida railroad in the late 1800s, Cedar Key was one of Florida's largest towns, second only to St Augustine. Its primary industry was wood (for Faber pencils), which eventually deforested the islands; an 1896 hurricane destroyed what was left. Consequently, the trees here are less than 100 years old.