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Archive for the ‘florida state parks’ Category

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I can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to enter the morass of metropolitan mania and malls that is south Florida. Southeast Florida, actually since southwest Florida isn’t nearly as kooky. I think Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry live down there because it’s such a font of inspiration for their work. More power to them.

Some previous posts have skirted the area. Going to the Keys, you can’t help but go through Dade County. Driving around Lake Okeechobee, you pass through a sliver of western Palm Beach County. But it’s completely unlike the east side along US 1 and A1A.

Which is where we’re starting. There’s a bunch of sites in this part of the county, from very ritzy to very not.

Just south of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, but still in Juno Beach, is the Florida Power & Light Historical Museum. I think. It must be in the FP&L offices, but they weren’t open when I visited, so I don’t know what it’s like. The kinds of museums that are in corporate offices don’t tend to be very extensive.

Further down is the North Palm Beach Country Club. It grew out of the Palm Beach Winter Club, but I couldn’t find any old buildings when I was there. After some research once I got home, I discovered they had been demolished. I wasn’t surprised, as I’d found several other places similarly gone on the way up. More on them when we get to West Palm Beach.

Somewhere that still is around and quite worth checking out is John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. I exceeded my half-hour rule, but partly couldn’t help that. The park entrance is off A1A, and the parking lot is separated from the beach by a wide strip of water. It might be part of the Intracoastal Waterway. There’s a boardwalk that’s a third of a mile long that connects the two halves of the park. You can walk it, or take a shuttle that runs between them. I chose the shuttle on the way over. Once you cross, there’s a lush stand of trees to go through before you get to the long stretch of beach. I hung out for a bit, taking in the Atlantic. On the way back, I walked some of the boardwalk, since the shuttle runs at intervals. I caught one before I got halfway across. Much as I’m not big on beaches, I rather liked this park. When next I’m down south, I hope I can revisit and spend some more time there. (see Google map)

Back on the shore, go down US 1 to Lake Park and take a right on Park Avenue. About half a mile later, you’ll reach the city hall. The Kelsey City City Hall, that is, which is what the town was originally called. It was Florida’s first planned community, created in the early 1920s by developer Harry Kelsey. Sadly, the 1928 hurricane ended his dream of a huge development. He left the area a few years later and the town changed its name to Lake Park. I wonder if there are any other remaining buildings around from that era?

South of Lake Park, A1A and US 1 merge, and remain coterminous until you get to West Palm Beach. There are 14 NRHP districts in Palm Beach County, and 11 of them are in West Palm Beach. You’ll be going through two of them next, Northboro Park and Old Northwood, which are butt-up against each other. Those are often tricky for me, because I need to make sure the pictures are separated so I can categorize them properly on Wikipedia. But I figured out an easy solution a while ago. If I’m taking pictures in adjacent historic districts, I take a blank picture on the digital camera when I leave on and enter the other. You know, cover the lens and turn off the flash, so there’s a black photo. It’s worked quite well, I must say.

You can check out Temple Beth El, one of the FL 100 buildings. It’s unique among them, since it’s the only one that was moved from its original location to where it is now. Nearby is the Palm Beach Maritime Museum. Or a Palm Beach Maritime Museum, since there’s supposedly another one further south. Not sure if both are open, or they relocated and one is the old address. (see Google map)

I mentioned the 1928 hurricane earlier. I talked about one of the places where many of the victims were buried, in Port Mayaca. The Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Burial Site is another. It’s been included in a nice park. I walked around some when I was there, thinking of all the lives so tragically lost over 80 years ago.

You’ll find other African American historical sites as you continue, in and around the Northwest Historic District. And just outside the district is an old railroad station, which Amtrak now runs. It’s in rather grand shape. (see Google map)

We’ll get into more of West Palm Beach in the next post. See you on the road!

Route length: miles

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So, where were we? That’s right, Fort Meade. US 98 splits off to the east here. But maintain your southerly course on US 17 and bye-bye, Polk County. Next you’ll hit Hardee County and Bowling Green. Which may or may not have any relation to the other one. There’s an old hotel on the corner of US 17 and Main Street, which is now home to the Bowling Green Youth Academy. If you park at the Dollar General nearby, you can take a walk around it. Then if you stroll east on Main Street, you’ll pass the most unprepossessing city hall I’ve ever seen, and an old railroad depot about another block on.

Get back in your car and drive east on Main Street until it dead ends into Lake Branch Road. South on that will get you to Paynes Creek Historic State Park. Inside the park is an NRHP, the site of Fort Chokonikla, built during the Seminole Wars. There’s nothing left of it, just signs in the sand marking the spot. There are trails through the park. Very open and scrubby, with some stands of trees. The visitor center was closed when I visited, so there may be information inside about the history of the place. (see Google map)

Back on US 17 and southward. The road is four-laned, with a wide median between the northbound and southbound parts. It’s very well maintained, and more what I’d expect to see near a larger city. I can’t imagine there’s that much traffic going through here, so why it’s like this I haven’t a clue. Makes driving easier, I’ll give it that.

You’ll soon be going through the Hardee County seat, Wauchula. A right at Main Street, and you’ll go through downtown and some nice old commercial buildings. Just past them on the left is the Hardee County Courthouse. I like the solid architecture, but the brownish-grayness does make it a bit bland. The old County Jail is behind, now used for local government office space.

Back the way you came and crossing US 17, the old city hall is on the left. Very nice condition, I must say. All along here is nice, since Wauchula participated in the Main Street Florida program. Whenever I get back down there, I may some aimless driving in town, since I suspect there’s some other neat stuff to see.

A couple blocks south is the only other NRHP in Hardee County, the Albert Carlton Estate. Which is, you know, a house and a few acres of land. It’s not fenced, so you can get close-ish to take pictures of the house. Still, it is private property, so you might want to take telephoto shots from the street.

Which is what I’d have done, if I was alone. But Mom was with me, and she encouraged me to get closer. I was like, "Mom, I could be trespassing and get into trouble." And she was like, "We’ll just tell them why you’re here." No greater love hath a mother for her son than being willing to use her terminal cancer to help her son take pictures of historical places. Yep, she was one in a billion. (see Google map)

Wauchula was one of those towns I wanted to visit due to its mildly odd name. The next town’s name is a bit weirder. Zolfo Springs. It’s believed the name came from Italian immigrants’ pronunciation of "sulphur springs", a feature in the area. Oh, and lest I forget, as you enter town you’ll cross the Peace River, which will be to the west of US 17 the rest of the way south.

You’ll pass by Pioneer Park, which is a heritage park like the one up in Homeland. There’s no admission fee, so it won’t cost you anything but time to go in and look around. If you go far enough in, you’ll reach the banks of the Peace River. If you have a kayak or canoe, you can take a relaxing trip along the river. (see Google map)

  • Pioneer Park (US 17 and 6th Ave. (or SR 64 and Terrier Drive)) (AGFHA)

If you go continue south, the road becomes two-lane and stays that way until you get to Arcadia in about twenty miles. Mostly farmland along the way. So whatever the reasons for US 17 being so expansive, they end in Zolfo Springs.

If you want to see one of the kitschy places that define Florida, though, go east on SR 64. Then south on CR 663 and west on CR 665. Look for the signs for Solomon’s Castle and follow them to the parking lot. A note, though. I couldn’t get to it the first time I visited because the parking lot was flooded. So if there’s been torrential rain recently, you mightn’t be able to get in. Otherwise, park and go witness the glistening home of Howard Solomon, Solomon’s Castle. He’s an artist and sculptor, so you can see his smaller works inside the castle. Which was made from printing plates that were discarded by a local newspaper. There’s a small restaurant there and limited lodging is available. Howard doesn’t do credit cards, so make sure you have the 10 dollars per person admission in cash when you go. And some extra in case you want to get souvenirs. (see Google map)

The most direct way to the next area on the itinerary is down Pine Level Road. The first mile or so is a dirt road, but not pot-holey or anything. You’ll get to SR 70 in about 10 miles. Then follow the map link below to see the remnants of Pine Level itself. Hard to believe this used to be a county seat, since there’s hardly anything left now. You can else check out what’s left of Owens, a small community in the area. (see Google map)

Next post, Arcadia. See you on the road!

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Down US 19/US 98 from Steinhatchee, you’ll be going through the Nature Coast. There’s not much development in this area, compared to places like Orlando and Miami. Partly it’s because there are several large National Wildlife Refuges and some state forests here. Also there aren’t any beaches. Well, at least not the white sandy beaches that you imagine when you think of Florida. On the west coast, those are found up in the Florida Panhandle and from around Tampa southward. So I doubt there’ll be an explosion of growth here anytime soon. Which is fine by me.

First stop is the subject of one of my early "Where in Florida…" posts, the Putnam Lodge. It’s in Shamrock, which is now only a name on a map. Essentially, it’s in Cross City. (see Google map)

I don’t know of anything historical in Cross City. It is the Dixie County seat, so yeah, there’s a courthouse here. Not impressive, though, ’cause it looks like an aircraft hangar. When returning from the Panhandle, I do look forward to getting to Cross City, though. Because after driving through the forty odd miles of wilderness to Perry, and another forty miles after Perry, I’ve gotten my fix of rurality. Not so bad during the day, but at night, you wouldn’t believe how lonely it is driving along US 98 with no street lights. After this, there’s at least a town every five to ten miles. This is a good section of road to drive if you want to get away from it all without getting awaaaaaaay from it all. When I get to Cross City, I’ll usually grab some food (Hardee’s most of the time), stretch my legs, get some gas if needed, and I’ll feel like I’ll be able to make it back to Ocala.

  • Dixie County Courthouse (214 Northeast CR 351)

East of Cross City is another name on a map, Eugene. According to AGFHA, the school bell for the old Eugene School is here. Supposedly it’s on the grounds of the New Prospect Baptist Church, but I couldn’t find it. There’s what looks like a boarded up well on the property, and the bell could be inside, but that’s just a guess. (see Google map)

  • Old Eugene School Bell (New Prospect Baptist Church now there) (AGFHA)

How old is Old Town, the next city on the way? The first school there was built around 1909, so there’s a clue. There’s some old stuff in it, according to AGFHA. It also has the only NRHP in Dixie County, which is also the only Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve that’s inland. It’s the City of Hawkinsville, which was sunk in the Suwannee River decades ago. You can see the spot in the river where it lies from the old railroad bridge, which is now part of the Nature Coast State Trail. It’s a long walk to get there, though. And you can’t see the boat itself, or at least I couldn’t. Maybe if the river level was really low. If you’re a diver, you can see it that way. (see Google map)

It’s barely 4 miles until you get to Fanning Springs, on the banks of the Suwannee River. There used to be a military post here, Fort Fanning. The site has been made into a park, on the north side of US 98 right next to the bridge. Just beyond on the right is Fanning Springs State Park. I use a closeup photo I took when I first visited as my desktop wallpaper. It’s in the photo series above. See what I mean? (see Google map)

Chiefland, the last place I’m covering this post, is about 10 miles south. Just before you get there, you’ll pass the Dakotah Winery. If it’s open, stop in for a wine tasting. They’ve got some unusual ones, like blueberry wine, but also the garden variety. It’s not in an area I’d think of as wine country, but they seem to be doing OK. The wine I tried was good, which I’m sure helps.

Off US 98 is the old Hardeetown Hotel, which is now a private residence. West of Chiefland is what I’d guess is a big draw, Manatee Springs State Park, which is also a National Natural Landmarks. When I worked for a boat manufacturing company back in the 1990s, we had a company picnic here. Any employees who wanted could get a ride on one of our boats on the Suwannee River. That was a pretty cool day. And it’s a pretty nice park. (see Google map)

That’s it this go-round. See you on the road!

Route length: 25 miles

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    Last time we left off in Sneads. Next stop, the Apalachicola River, which is the divider between Central and Eastern time. Immediately followed by Chattahoochee and Gadsden County.

    As you approach, though, look for a turnoff on your left for the West Bank Overlook. The overlook will give an excellent vantage point to see Lake Seminole and the Jim Woodruff Dam, which created the lake.

    After that, get back to US 90 and head east. Go as slow as you can without causing a traffic jam, ’cause you’ll be crossing one of the most impressive bridges in the state, over the Apalachicola River. When you can, drive it in the opposite direction. It’s pretty amazing that way too.

    Once you’re across, take a right just after the Hardee’s. The short windy road will bring you to a park on the river. You can also see the remnants of the original bridge across the river, called the Victory Bridge. It’s fenced, so you can’t get on it. But you can get a sense of what it was like, way back when. Also around here, maybe, is another branch of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. Maybe because I dunno if it’s been finished yet.

    Back on US 90, get to Main Street and the Florida State Hospital on your left. After parking, you’ll have to walk a bit east to find the one NRHP in town, the U.S. Arsenal-Officers Quarters. Yep, before it was a mental hospital, this was a military establishment. I hope they didn’t build it on an ancient Indian burial ground, else there’ll be all sorts of bad ju-ju here. I didn’t pick up any negative vibes whilst I was strolling the grounds, but I tend to be oblivious to that sort of thing. I’m a big lump of non-psychicness, me. (see Google map)

    From here, you can get to my third favorite state park in the area, Torreya. Unlike Falling Waters and Florida Caverns, though, it’s not near US 90. I covered it in my SR 20 post, so check there for more about why the park is such a treat.

    For a few miles east of Chattahoochee, you’ll be very close to Georgia. When I’m so close to another state, I like to cross the state line, just ’cause. Thought I’d let you know.

    Keep open the eyes, so you don’t miss the Joshua Davis House on your left. There should be a brown Florida Heritage sign that’ll help you find it. The house seems to be in use, maybe as a museum. It was closed when I was there, so I couldn’t say for sure. There used to be an old octagon house along here, but it got destroyed years ago.

    Further along and you’ll arrive in Gretna. Turn left onto Church Street and go a few blocks and you’ll find the town’s NRHP, the old Gretna School. The town’s watertower is behind it, which may help in finding it. The school has been semi-preserved, which is nice to see. (see Google map)

    A detour south on SR 12/SR 65 will get you to Greensboro and the Dezell House. It’s a classic example of an NRHP house, as far as usage goes. Most houses on the NRHP fall into a few categories. That being: private residence, B&B, doctor’s office, lawyer’s office, real estate office, history museum or headquarters of the local historical society. The Dezell House falls in the last category.

    Have you noticed that Gadsden County is spotty with NRHPs? One here, one there, another over there. Well, that’s about to change, ’cause it’s time to check out the city that shade tobacco and Coca-Cola built. The county seat of Gadsden county, Quincy.

    But first, a couple of outlyers. Go north on SR 267, then right on CR 272 (a/k/a Old Philadelphia Presbyterian Church Road). You’ll reach the Old Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, which has a historical marker on the road. There’s also a cemetery on the property, but it’s not specifically listed on the NRHP. It’s one of those wooden block churches, like Pisgah United Methodist. (see Google map)

    Back to Quincy and down CR 274. When you get to Krausland Road, go south on it. It’s a dirt road that ends in the parking lot for Imperial Nurseries. It’s also the site of the Willoughby Gregory House, which doesn’t look like it’s being used. It’s in so-so shape, though. (see Google map)

    Return to US 90. Eastward and you’ll be in the Quincy Historic District, which encompasses downtown Quincy and several blocks surrounding it. I remember when I first got to Quincy early on a November morning. The county courthouse is a treasure, rather like the one in Citrus County. The old Marion County courthouse was that style, but it got torn down decades ago.

    I said this was the city that shade tobacco and Coca-Cola built, and so it is. I don’t know much about the former, but the Coke part I do. When the Coca-Cola company initially went public around the late 1800s, a local banker learned about it. He suggested that customers buy shares. Imagine if you’d bought into Microsoft or The Walt Disney Company when they first started. That’s what happened to those customers. Millionaires and then some. They built grand homes, as one is wont to do. Fortunately, most of the old buildings were preserved and are part of the historic district. For me, in the fall, it’s one of the nicest places to walk around. Look for the Coca-Cola sign painted on the side of one of the buildings near the courthouse. (see Google map)

    There’s just a little more of Gadsden to see. East on US 90 and in about 15 miles you’ll be on the edge of Tallahassee. But perhaps the quaintest part can be found by taking SR 12.

    First you’ll pass the old Nicholson Farmhouse. It was run as a restaurant for years, but unfortunately closed in 2006. It’s easy to miss, look for the historic marker on the road.

    Not long after that, you’ll be in Havana. And you’ve not even been on a boat.

    This is Florida, though, so it’s pronounced Hay-vana. Y’all. It’s become an antiquers hangout, like Micanopy and Mount Dora. Downtown would make a nice little historic district. But there’s only one NRHP in town. Of course. It’s the Planter’s Exchange, Inc., a former tobacco warehouse that’s now home to a large antique store. If it keeps a place like this from the wrecking ball, I’m happy. (see Google map)

    Wow, that’s US 90 done, from Pensacola to Jacksonville. OK, I’ve not done Jacksonville yet. But still, 90 percent done. Yeah, me. ‘Til next post, see you on the road!

    Route length: 95 miles (including Torreya), 55 miles (not including Torreya)

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    Last time I said that Marianna has the best historic district in the state. I’ll expand that. It’s the best historic district I’ve seen anywhere.

    Big claim, I know. Let me qualify. It’s not the biggest, or has the oldest buildings. What it is, is the best for knowing what you’re seeing. You can get a walking tour map at the Chamber of Commerce, in the Joseph W. Russ Jr. House. Or get it mailed to you ahead of time, because it’s closed on weekends. After all, doesn’t everyone go on roadtrips on weekdays? Yeah, my one pet peeve. Anyway, the 20+ stops on the walking tour each have numbered signs in front. So you know exactly where you are, what you’re seeing, and how to get to the next place. I’ve seen nearly every historic district in the state, and a few outside, and no other one is like this one. Heck, even Savannah’s!

    The Russ House is a standout, but the place I like the best is the St. Luke Baptist Church. It’s like something out of a horror movie; all brick and gothic and covered in ivy. I’ve thought about getting business cards for a while, and whenever I do, a photo of this church will be on them. I just love this church. (see Google map)

    North of town is the second of my favorite weird state parks, Florida Caverns. Due to Florida’s karst foundation, the state is riddled with sinkholes and underground caves. Most of the caves are underwater, since Florida has such a low elevation. But in the Panhandle, there are a few above ground. One system is in Florida Caverns. Like a number of the state parks, it was built by WPA workers. The caves were expanded to allow tourists to go through. It’s like Carlsbad Caverns (which I visited when I was very young), but much smaller. Great to visit in the summer, since the caves stay cool all year round. There’s also a golf course attached to the park. (see Google map)

    Up the road and over some is the town of Greenwood. There are three NRHPs in town, fairly close together. I think there are some other old houses and such in the area, but I didn’t want to take the time to look around. You, however, may. You can find out more about the town here. (see Google map)

    If you’re a fan of bizarre place names like me, you’ll have to detour over to Two Egg. I think there used to be a general store that sold souvenirs, but I couldn’t find it. There’s not much to see, just a few houses and the signs at the town limits. It was worth it to me just to get photos of one of the signs. Also a pretty drive, so getting there is pleasant.

    Nearby is the town of Cypress, which has an NRHP, the Robert Lee Norton House. It’s the only one in Jackson County (non-restricted) I’ve not gotten pictures of. Because I can’t find the dang place. I’ve driven up and down the entire length of the street it’s supposedly on, but couldn’t find any sign of it. Thanks to Florida Heritage, I have a black-and-white shot of it, so there’s no way I could have missed it. Either the address is wrong, or the house has been moved or torn down. I thought I might have found it in Sneads. But after comparing photos, I realized it was only a superficial resemblance. I can’t find any information about the house, either, so I may never know what happened to it. If anyone else does, drop me a line, will ya?

    Speaking of Sneads, there’s a state park only a few miles north, Three Rivers. It’s not one of the strange ones, but it is a nice one. No one there when I visited, but maybe on the weekends is different. It’s on Lake Seminole, a big lake created by damming the Apalachicola River, so I’d think it would be popular with boaters. (see Google map)

    Next post we’ll be going through Gadsden County. But there’ll be a stopover just before we get there. See you on the road!

    Route length: 45 miles

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    Well this is it, the last part of US 90 in the Panhandle. We’ll be going through Washington County, Jackson County and Gadsden County Counties. It’s a toss-up, but this is probably my favorite section of US 90.

    We left off in Bonifay last time, so let’s start there. Going east, the landscape is pretty much the same as the last 30 miles or so. Trees, and a building here and there. There’s a bridge over Holmes Creek, too. In a few minutes you’ll be in Chipley, the county seat of Washington County.

    There are 3 NRHPs in town, a small historic district and two buildings. But there are a plethora of listings from AGFHA. Easily enough to comprise a large historic district. I like the county courthouse, it’s one of those solid imposing ones. You can find out more about the area at the historical museum, when it’s open. It’s also a nice spot to leave your car and walk around downtown to see many of the old buildings.

    Chipley is about halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola, so it’s a good place to stay when you’re exploring this part of the state. My first excursion through the west end of the Panhandle in 2008 started here. Nice and reasonably priced hotels near I- 10, Waffle House if you want to eat inexpensive, Wal-Mart to get supplies and gas, you could do worse. (see Google map) (see Google map)

    • Calleway Building (S. 5th St. and S. Railroad Ave) (AGFHA)
    • Farrior Drug Store (S. 6th St. and S. Railroad Ave) (AGFHA)
    • Old Florida Bank Building (105 S. 5th St.) (AGFHA)
    • Porter Building (1368 North Railroad Avenue) (AGFHA)
    • J.R. McAferty House (100 Church Ave.) (AGFHA)
    • Chipley City Hall (672 Fifth Street) (NRHP)
    • Chipley Presbyterian Church (658 5th Street) (AGFHA)
    • Judge J.J. Jones Residence (644 5th St.) (AGFHA)
    • Woman’s Club of Chipley (607 Fifth Street) (NRHP)

    Just south of I-10 is one of my favorite state parks. In fact, three of my favorites are near this stretch of US 90. All of them are unusual, with sights you don’t expect in Florida. Two of them are National Natural Landmarks. Falling Waters isn’t one of them, but it does have the tallest waterfall in the state. It might be the only waterfall in the state. It’s about 100 feet high. Mind you, it starts just above ground level and goes into a deep sinkhole. The source is a creek, too, and if it’s not rained in a while, there’s no waterfall. Contact the park to check out conditions. There’s more to the park than the waterfall, just so you know; walking paths and a picnic area and suchlike. (see Google map)

    Further south are a few interesting spots. I like Moss Hill Church, a 100+ year old wooden church. And oh, the Possum monument in Wausau. Yee-ha. (see Google map)

    If you’re coming from the north, you might pass the Welcome Center in Campbellton on US 231. I’m not sure why it’s there. Maybe because it’s a main road to get to Panama City? If you’re toodling along US 90, it’s rather out of the way. I’d like to see it, just out of curiosity. It’s the only welcome center left in Florida that’s not on an interstate. Well, there’s the one in the capitol building in Tallahassee. But I hardly count that, since it’s not close to the state line. (see Google map)

    • Welcome Center (5865 U.S. 231)

    Cottondale is next on US 90, but I’ve only ever passed through. Nothing of outstanding historical significance there, that I know of.

    Which can’t be said of the county seat of Jackson County, Marianna. It’s chockful of history. Also has the best historic district in the state. And we’ll explore that in the next post. See you on the road!

    Route length: 35 miles

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    My very first post in this all-around-Florida series was about Fernandina Beach, the east coast end of the old Florida Railroad. Now we’ll get to the west end, Cedar Key.

    One of the minor advantages of living in Gainesville was how easy it was to get from there to Cedar Key. Just take SR 24 southwest and an hour or so later, you’ve arrived. No turnoffs, no detours, simple. Living in Ocala now, it’s a bit more complicated, but not terribly. Actually, I like the drive better. More driving through farmland, hills a bit rolly, and a few miles through the Goethe State Forest. Up US 98, then down SR 24. Not even small towns along the way. By the time I get to Cedar Key, I’m so mellowed.

    The last time I went, I decided to check out the Henry Beck Park in Gulf Hammock. Well, be fair, I was in need of a pit stop. There’s not a lot there, but it had the facilities I was searching for, a playground, and some open space. Your basic small park, good for a family outing, I’d think. Only open from April through September, though.

    So, Cedar Key. The Florida Railroad, as I said many moons ago, was the brainchild of Senator David Levy Yulee in the early 1800s. The remaining tracks are now property of CSX, and most are still in service. Ironically, not part of that is the section from Archer to Cedar Key, which was torn up and sold for scrap decades ago. In June, the Yulee Railroad Days Festival celebrates the history in towns all along the route.

    Before you get into Cedar Key, you’ll pass through the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve. For thems as likes hiking, this is your place. And a detour up CR 347 and over on CR 326 will get you to Shell Mound, in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. (see Google map)

    Cedar Key originally was on Atsena Otie Key (called Depot Key in the early days). However, the storm surge from the 1896 hurricane wiped out most of what was there. The survivors resettled on Way Key, which is what is called Cedar Key now. Most of that area is a NRHP historic district, not only for the buildings but also the shell middens around downtown that many of the buildings are on. I’d think that Seahorse Key (with its old lighthouse) and Atsena Otie are part of the district, but I’ve not been able to confirm that. Downtown looks very weather-worn, which isn’t surprising. Cedar Key is like a hurricane magnet. Fishing was a prominent source of community income, but that’s died off over the years. Now what big bucks come in are from tourism and clam farming. Just goes to show that people can adapt to anything.

    Parking in the downtown area is limited. If you want to get something convenient, visit on a weekday if you can. Be aware that the state park isn’t open in the middle of the week, though. Or get there very early on the weekend. I’ve seen golfcarts available for renting, but not explored that option. If you have a bicycle, this would be a good place to bring it. If you’re a boater or kayaker, the area is great for aquatic activities. The surrounding keys are semi-accessible, by charter boat if you’ve not got your own. You can land on Atsena Otie year-round, but the others are part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Thus they’re protected and can only be seen from a distance. Except for Seahorse Key, which is open to the public twice a year, in July and October.

    Speaking of that, the Cedar Key Seafood Festival is in October. I’ve never been, because it’s very popular and thus crowded. I can’t imagine what the parking is like. Other busy times are the Arts Festival in April and the Clamerica celebration on July 4th. If that’s your thing, now you now. If not, you know when not to visit.

    If you go to Cedar Key, make a day of it. You have to drive over 20 miles off US 98 to get there, and there’s nothing really close. This self-guided walking tour will help you see the highlights. Visit the state museum on the outskirts of town to learn some of the history of the area. And check out the locally run history museum downtown to learn more. It’s right where SR 24 dead-ends. Have a bowl of award-winning clam chowder across the street at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant. (see Google map) (see Google map)

    I’ve only ever been there for a few hours, but I’d think Cedar Key would be a great place to spend a relaxing weekend. One of these days I may spend a night there. See you on the road!

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