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Chill out in funky Cedar Key

Grab a bowl of chowder and you'll begin to see why Floridians love Cedar Key.

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Tony's chowder

No trip to Cedar Key is complete without a bowl of Tony’s world-championship chowder. Facebook via Tony’s Chowder

A blend of fishing village and island, quirky Cedar Key is understated Florida with eclectic vibes.

Start Here: Guests of the historic 1859 Island Hotel, a general-store-and-former-brothel-turned-B&B, tend to gravitate to the second-floor wrap-around porch to chat or people-watch. Jimmy Buffett was said to prefer Room 32 during his frequent visits here, but the adventurous choose Room 27 or 28, rumored to be haunted by a ghost who kisses unsuspecting guests on the cheek while they sleep. Don’t miss the Island Restaurant‘s hearts-of-palm salad, said to have been invented here. Or belly up to the bar at the King Neptune Lounge, named after the 1940’s-era wall mural of Roman god of the sea.

Weekend To-Dos:

1. Take in the beauty of the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge on a boat tour with Captain Doug’s Tidewater Tours. They range in length from two to four hours, and you’ll learn a bit about the island’s history as you keep watch for sea turtles, manatees and the migratory seabirds who frequent the area.

2. In the 2nd Street Historic District, look for the colorful building decorated with silhouettes of people “painting” on the wall — this marks the Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-Op & Gallery. Inside you’ll find an eclectic selection of artwork, including paintings of nature scenes, mosaics, sculptures (everything from nature and wildlife scenes to abstract designs) and more, all made by local artists. The buildings also house some artists’ studios, so you can chat them up and see their latest works-in-progress.

3. Cedar Key is called the Clam Capital of the U.S., thanks to the farmers who raise the bivalves here. Don’t visit without trying them in the chowder at Tony’s, a three-time World’s Best chowder champ. Tony’s only take reservations for parties of 8 or more so you may need to wait awhile to be seated, but it’s worth it.

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