Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I get to Cedar Keys NWR?
- Can any boat go to these islands?
- Are we allowed to walk wherever we want on Cedar Keys NWR?
- We are looking for a place to camp while visiting the area and the Refuge. Is there a place to camp?
- When can we visit Seahorse Key?
- Are we allowed to visit the lighthouse on Seahorse Key?
Cedar Keys NWR is located 50 miles southwest of Gainesville, FL at the terminus of State Road 24. The refuge consists of 13 offshore islands surrounding the coastal community of Cedar Key. The refuge is only accessible by boat. In the town of Cedar Key, there are private vendors that rent boats or offer tour boat rides to the islands.
Yes, you can take your own boat to the islands. There are several boat launches available in the town of Cedar Key. However, it is important to pay attention to the weather and tide conditions. All the islands are surrounded by shallow mud flats. During low tides, the islands are relatively inaccessible. Also, if you beach your boat on the islands during high tide, your boat will be out of water during low tide. This will leave you stranded until the next high tide.Back to Top
Atsena Otie Key has a walking trail through the interior of the island. For public safety and the protection of flora and fauna, the interiors of the ALL the other islands are closed to the public. These islands have thick undergrowth as well as poisonous snakes. Visitors are welcomed to explore the beaches of the all the islands. Note: All of Seahorse Key, including the beach and a 300-foot buffer surrounding the island, is closed to all public access from March 1 through June 30 to protect nesting birds that use the island.Back to Top
4. We are looking for a place to camp while visiting the area and the Refuge. Is there a place to camp?
Although the refuge does not permit camping on any of the islands, several private campgrounds near the refuge offer campsites for a reasonable fee. In addition, Levy County operates a campground (352/221-4466),adjacent to the refuge off County Road 326 which is the road to the Shell Mound Unit. The campground is open on a first come basis and a small fee is charged.Back to Top
Seahorse Key supports one of the largest colonial bird rookeries in North Florida. During the nesting period, March 1 through June 30, the island and a 300 foot buffer zone around the island are closed to all public entry. The beach of Seahorse Key is open from July 1 through February 28. The interior of the island is closed at all times to public access. On the 3rd weekend of October from 9:00 am - 4:00 PM, there is an Openhouse at the Cedar Key Light Station on Seahorse.Back to Top
The lighthouse and other facilities around it are used by the University of Florida as a marine laboratory and classroom. In order to protect the university's equipment and the students who stay there, the lighthouse is not open to the public. When the university is not using the lighthouse, other schools (elementary through college) and organizations are allowed to use the marine lab for environmental education.
On the 3rd weekend of October each year the refuge holds an open house on Seahorse Key. During this time, refuge staff are stationed on the island and the public is permitted to tour the lighthouse. Typically, an open house is held in conjunction with National Wildlife Refuge Week and the Cedar Key Seafood Festival in October. Be sure to visit the Refuge's Calendar of Events page for information concerning the lighthouse and other Refuge Special Events.