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Plan Your Visit

Several bright white pelicans

Part of the Florida's Big Bend estuary, thirteen coastal islands make up the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The mouth of the Suwannee River sits just to the north and influences the Gulf's color, salinity, and water quality. Two hundred thousand birds used these islands as resting and nesting areas for millenia. Over time, their numbers have dropped to twenty thousand. Since 2012, reddish egrets and roseate spoonbills have begun nesting here, while a dozen white pelicans stayed through the summer for the first time in recent history.

 


The spectacular Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique Pleistocene dune of Seahorse Key, the 19th century cemetery of Atsena Otie, and the rookery on Seahorse Key whether boating, paddling or walking the beaches. Regulation of recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife, especially the rookery (nesting area) and their habitats.

To reach the Refuge, you must travel southwest on highway 24 or 347 to the town of Cedar Key. You'll need a vessel to paddle, operate, or rent to get out to the islands.  Boundary signs are on all Refuge islands; other islands are private.

The Refuge is open from sunrise to sunset.  Visitors access the Refuge by paddling kayaks, by tour boat, private or rented vessels. For tour guides and boat rental information check these listings on the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce website.  Fall, winter, and spring are much milder than summer months, but sunscreen is still a good idea along with a hat and sunglasses.  Think green and bring along your own refillable water bottle.

Walking the island beaches and along the trails of Atsena Otie is allowed.  Wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. Please stay out of posted island interiors, other than Atsena Otie, to minimize disturbance to plants and animals.  Seahorse Key beach can be explored until the island and a 100 yard perimeter are closed to public entry from March 1 through June 30, annually, to protect the nesting birds of the rookery.

Shoreline fishing is allowed per state regulations.   

Cell phone service is spotty in town.

Prohibited at the Refuge are fires, camping, dogs off-leash and the collecting of plants, animals, shells and artifacts.

Lodging is available in Cedar Key.  Listings are available through the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce Places to Stay website page, or call them at (352) 543-5600.  Gas and supplies are available year-round in Cedar Key.

For questions about recreation, please call the Refuge 352/493-0238 or email lowersuwannee@fws.gov

Last Updated: Sep 17, 2015
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