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POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

A bird's-eye view of Cedar Key

Jim Abbott on Travel

Postcards from Florida

March 30, 2013

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A remarkable bird is the pelican; his beak can hold more than his belly can.

Standing two feet away from a gorgeous brown pelican perched on a piling on the fishing pier in Cedar Key (cedarkey.org), I wished that something more meaningful would have crossed my mind than the opening lines to a favorite childhood limerick.

Ah, well. It didn't seem to bother the bird, which sat patiently as I fiddled with my cellphone camera to take several pictures to document the encounter. Eventually, the pelican did take flight, hovering motionless for a few moments against the resistance of a wind gust, before gliding away.

The bird didn't look stressed out. Maybe these pelicans are used to the attention of visitors, or perhaps the laid-back vibe is unavoidable in this tiny island town about 60 miles southwest of Gainesville on State Road 24.

Although there's still not a single hotel chain represented on the island, development in recent years has added higher-end town houses and condos to lodging options that have featured rustic cottages, bed-and-breakfast inns and mom-and-pop hotels.

Even with those additions, a walk along one of the sandy beaches or the stretch of galleries on Second Street remains remarkably unchanged. A giant ceramic fisherman still reels in a catch in a kitschy courtyard sculpture next to the Cedar Key Art Collective, where paintings and jewelry by local artists emphasize sunsets and seafaring themes.

At the nearby marina, kayak rentals are available to see egrets, herons, pelicans and white ibis on Atsena Otie Key, about 3 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. There also are power-boat rentals and sunset tours.

If paddling isn't your thing, there are shops and restaurants on Dock Street, most offering terrific waterfront views. For lunch, it was a tough decision between an old favorite, Big Deck Bar & Grill, and Steamers Clam Bar & Grill. I went with the latter and its narrow outdoor deck on a tiki-room-style second-floor dining room and bar.

I would also recommend a stop at Black Dog Bar & Tables, with its lineup of more than 150 craft beers. I went with Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale ("tempered over burning witches"), a good method to get in the mood for a lovely Cedar Key sunset.