Cedar Key is one of a limited number of ports of call along Western Florida’s waterwayless Big Bend region (the Western Florida coastline between Anclote Key and Dog Island). Honestly, this has never been one of my favorite places, with difficult channels, little in the way of really good anchorages, and a downtown business district which exhibits some garish, modern development. Others disagree, however, and many cruisers stop here time and again while crossing the sometimes daunting Big Bend passage.
Cedar Key is served by two channels, as noted by Captain Gano below. The Main Ship Channel (known to some locals as the “Seahorse Key Channel”), has an “S” turn along its easterly reaches which has to be seen to be believed.
The other entrance and egress passage, which is the primary focus of Captain Rich’s message below, is known as the Northwest Channel. The shallow spot noted by Captain Gano has been there for years and years, and it’s not getting any deeper. That’s particularly important as it LOOKS on the charts as if the Northwest Channel might be the better entry route for southbound vessels. But, as you will read below, that’s probably not the case!
We are declaring a navigational alert for the waters!
In 2009, I ran hard aground (4-foot draft) going out the NW channel at Cedar Key right between markers “21” and “22”. There was a sailboat sitting a couple hundred yard farther out in the channel aimed at us, probably where he’d got stuck. Tide was low. We waited to float free and than went back out the way we had come in the day before – the Main Ship Channel.
A smarter cruiser than we anchored off Sea Horse Key in open water and avoided the long trek up the Main Ship Channel to the anchorage right off the town. It was calm that night; so he made a good decision and was away early the next morning while we waited to float free.
Having been to Cedar Key by car before, I knew there was no call to go ashore.
I respectfully disagree with the above poster’s implication that there is little to see or do on Cedar Key. I visited it for 5-6 days this past summer’¦and..there is a ton of history here’¦an old lighthouse that gets regular park tours (Seahorse key light) which is off to port on a bluff-like island (Seahorse Key) at the main approach channel. there are old Victorian houses, a many-fingered estuary that practically bisects the island and dries out at low tide leaving all sorts of old boats and docks exposed in a surreal fashion’¦and it has a few good restaurants and a wonderful small library that is very accessible to get online or find hiustory books about the area, Cedar Key , IMHO, is very much worth the initial tedious Main ship channel and it’s s-turns’¦if your draft is 5-foot or less and you come in and out on the high tides’¦there’s lot’s to see and on the weekends there is a guy with a Piper cub at the nearby airport giving $25 airplane rides’¦what a thrill..try finding that anywhere else’¦.it’s one other jewel in Florida’s Nature Coast and there’s lot’s more of it adjacent..whether south to Crystal River/Weekiwatchee..or a little North and around a bend out the NW cedar key channel to to Suwanee river Wildlife refuge’¦watch your depth finders folks’¦and enjoy!