A museum started by seashell collector St. Clair Whitman also honors the legacy of John Muir’s travels through Florida on foot at Cedar Key Museum Historic State Park.
In 1867, naturalist John Muir followed the path of the Florida Railroad on his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf of Mexico, ending at the Cedar Keys.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Cedar Key
Address: 12231 SW 166th Ct, Cedar Key
Fees: Grounds are free. Museum admission $2 per person
Restroom: At the museum
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Grounds open 8 AM until sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome outdoors.
Museum open Fri-Sun 10-5. Check ahead regards status of the Whitman House as it is undergoing renovations.
From US 19 north of Chiefland, take SR 24 west to Cedar Key. Once on the island, watch for the first right turn off 24 and follow brown signs through a residential area to the park.
About the Park
Soon after arriving, Muir fell ill with malaria and spent several months living in the village, which had a booming pencil industry.
The fine southern red cedars and white cedars growing on these scattered islands throughout the shallow estuaries created by the Suwannee and Wacassassa Rivers made the perfect housing for pencil leads.
Muir departed by boat to Cuba while Cedar Key was in its heyday. Thanks to its remoteness along this forgotten Florida Coast, it’s still a charming village full of historic architecture and a reliance on the salt flats for a living.
When St. Clair Whitman, a colorful local man, started his own personal museum of artifacts and seashells, that history was captured for the first time. It became Cedar Key Museum State Park in 1962.
Whitman’s house, restored to reflect the 1920s, is open for tours. A nature trail leads out to the estuary for excellent birding and views of the flats where Cedar Keys’ newest maritime industry, clam farming, thrives.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The original Cedar Key isn’t where you think it is. It’s offshore, within sight of the current historic waterfront, an island called Atsena Otie Key, part of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
On the long dead-end road (SR 24) to Cedar Key, the route John Muir walked nearing his end of his Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve protects upland scrub habitat for one of Florida’s rarest birds, the Florida scrub-jay. They travel in families, so if you see one, you’ll probably see several.
At the Shell Mound Unit of Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, the Dennis Creek Trail immerses you in classic habitats of the Gulf Coast along a 1-mile loop