If you’re headed to Cedar Key, Cedar Cove Condos is a great place to stay. All rooms have balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s just a short walk to the shops and restaurants in “downtown” Cedar Key. It’s also a quick walk to Cedar Key’s waterfront park, where you can rent a kayak or launch your boat. There are special room rates for mid-week stays, as well as weekly and monthly rates.
Another feature of the Cedar Cove complex is The Island Room, a restaurant known for it’s fine cuisine, prepared by Chef Peter Stefani. Don’t miss any of Peter’s dishes that include local Cedar Key clams, many of which he “raises” himself.
Other Cedar Cove amenities include:
Directions to Cedar Cove:
Go west on Florida State Road 24 from Gainesville (on a quiet, picturesque two lane highway) until you reach the first stop sign in Cedar Key. Turn left onto historic Second Street and go straight until you reach our parking lot (about 4 blocks).
Winter is the time to catch big trout along our Natural North Florida shoreline. And here’s a special offering from the Sea Hag Marina:
Win a $100 gift certificate to Sea Hag Marina (Steinhatchee or Keaton Beach) by simply catching and bringing in the heaviest trout in February or March. Entries must be photographed at the dock by a Sea Hag employee. In the case of a tie, a drawing will decide the winner. You may enter one fish per day.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is located in Gainesville, Florida. The park’s main feature is the 120 feet deep limestone sinkhole known as “Devil’s Millhopper.” There is a wooden boardwalk with 212 steps going down to the bottom of the sinkhole. The park also features a half mile nature trail going around the top of the sinkhole as well as a small visitor center and picnic area.
There are many fun activities and things to do at the park. The visitor center has informative exhibits, and the picnic area is a popular lunchtime getaway for locals. Many people enjoy biking along Millhopper Road with its great bike lanes, and bikers often stop by the park to take a look at the famous sinkhole.
The entrance to the park does not have a ranger station for collecting park fees, but rather there is an honor box in which you are supposed to deposit the park fees in exact change.
This site features excellent photos of the sinkhole, wildlife, trails, picnic area, and visitor center. We also have directions to get there and a map of Devil’s Millhopper. We have an overview of the history of Devil’s Millhopper that goes back thousands of years.
This winter has been hard, especially to our neighbors to the north. And while Florida hasn’t been necessarily tropical, the weather here is still pretty good, considering the time of year. But no matter how cold the air gets in our Natural North Florida region, our springs, fed by underground rivers and the Floridan Aquifer, offer respite to folks willing to swim or dive. An interesting fact about our springs is that they’re all pumping (sometimes millions of gallons an hour!) relatively warm 72-degree F water.
All of our springs are open to the public. Some are in State Parks and others are privately owned. You can expect to pay a modest charge to swim. And a few of the springs are open only to SCUBA divers and cave divers. In many, swimming is allowed and most offer either camping or cabin rentals.
So…don’t let wintertime get you down! Take a dip or a dive into one of our famous springs! For a brochure about Natural North Florida’s springs, including a map of the region, a list of springs, state parks, events and attractions, email me and I’ll get one in the mail to you!
There’s nothing better than a good cup of coffee. And nothing worse than one made with over-roasted and burned beans. I’m not “dissing” the big coffee chains, but many coffee drinkers just don’t know any better than drinking what many consider “carbonized” coffee beans.
Not only is the coffee roasted at Sweetwater Organic Coffee tasty, it’s available by the cup at several shops in the Gainesville and Alachua County region and in one-pound bags of whole beans at several local retailers.
The most popular coffees roasted are “Good Morning, Gainesville”, “Midnight Oil” (the darkest of their roasts–and my favorite!), and Mocha Java.
Sweetwater Coffees are served in Gainesville at Pop-A-Top, The Top, Harvest Thyme and Maude’s. And it’s available in one-pound bags at Ward’s Supermarket, Dorn’s Liquor, Earth Origins and several Alachua County Hitchcock’s markets.
Sweetwater is committed to fair, direct, & transparent trading relationships with small-scale coffee farmers and their cooperatives throughout the world’s coffee lands. They roast all of our coffee to-order in micro-batches… and all of their coffees are:
They are a member of the Fair Trade Federation, the association of North American retailers and importers who are fully committed to fair trade and strive to only sell items sourced according to fair trade principles.
They are also an active member of Cooperative Coffees, a Fair Trade organic green coffee purchasing collective, which is based in Americus, GA. Together with 23 other roasters from the frosty Yukon down to sunny Gainesville, Sweetwater works directly with small-scale coffee farmer cooperatives to bring some of the world’s best, fairly traded coffee available to coffee-loving consumers here in the USA. Sweetwater is committed to delivering the message of sustainability by roasting truly extraordinary coffee that does justice to our hard-working trading partners and Mother Nature… from crop to cup.
In a rush of rain-driven waters, the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers collide at a sharply defined peninsula that is part of Suwannee River State Park, swirling into one as they swiftly slip past the pages of history along the shores of Twin Rivers State Forest in Madison County. For it is here, walking the Florida Trail with its river views, that you find subtle reminders of centuries past.
In the North Ellaville Tract of Twin Rivers State Forest, a walk in the woods wraps you in a soft blanket of green. A dense river bluff forest, characterized by larger live oaks and an understory of saw palmetto, with scattered Southern magnolias and tall sparkleberry – Florida’s tallest member of the blueberry family, with peeling red bark – providing colorful accents. Look carefully, and you may find charred limestone and the fading outlines of foundations, all that remains of the town of Ellaville. The farther you draw away from the river, the habitat transitions to sandhills, with longleaf pines and turkey oaks.
These forests are relatively young. When George Franklin Drew opened his sawmill in Ellaville in 1865, it was the largest in Florida. It’s purpose? To convert the ancient longleaf pines along the rivers into timber, and cash.
Drew became one of Florida’s wealthiest post-Civil War businessmen. His brothers built Drew and his family a grand home in Ellaville. Over time, it came to be known as the Drew Mansion – particularly after Drew was elected as Florida’s Governor in 1876.
Parking at the Suwannee River State Park Annex – off US 90 just west of the Suwannee River – puts you at this intersection of nature and history, the present and the past, in the ghost town of Ellaville. Surviving numerous floods, then the tapping-out of the timber in the 1920s, the town finally evaporated after the post office closed in 1942. Only its ghosts remain.
It’s here that hiking trails meet. One, a portion of the Big Oak Trail, leads across the river on the Old US 90 bridge – a scenic overlook open only to pedestrians and cyclists – to the core of Suwannee River State Park with its campground and cabins.
Blue-blazed to the west, the Big Oak Trail also connects you with the Florida Trail’s north-south route through Twin Rivers State Forest, with a primitive campsite overlooking the Withlacoochee River less than a mile’s walk north.
A worn footpath leads from the parking area through the picnic grounds, which are historic in their own right, to the river’s edge. From the parking area, heading due north on a path that parallels the river, you’ll glimpse what remains of the Drew Mansion.
It’s best seen in winter when the vegetation dies back – near the railroad, which the trail passes beneath. As the Suwannee River becomes visible through the trees along the loop of the Drew Mansion Ruins Trail, look down and you’ll see Suwannacoochee Spring, which provided the town with its source of spring water.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know St. Augustine is old. The area surrounding the modern city was first explored in 1513 and it’s grown ever since. But 15 years later, Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in St. Marks, on the Big Bend, with 300 men. What followed there, at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers, were a fort, a fishing village and a not-so-deep-water port. And, of importance to anglers, the then-rugged shoreline to the east has remained virtually untouched for almost 500 years!
For the sake of your outboard’s lower unit and prop, I’ll give you the details of getting to some great spots for the seatrout, reds and pelagics you’re likely to find here this month. From those points to shore, you’re on you own, as the floor of eastern Apalachee Bay is littered with bars and rocky outcrops. If you’re not convinced, take a look at the area south of Palmetto Island on your Florida Sportsman Fishing Chart #012. As an example, this “rock garden” is about 3 miles east of marker #7 in the St. Marks Channel, but if you’re headed there, approach it from the south after turning east along the safe one-fathom line after you pass marker #3A. Staying in safe water another 5 or so miles will get you near the crook in the Big Bend off the Aucilla River. Traveling another 4 miles, at a southeast heading, you’ll find yourself offshore of the Econfina River. Just remember to take it slow and easy when heading towards the “beach”.
For the visiting angler, launching at St. Marks is probably the best, and safest, option with regards to getting offshore of the coastline to the east and southeast. In St. Marks, there are excellent ramps at Shell Island Fish Camp, Shields Marina and the public ramp at the confluence. There’s also a good public ramp at Lighthouse Point, near the mouth of the river. There are public ramps in both dark and rocky Aucilla and Econfina rivers, but tides can be restrictive. If you’re boat’s draft is shallow, launching in either of these two rivers will get you to the fish more quickly.
The shallow waters of the upper Big Bend offer perfect habitat for redfish and seatrout. Close to shore, and in the mouths of creeks and bays, you’ll find redfish and big “gator” seatrout cruising, on the hunt for mullet and crabs. On the nearshore grass flats and around old, worn-down, shell bars, expect to find slot-sized seatrout waiting to ambush shrimp, pinfish and white bait. And there are several prehistoric riverbeds that jut into the shallows, each draining the flats and offering sustenance to Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and cobia in late spring and early summer. Those “tongues” of deeper water can be lively on a falling tide.
Offshore waters, in this most-northeastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, are shallow, but peppered with rocky outcrops that were at one time, eons ago, high-and-dry. As a result, the rocky offshore fishing grounds here don’t get deep very quickly, so expect to travel at least 15 miles from shore before you mark any 30-foot depths. For all intents and purposes, the farther south and west you travel from big-boat-friendly St. Marks, the deeper the water and the better the chance for reef species.
Yes, we live in Florida, but cold overcast days are not unheard of. We don’t have many where the mercury drops below 32-degrees for very long, but the combination of dark skies, little sunshine and salt spray can take its toll on our comfort and health.
Professional anglers and guides sometimes can’t pick their days, nor can fishing fanatics. If you’re in any category, I recommend you go, but that you pay attention to a few simple rules to stay warm and safe in what could be deadly weather:
Bundle up, but in layers— “Long johns” are great, particularly the thermal kind, but a pain if nature calls. I recommend a heavy rain suit (Frogg Toggs) or a heavy set of work overalls (Carrhardt). Your legs don’t get as cold as your torso, so two layers on the bottom are usually enough. Three or four layers of self-wicking undershirt, long-sleeve shirt and fleece turtleneck will help keep your body warm. Protect your ears with a balaclava-style hood or Buff headgear. Double up on socks, with a thin liner pair under light wool. And don’t wear flip-flops!
Stay Dry—Don’t be in a hurry and get spray all over you. In this weather, you will get ice on your boat and on yourself if you get into the wind. Carry a pair of rubber boots to use when you launch your boat, in case you have to get your feet in the water. And always put a cry change of clothes in the car for the ride home—just in case.
Don’t Drink—anything but non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol doesn’t keep you warm, but makes you colder. And too much alcohol makes you stupid, anyway, especially when operating a boat (or any vehicle). Take warm soup, hot chocolate or coffee. And eat some food. Digesting some food keeps your stomach busy and that generates heat from within your body.
Know Your Limits—If you start shivering and can’t stop, go home. If any of your crew look blue and start shivering, go home. Be smart—the fish will be there on a warmer day.
Practicing “catch and release” fishing doesn’t mean you’re a poor angler. What it means is that you care about the future of our fishery and about what your kids and grandkids will be catching after you’ve moved along to other pastures (or fishing holes!). We all remember, or have heard tales of, grand catches of trout, reds and grouper. And we’ve all seen bags of freezer-burned fish in trash heaps. Keeping vast quantities of fish is unnecessary and counterproductive, unless you have a huge nest of kids to feed. If you do, and if you eat fish every night, keep what you need to sustain them. Fish is good for brainpower! Otherwise, keep what you can eat for dinner that night without freezing and release the rest.
Our current sheepshead season is a prime example. No one needs to keep 15 spawning females. No one WANTS TO CLEAN 15 spawning females! Keep only what you need and send the rest safely back to procreate. Don’t think about “poundage,” think about the fun that fighting a big fish brings, even to the smallest fisherman!