Low Key Hideaway
Monday, April 12 at North Beach Resort, we walked the dawn beach above St. Augustine, headed north this time, and we covered about 2 miles.
Packed up and left North Beach about 11A headed for another place JB had recommended to us—the only place that did not refund our reservation $ last year when everything shut down because of Covid-19, forcing us to cancel our spring trip (2020). Instead, this place had given us a “good-fer” to use during 2021. It was the spot the farthest south on our itinerary, called The Low Key Hideaway just outside of Cedar Key, FL (near Gainesville on the Gulf side of the state).
I must say, due to all the Plague madness happening in early 2021 in Florida, we had our anxieties about going there at all.
As it turned out, we were SO GLAD we did. This place was definitely unique.
Traffic was such that we had no where to pull off to have lunch, so we had arrived hungry and doubtful. The sites were chock-a-block, and full of BBBs (Big Beige Boxes). Also, the sites sat directly off the highway, which headed straight into the funky town of Cedar Key. Looking west, however, was a tidal marsh that was full of wintering birds and, once a day, pretty gorgeous sunsets.
The Tiki Bar part (full name of the place is Low Key Hideaway and Tiki Bar) did not serve food, so we plopped Roomba into site #4, unhooked the truck and went in search of lunch and some provisions. Cedar Key has a decent quick-stop grocery store, with a deli serving pizza (when open) and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses.
Finished the set-up after eating a good Greek-style pasta salad, and hummus and crackers for lunch (all from the grocery). Low Key Hideaway also has 5 motel rooms, and the RV sites and motel guests all share two toilets and one shower. Of course the BBBs rarely used the facilities, having their own, and taking advantage of each site’s sewer hookup (which we didn’t use until departure).
One notable delight about the facilities (and the walkway to the Tiki Bar) was that the “entry” to the yard area of the motel proper was a trellis on which was blooming some beautiful, sweet-smelling white jasmine. I pause to inhale the aroma every time I walked through, and it was very special.
We decided to check out the Tiki Bar after our late lunch, but there were significant numbers of folks in there and unmasked. Jack, having had both of his Covid shots, fetched a couple of beers for us—good local IPA brews but not not on draft, unfortunately. So we got cans and plastic cups and enjoyed our beverages as the sun began to approach the tidal marsh.
Right behind our site was an elevated deck—intended to be shared by the RV users, so we weren’t supposed to leave our furniture on the one I’d hoped was “ours”—and this was a very nice place to enjoy the sunset. On this first night in FL, we were blessed with a good breeze from the gulf that kept the bugs at bay, but I stayed pretty much slathered in bug dope our entire time there. Mosquitoes were most definitely a plague at this spot.
There were also a pier-and-dock, plus a large yard adjacent to the Tiki Bar for the guests’ use, and seating everywhere for small gatherings, including on the dock, and a bench swing in the RV yard. The Tiki Bar filled up every evening and folks were milling everywhere as each night’s sunset approached.
Our first sunset (7:51P), at low tide over the marsh, at Low Key Hideaway:
After our two Tiki Bar Florida Ales, we had an urgent need for hot dogs, so Jack returned to the grocery for some Boars Head dogs and buns, and we had quite an enjoyable dinner on the deck closest to us, accompanying our dogs with a couple more beers from our own cooler At first uncertain having our own beverages would be allowed, Jack checked with Maureen (owner) and she said it was fine. We were allowed to wander around with our own beverages anywhere we wanted, except into the Tiki Bar itself.
The downside of this place, and what we had expected: No one wore masks—not in the grocery, not in the restaurants, not at the Tiki Bar—NO ONE wore masks in this part of FL. Having had only one of my two vaccinations, I wore mine nearly always, and stayed well away from strangers.
We had slept in with the windows wide open to enjoy the breeze—since the sites had little shade under sparse palm trees, we generally needed the AC during the day, but hoped the nights would be as nice (except for the swarms of mosquitoes) as our first night.
Early on Tuesday, April 13, I took my binoculars out to our tea/coffee spot on the deck and saw MANY very cool birds. As we drank our hot beverages, the tide receded and the daubing birds were having a field day.
A pair of osprey nested nearby, and out in the marsh I spotted:
- Roseate spoonbills
- White ibis
- Green heron
- Pelicans galore
And many “confusing shorebirds” that I couldn’t ID because I didn’t have my guide with me. A special treat was the occasional call of a Bob White quail from the wild area of growth near the road and above the waters of the marsh. We heard it/them on several occasions during our stay at this strange, memorable, tacky place.
Out in the marsh in the center of our view from the deck is a large-ish island covered in scrubby trees that the pelicans have adopted as their roosting spot. I watched 4 of them sunning and a fifth, which had evidently decided it was sunned enough, dove into the water for an ungainly morning bathe, splashing and frolicking for a long time.
The wind died back to nothing by 9:30A and we carried our breakfast into the Clam to avoid the biting bugs. While eating, we watched an army of skinks or lizards (whatever) dancing and inflating their red balloon throats. Whether it’s mating or territorial, I didn’t have a clue, but it was fun to watch. Directly beside the Clam is a palm tree, and there were so many lizards in the trunk (where the fronds once grew and had been cut off) Jack decided it was a lizard condo, with each unit having a “balcony” on which the occupants stood to perform their displays.
We took a couple of local rides, straight out from the campsite and toward the airport, along roads weaving among neighborhoods. We saw an enormous tortoise walking along the road in front of a bungalow, and were able to use the long, straight (flat) drive into the airport for some cardio work. Our tootle reminded us of a trip to FL a few years ago, and made us miss Mark and Angela, fellow Alto trailer owners with whom we enjoy cycling.
After lunch, we took another local ride that took us to a long boardwalk across a finger of the marsh, leading out to a park called Cemetery Point. There weren’t too many people out on a Thursday, and we enjoyed poking about, and noting another osprey nest just off the point in an old snag.
On our return, we called in an order to a restaurant called Steamers, near the harbor in Cedar Key, and ate fried seafood for dinner, sitting on “our” wooden deck. The meal was extra-good and we would highly recommend Steamers—in fact, we ate take-out from there a couple of nights.
After dinner, we had an opportunity to see lots of birds in the marsh as the evening waned and the tide ebbed.
Wednesday, April 14 (Happy Birthday, Mary!) was a morning high tide, so not too many birds to be seen, although it was pretty off “our” deck, as I tracked a hunting egret in the deepening waters.
We drove out from Low Key Hideaway to the Nature Coast State trail. This trail forms a T with several trails interlocking. The “vertical” runs from Chiefland north to slightly beyond Fanning Springs. It was time for us to do laundry and we googled something that looked promising in Fanning Springs.
So we began at the FS trail head and rode ~9 miles to Chiefland, where the Rail Depot had been converted to a pretty park with picnic tables, trail head parking, and Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Info structure. Out back were public toilets to serve all uses.
We ate a snack in the welcome shade, turned around and rode back to Fanning Springs.
- Temp = 85
- Ride Time = 1:15
- Distance = 18.5 mi
- Average speed = 14.88
Found the laundromat, and Jack got his clothes done, but my machine never filled up with water, even though it went through its cycle, so my clothes remained dry and dirty. Rather than invest an additional couple of hours, we left so we could catch the fresh seafood place next door to Low Key Hideaway before they closed.
Unfortunately, the only fresh seafood they had were clams and oysters, neither of which we had interested. Happily, he had some freshly-frozen salmon that we thawed and Jack grilled it to perfection! We had some leftover go-withs and (as usual) thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
The night in the trailer was quite uncomfortably hot, and some of the biters had managed to get indoors, so I didn’t sleep at all well. Thursday, April 15 dawned still, damp, and thick with humidity.
We drove back to the Nature Coast State trail, to undertake the horizontal part of the T—Cross City to Trenton, west-to-east. But before we got there, we drove through the Lower Suwanee River Reserve, off the main drag north from Cedar Key, thinking it might be a low-traffic cycle opportunity. Saw this tortoise along the roadway—possibly a gopher tortoise?
Indeed, it is a 9-ish mile (one way) “nature drive” of packed limestone through different ecosystems. And while it is shady due to the resident trees, we would bet the farm that it stays close and buggy year-round. Still, it might but a future cycling opportunity.
We parked at the Cross City trail head, out in the industrial section of the community. The paved path starts toward Old Town and for a good 4.5 miles, it is bumpy/lumpy pavement running directly beside Rt. 24/19 with little shade. Happily, the day we rode was slightly overcast, so we didn’t bake. The remainder of the 4.5 miles of the trail to Old Town was better, both pavement-wise and shade/location-wise. We found the OT trail head at about mile 9, hoping for a true rest stop (with toilet) but found none. Across the train trestle, and you have a full 10 miles, but nary a toilet along the entire “top” of the T (20 miles round trip).
- Temp = 75
- Ride Time = 1:30
- Distance = 21 mi
- Average speed = 14.3 mph
Found another laundromat in Old Town to wash my clothes. This one was slightly nicer than the one in Cross City.
We decided that another Steamer’s dinner was required for our final night at the Low Key Hideaway. Not having to cook allowed us to partially break camp before the expected overnight rains arrived.
And we thoroughly enjoyed our “World Famous” sunset over the tidal marsh of which we had become so fond.
Now, if you’re intrigued by what we experienced, and think managing a VERY! small campground and motel with a crazy bar, you have the opportunity!
Might be worth a call—at least it was available in April of 2021. I’d visit again if you were running Low Key Hideaway . . . .