In the News
Where Guests and Ghosts Mingle
These hotels aren’t for those with reservations about spooky crime stories
By Liz Langley, Published in THE WASHINGTON POST
The Island Hotel & Restaurant, Cedar Key, Fla. I have many happy memories of Cedar Key, a tranquil town on Florida’s north Gulf Coast, so ghosts provide even more incentive to visit the Island Hotel & Restaurant there. Built in 1859, the Colonial-style hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is an ideal place to unplug from the world. While giving a tour of the 10-room lodging, Andy Bair, who owns the hotel with his wife, Stanley, opens Room 29 and says in a deep, almost Sam Elliott voice, “Some people call this a portal to the other side.”
You’ve Probably Never Heard of This Incredibly Charming Florida Island
Published in Coastal Living
Tucked away on the Gulf Coast lies a little archipelago that’s rich with Old Florida culture, unspoiled islands, and more clams than you’ll know what to do with.
“Whatever you do, please,” my fishing guide is telling me as we cast for speckled trout in the vivid Florida sunshine, “just don’t go calling Cedar Key ‘the place that time forgot.'”
It’s writerly advice, for this story, and I’ll abide by it. But the fact that he feels compelled to issue it says a lot about Cedar Key—a smidge of a town (population 700) on that woolly stretch of Gulf Coast between Tampa and Apalachicola known as the Big Bend. Time did not forget little Cedar Key, of course; the clocks still run. But real-estate developers have, for the most part, which is why the place feels like such a throwback: a glorious speck of Old Florida with all its salt-crusted beauty and fishing-village funk still intact.
WHY WE LOVE THE GULF
Jimmy Buffett Drinks Here
The Margaritaville mogul toasts the Gulf Coast bars he loves the most
by ELIZABETH HUTCHINSON, Published in Garden & Gun Magazine
“The Island Hotel is a throwback,” Buffett says. “It’s a small old hotel—the kind of place where they couldn’t really care less whether you come, as opposed to those overmarketed tourism spots.” Once you find your way to the forties-era inn in Cedar Key, though, you’ll get the full friends-and-family treatment. Inside the hotel’s snug cypress-and-cedar-paneled Neptune Lounge—a mural of the Roman god hangs behind the bar—the beer is cheap, the sunbaked regulars are friendly, and there’s Old Florida charm to spare.
ONLY IN CEDAR KEY AND ONLY AT THE ISLAND HOTEL…
if you love cedar key, boats, and music, this article is for you…
The Princess and the Piano Player
By Steve Priessman
It’s 9:30 in the morning. I’m in the cabin of a once submerged, rather odd-looking houseboat. I’m listening to a pianist playing one of his own compositions. Eyes closed, his head bobs slowly with the tempo.
15 Reasons Snowbirds Flock to Florida Year After Year
by Horizon Travel
Located on a small barrier reef off the coastline of Florida, Cedar Key is a quaint fishing village frozen in time. The sandy shores of Cedar Key are unspoiled by nightclubs and large resorts, making them a serene spot for rest and renewal.
Secret Island Getaway – Cedar Key
By Florida Travel + Life
A quaint little town right on the Gulf of Mexico — perfect for a weekend of fishing.
Strange Trip –
Five Unusual Spots to Spend the Night
By Urban Daddy
Cedar Key Florida: First Stop on a Florida Coast Adventure
Atlantic Coastal Kayaker • June 2013
Article and photos by Hal Levine
Island Hotel is named one of Top 10 B&Bs and guesthouses in Florida
By The Guardian
From historic guesthouses with old Florida charm to luxurious inns and comfy lakeside cabins, the Sunshine State has a host of interesting places to stay
Cedar Key offers visitors a quiet, close encounter with nature
By The Columbus Dispatch
CEDAR KEY, Fla. — The long stretch of shoreline known as the Nature Coast, or Florida’s Big Bend, wasn’t blessed with the sugary white-sand beaches found in many parts of the Sunshine State.
The land here slopes so gently from the marshy mainland into the Gulf of Mexico that large oyster-encrusted mudflats are often exposed at low tide.
Perhaps that also accounts for why the region wasn’t blessed — or cursed? — with the kind of development that covers so much of Florida.
Instead, wide-open spaces still dominate a landscape where Spanish moss-draped live oaks and tropic-loving cabbage palms tussle for dominance in a slow-moving, millennia-old battle.
Visitors who appreciate that type of scenery will find Cedar Key to be just as beautiful as its more sandy counterparts — and much quieter and wilder.
About 100 miles north of St. Petersburg, the island is actually far more serene today than it was a century ago, when noisy and noxious cedar mills and broom factories turned the area’s abundant natural resources into consumer products, jobs and private fortunes.
Island Hotel holds a Benefit for Haven Hospice and raises $11,820.00
On Saturday, February 9th, the Island Hotel in Cedar Key, Florida held a fundraising event for Haven Hospice. Hotel owners, Stanley and Andy Bair, converted their historic hotel restaurant into a night club, and entertainment was provided by Margo Anderson. Margo performed “Honky-Tonk Angels,” featuring songs by Loretta, Tammy, and Reba, followed by a tribute to Patsy Cline. Her clear, powerful voice and down-home wit and comedy made a memorable evening. The event was a huge success. Together they raised $11,820 which will help support the programs of Haven Hospice.
“The Perfect Beach Town: Cedar Key, FL”
By Southern Living Magazine, June 2012
FOX 13 – One Tank Trip to Cedar Key
The Island Hotel is featured in the August 7, 2014 issue of Gainesville Magazine!
PAINTING THE AIR
In 1947, Helen Tooker, a free-spirited artist with a gypsy soul, loaded her paints, brushes and four teen-age kids into the back of an old panel truck on Cape Cod, and drove to Florida. Why? Darned if I know. She didn’t have a dime in her pocket or a single friend here, but that was just like my mother. We moved to Largo where my three brothers found work, and my mother and I scoured the countryside looking for painting jobs of any kind. Fate led us to Cedar Key where Bessie and (?) Gibbs had recently taken over the Island Hotel. When we arrived, they were trying to convert a storage area into a barroom. Bessie and my mother hatched a plan. For room, board and some cash, we would stay and work our magic in the bar of the old hotel.
Every inch of available space in the bar had to be used wisely. Helen knew the primary need was to create the illusion of space. We had to make walls move out—or you might say, she had to paint space and air into the cramped, dark room. For compact seating, carpenters built a continuous narrow bench attached to the walls opposite the bar and across the ends of the room. The bench back and seat were covered with red leatherette, a product that could tolerate spills easily. Small tables could be moved along this bench as needed to hold ashtrays and drinks. Masonite panels were attached to the walls above the bench to make a surface for painting murals. One panel was reserved for the centerpiece over the bar where old Father Neptune and his pretty mermaids have now resided for 65 years.
Helen made watercolor sketches of interesting spots around Cedar Key to be incorporated into the design. To enhance the illusion of space, she chose soft pastel colors that disappear in distant horizons. Subtle, elusive blue/grays create the hazy sky and water background for the entire mural, and fluffy clouds hanging in the skies above literally create the air and space the bar needed. At one end of the room she painted the humpback bridge known then as “Hug Me Tight and Kiss Me Quick.” The old fishing pier, built with heavy wooden posts, planks and railroad ties, stretches into the gulf the way it did before the fire destroyed it. So along with space and air, the mural also created time and recorded history.
When the bar was finished, Helen painted the square wooden tables in the dining room, decorating them with maps of local islands. Unfortunately, no tables remain. On the second floor, she painted the walls of the long hall to lighten and brighten the area. For this very large surface she used a single color, a red-brown sepia tone applied with sponges and minimal brushwork.
For herself, she painted several watercolors of local scenes and events. She sold many of these, but her family still has some. I have one she called “Monday Morning Court” where Mr. Raddie Davis, the mayor, is hearing the pleas of young men who had gotten into trouble over the weekend. Several residents at the time are recognizable characters in the painting.
A few years ago, my brother Harry from Merritt Island, and I from St Petersburg, met for a reunion in Cedar Key. The ravages of time, wind and water, to say nothing of the bullet holes in her work, disturbed us. I swear I heard Helen’s ghost nagging, “Clean up this mess! I can’t do everything myself!” I called Andy and Stanley Bair, present owners, and volunteered to do some restoration. They were happy to accept and I’ve been back to work on the paintings several times since. This last weekend I finished what I could do. They looked good, then I heard that voice saying, “It’s about time you did something. I can’t wait forever, you know!”