Good news for travelers looking for something off the beaten path: one of the country's coolest small towns is just a short drive from the First Coast.
Budgettravel.com ranked the top 10 "Coolest Small Towns in America 2011," and Cedar Key, Fla., came in at no. 8.
Cedar Key, with its 896 residents, is a fishing town on the Gulf of Mexico southwest of Gainesville. It's less than three hours from Jacksonville.
Here's the complete write-up from budgettravel.com explaining why the town is one of the best:
#8 Cedar Key, Fla. (population 896)
Unspoiled on the Gulf
If someone asked you where to get the best New England clam chowder, you might be inclined to say, "Duh, New England." You'd be wrong-by over 1,000 miles. For the past three years, the Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, R.I., has been won by Tony's Seafood Restaurant of Cedar Key (597 2nd St., tonyschowder.com, cup $4.65). In fact, the town is America's second-largest producer of farmed clams, one of many surprises in this two-square-mile hamlet 130 miles north of Tampa. Despite its prime location on the Gulf of Mexico, Cedar Key has escaped the pull of developers-its spit of beach isn't long enough to attract large-scale building projects. Instead, it still feels like a ramshackle, old fishing village straight out of Hemingway. "People always say it's like Key West 30 years ago," says innkeeper Ada Lang. Built in 1919 and restored in 2004, Ada's Wabi Sabi Cottage is a time-capsule example of a "Cracker" cottage, a style of wood-frame house popular in the 19th century (689 4th St., 352/543-5696, from $130).
If you want to see the other nine coolest small towns, you'll need either a lot of time or airline tickets.
Lewisburg, W.V., is the next closest of the top 10, at just over 600 miles from Jacksonville. It's also the no. 1 small town in the country, according to the website.
SEE THE COMPLETE TOP 10
First Coast News