Shorebirds, Sunsets and Seafood
Some of the best sunsets and seafood can be found along the Big Bend’s Nature Coast. Spend the morning and afternoon building an appetite while wildlife viewing and exploring inviting coastal villages; then enjoy a delicious seafood meal. Wrap up your day gazing at a colorful sunset.
1. Adams Beach
Located on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, Adams Beach is known for seasonal scalloping opportunities, wildlife viewing and fishing. Few homes are located here, and it’s possible to see the undeveloped coastline that once dominated Florida. The marshlands and flats provide habitat for seaside sparrows, clapper rails and Wilson’s plovers, while the air is often filled with many seabirds. Saltwater anglers can fish right from shore or launch their boats at nearby Keaton Beach or Econfina River State Park. Look for spotted sea trout and redfish. In the summer, both species prefer grass flats in shallow water and move to creek mouths during the colder months.
2. Dekle Beach
Enjoy beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunsets and amazing fishing at Dekle Beach. Launch a kayak or boat to fish, or try your hand at scalloping during open seasons. Don’t have your own boat? No problem! Fishing charters are available for scalloping as well as redfish and trout-focused adventures.
3. Keaton Beach
Keaton Beach is an angling hotspot with a popular boat launch. Shallow grass flats near the shore, part of the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, attract spotted sea trout and provide habitat for numerous species. The summer scallop season attracts large crowds who snorkel the shallow waters of this coastline, seeking the delicious morsels. There is a small county park with a beach, restrooms and a picnic pavilion. This park is also an excellent birding location with a variety of shorebirds and seabirds.
4. Hagen’s Cove*
Bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Hagen’s Cove, part of the Tide Swamp Unit of the Big Bend WMA, offers an observation tower, hiking trails and picnic pavilions. The area’s shallow seagrass flats attract spotted sea trout, redfish and scallops during some summer seasons. Hagen’s Cove is a prime destination for birding and migrating butterflies in the fall. The observation tower offers birders views of the undeveloped coastline with a variety of shorebirds, including whimbrels, sandpipers, plovers and uncommon reddish egrets. Fun fact: Hagen’s Cove was often visited by President Jimmy Carter and his wife.
5. Horseshoe Beach
Known as a friendly fishing village, Horseshoe Beach greets its visitors with a sign that reads: “Florida’s Last Frontier.” First settled by Europeans in the 1800s, the town has a marina and a small park with a boat ramp, campsites, restrooms and picnic pavilions. Known for its grass flats, anglers take to the water in kayaks, motorboats, airboats and flats skiffs. Spotted sea trout and redfish are popular angling targets and, where the water drops beyond seven feet deep, Spanish mackerel can be caught. The scallop season attracts many visitors and runs from July through September. Nearby natural and artificial reefs provide additional recreation opportunities, including underwater photography, diving and spear fishing. Goliath grouper have been spotted here as well.
6. Cedar Key Beach
The beach at Cedar Key City Park is the perfect place to relax by the water and observe local wildlife. Part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife trail, the beach is home to spotted sandpipers and other shorebirds, as well as brown pelicans, laughing gulls, black skimmers and royal terns. Overhead, watch for the impressive silhouette of the magnificent frigatebird, known to cruise the skies during the summer. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the beach, and tour boats ferry visitors a short distance to picturesque Atsena Otie Key.
7. Bird Creek Park
In 1962, Elvis filmed “Follow that Dream,” in what is now known as the Nature Coast of Florida. Many of the movie’s scenes were filmed on Route 40, including the Bird Creek Bridge and beach. Today, the park offers visitors not only a slice of Elvis history, but also a boat ramp and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Look for roseate spoonbills, wood storks, anhingas and great egrets on the road toward Bird Creek, and scan the hardwood hammocks in the park itself for migratory songbirds. Paddlers can launch into the salt marsh, Withlacoochee River or Withlacoochee Bay to enjoy fishing and observe wildlife.