Explore Levy County’s Big Bend Shellfish Trail
While much of the Florida coastline is reserved for lounging beachgoers, the Big Bend Coast is different. In this part of Florida’s Gulf Coast, east of the Apalachicola River, salt marshes and tidal creeks dominate the coastline (with very few beaches). That means the area is a haven for harvesting shellfish. In turn, we’re introducing the Big Bend Shellfish Trail—the first of its kind in Florida and the largest such trail in the country.
The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is made up of the waterfront communities in Levy County, along with Dixie, Jefferson and Taylor Counties. Make no mistake: These are working waterfront communities, where people spend their lives harvesting an abundance of clams, oysters, blue crabs, hard clams, shrimp and stone crabs that people can enjoy for lunch and dinner when they visit Florida—and beyond. (Check out the trail map here.) The clean waters along the Big Bend Coast and regulations from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services make the area one of the most sanitary and safe regions producing seafood in the entire country.
In Levy County, the focus is on clams and oysters. Today, there are approximately 150 shellfish farms along the trail in Levy and Dixie Counties that harvest close to 125 million hard clams every year. Cedar Key produces at least 80 percent of the state’s clam crop alone. The idea behind the Big Bend Shellfish Trail is to help travelers understand the importance of this industry in this part of the state, and for visitors to celebrate and experience some of the fruits of the fishermen’s labor in Levy County and beyond.
When you visit Levy County, you’ll find seafood markets and restaurants (many waterfront) serving nothing but the freshest batches of shellfish brought in the same day from local farmers for you to enjoy. You can rent a charter boat and spend a day with a shellfish farmer, who will show you the ropes and let you get your hands dirty. Take a scenic stroll through Cedar Key and any of the other old fishing communities along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, and you’ll see crab traps and bushels of oysters stacked up on marina decks. Here, shellfish isn’t just a menu option; it’s a way of life.
On your next trip to Florida, do something a little different and spend time discovering the secrets and the people along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Check out our four-day itinerary, and use the #floridashellfishtrail hashtag when you upload images and share your seafood journey on social media. Welcome to Florida’s working waterfront communities.