The Ozello trail, short but epic road trip in north-western Florida

Should you find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile or have a motorbike between your legs on Highway 19 north or southbound in north-western Florida, there lies a small gem of a detour out into the mangroves towards the gulf between Homosassa and Crystal Springs. The Ozello trail may only be 9 miles but it has 67 turns and magnificent marshland scenery perfect for bikers, birders, anglers, adventurers and tourists alike.

The road twists and meanders between salt marshes dotted with islands of sabal palm and cedar, the native tree still thriving out here in the relative wilderness of the Ozello keys. There is abundant wildlife, ospreys, wild turkeys, kingfishers and deer roam these small islands.

The community out here in the frontier lands counts just around 600 souls, and until 1961 the only way to get here was by boat. The settlement is surrounded by St. Martins Nature Reserve so future developments are hopefully unlikely.

At the end of the road, or almost, there still is a small bridge and the settlement itself at the end, is a great stop for lunch or just a snack at Pecks Old Port Cove. A great old school restaurant specializing in locally bred blue crabs that are steamed or sauteed in garlic. They also have a great fried seafood platter, while we visited in low season on a weekday, we guess this place is heaving with bikers and day-trippers on the weekend.

The Ozello trail is a great little detour if you want to see how the Florida coast looked before all the development, a great piece of tarmac into the wild. There is also a stunning sunset out there in the keys, we did not get to see one but we were told it was one of the best there is and referred to as “Ozello Gold”.

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