The Nature Coast Keys: Ozello

Ozello can be found by turning onto Highway 494 from U.S. 19 between Crystal River and Homosassa. As one snakes along the winding two-lane blacktop called “The Ozello Trail,” it twists and turns through St. Martin’s Aquatic Preserve, a 23,000-acre wildlife preserve owned by the citizens of Florida and managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Ozello’s peaceful, natural vibe provides a place where you can forget the hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced society, and enjoy the island breeze. Watersports, such as fishing and kayaking, are popular. Waterfowl and dolphins intermingle for their enjoyment, as well as yours. This waterfront community values the slower pace and neighborly traits of a time gone by.

“Ozello has actually become a really prominent location for both kayaking and fishing. We have two launch locations, one off of John Brown Road and one at the end of Ozello Road, which we call the boat ramp,” says Ozello resident Cecelia Treat. “We have an informal club and we go out kayaking together often, sometimes bringing a little wine.”

Along the meandering trail, you’ll find Peck’s Old Port Cove restaurant, featuring one of the few blue crab farms in the United States. The daily harvest of these delicacies brings people from miles away to the Cove.

The Ozello Civic Association was created to preserve its unique historic character, enhance the quality of life in Ozello and promote a cohesive community of visitors, residents, businesses and institutions.

Every February, the Ozello Civic Association puts on it Chili Cookoff. The event features cash prizes for the top three chilis, arts and crafts, a chili dinner and the chance to win a kayak. The Chili Cookoff began about 15 years ago as a small, friendly competition between civic members and has grown exponentially throughout the years. Proceeds from the event support the Ozello Civic Association, and the fun event takes place on its grounds.

The islands are full of remnants of pioneer homes and old landmarks, although many squatters’ cabins and were taken out by the Saint Martin’s Aquatic Preserve.

The buildings have changed quite a bit over the years, but the islands that make up this community endure. By working together, Ozello’s islanders have chosen to preserve a way of life that has all but faded away in many parts of Florida.

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