How to experience the abundant local nature scene in a single weekend
Tallahassee is more than a college town with football games and tailgates (though we appreciate this wild spirit, too!). In fact, just a few miles outside the state capital, you can access over a dozen different parks and sites within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
From swimming in the turquoise Wakulla Springs to hiking along longleaf pine trees, your Corridor adventure awaits — and it’s right outside your front door.
Your packing list:
Lunch (for day two!)
Water & snacks
Change of clothes
For the extra wild ones - Grab a bike, skateboard, helmet, fishing gear, book, overnight bag for the trip!
Saturday: Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Forest
Your weekend excursion begins just 25 minutes outside Tallahassee at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Home to the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world, you can enjoy a full day of swimming, boat tours, hiking and history lessons at this lively destination. Known for its crystal clear, bright turquoise waters, this spring has been a Florida hotspot for decades, even attracting the attention of Hollywood. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was famously filmed here in 1954.
We recommend starting your day around 10 a.m., before it’s too hot, with a wildlife river boat tour. Pro tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time to secure your reservation. Lasting roughly an hour, the guided tour takes you on a 2-mile loop around the spring, providing a close-up view of Florida’s unique wild creatures such as manatees and alligators. On particularly clear days, usually in late winter or early spring, glass bottom boat tours are available. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to see the ancient remains of mastodons, giant elephants from the ice age.
After the boat tour, take a short walk to The Wakulla Springs Lodge for a break from the heat. Built in 1937 by Edward Ball, the park’s namesake, this historic building takes you back in time to old Hollywood Florida. Inside, the lobby features ceiling paintings of local wildlife scenes and an original 1930s elevator. Stop by the soda fountain for a rootbeer float or milkshake, where you’ll be served on a 70-inch-long marble counter (the longest in the world!) or head to the Edward Ball Dining Room for lunch.
Pro tip: If you’d prefer to eat lunch outside at a picnic table or while lounging on the beach, the lodge offers boxed lunches to-go.
While you digest your food, check out the Wakulla Springs Trail, which starts near the lodge parking lot. The entire trail runs 9 miles through cypress, oak and sweet magnolia trees, orchids and wildflowers, with sections ranging in difficulty and length.
Your day isn't over yet! Cool down in the afternoon by swimming in Wakulla Springs, which sits around 70 degrees year-round. Jump off the 22-foot observation tower or relax on the beach with a book.
After a full day of activity, it’s time to head home to recharge for another wild excursion tomorrow. Too tired to drive? You can always stay a night at the lodge.
Sunday: Tallahassee-St. Mark’s Historic Railroad State Trail, Apalachicola National Forest and San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park
After a solid night of sleep, gear up for your next adventure.
Pro tip: Make sure you pack a lunch—we have a long day of exploring ahead! Whether you decided to spend the night at Wakulla Springs or drove back to Tallahassee, your second day of excursions awaits.
Starting in the city, or located five miles from Wakulla Springs, the Tallahassee-St. Mark’s Historic Railroad State Trail is a 16-mile paved path converted from Florida’s first and longest running railroad. It originally carried cotton from the plantation belt to the Gulf Coast to be shipped to textile mills.
Grab your bike, skateboard, or hiking boots and embark on the historic, scenic trail. Pro tip: The trail has more than one access point, so you can travel for as long or short a distance as you’d like. Longleaf pine, oak, wax myrtle and yaupon holly trees surround you on either side. About a mile past the main entrance, you can access the Apalachicola National Forest, home to bald eagles, armadillos and one of the area’s only remaining clusters of longleaf pine trees. Take a detour to walk along one of the many hiking paths, swim in the crystal clear Camel Lake, or fish from the banks of Silver Lake. There are dozens of picnic tables to enjoy a quiet lunch while observing the unique nature and wildlife around you.
Back on the main trail, the end drops you off at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in the quaint city of St. Marks. Here, history buffs can visit the park’s museum that shares stories about the original fort, dating back to 1528. You can even take a guided or self-guided tour through the remains of the structure occupied during the Civil War.
Just a few steps away, Tucker’s Point provides a view of St. Marks River and Wakulla River converging and flowing out into the Apalachee Bay.
End the night in the coastal town of St. Marks with dinner at one of the local favorites.
For the best burgers and cold beer, stop by Cooter Stew Café. With live music and plenty of outdoor seating, you can enjoy the funky beach vibes to conclude a warm summer day.
If you’re in the mood for seafood, walk across the street to Riverside Café. Located right on the water, they host live music on the weekends with jaw-dropping sunset views.
Once the sun goes down, head back to Tallahassee after a weekend of exploring.
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