Are you ready to take a step back in time? How about 20,000 years back? Or maybe just to 1934 when Edward Ball purchased a mysterious piece of property and developed it as an attraction focusing on wildlife preservation and the surrounding habitat? You might rather be in the 1950s when Hollywood explored the springs of Florida to film the “Creature from the Black Lagoon!” This mystical area, with its swampy, jungle appeal yet crystal clear water, was the choice for the early Tarzan films including “Tarzan’s New York Adventure,” starring Johnny Weissmuller.
There’s no doubt Florida is an easy vacation spot for Georgia travelers, but there is a lot more than Disney! Although it may be a difficult one-day trip at about 5 hours on the road, a visit to Wakulla Springs and a stay in the Spanish American lodge is worth the effort for a weekend. Located near Tallahassee, Florida, Wakulla Springs is an excellent escape and should be a stop on your vacation list. The lodge itself is a spectacle. The lobby alone takes you back to 1935 with the use of cypress wood, tile, and paintings. The “heart” of cypress can also be seen throughout the structure and the huge expanse of hand-hewn cypress panels are visible. The expansive transverse “beams” are actually steel girders faced with cypress planks. This space receives most attention due to the decorative painting of local wildlife scenes.
The gift shop has its own unique feature with a marble bar, at 70 feet, 3 inches. After a day of swimming in the spring, you can belly up to the bar for ice cream!
Don’t expect anything modern about the hotel rooms. My children loved everything except the lack of technology. I was completely fine with the break! Children can stay busy jumping from the two-story platform located at the spring head. In addition to providing a fun place for diving, it also allows for a nice view of the spring.
Let’s not forget it is a state park! The state of Florida bought half of the existing park property in 1986. The other half was added in 2000 to protect the quality of the groundwater which feeds the spring and the large Cherokee Sink.
The main spring is the world’s largest and deepest freshwater spring, and a cave network consisting of 12 miles that have been surveyed and mapped. Wildlife include a beautiful variety of birds, manatee, and alligators. My children and I took a river boat tour and at $8 per adult, $5 per child, it is well worth it. The clear natural water provides a looking glass into the manatees’ habitat. It was very exciting.
There are also nature trails, snorkeling, and interpretive exhibits. It’s open 365 days per year. There are more than 80 other sinkholes, streams and windows into the aquifer within the 6,800-acre-park (hence Wakulla Springs).
During our stay, there was an archeological dig in process! We talked with the archaeologists and learned a lot about what they still find on the property; mostly pottery used by Native Americans. It is a national archaeological and historic district as well as a national natural landmark.
There are many other attractions in the area, so it is a great one-night stop. During this trip we also visited Seacrest Wolf Preserve nearby. https://www.seacrestwolfpreserve.org/ . It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about wolves and tour the facility, but you must make advanced reservations for the tours and spend time with the wolves. Check for age limits and rules before adding the preserve on your itinerary.
There are many springs in Florida and the opportunities for scuba and snorkeling outings are endless. If just want the escape for a weekend of swimming, wildlife, history, or hiking without all the gear, consider Wakulla’s magical area.
Hours of Operation
The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
Swimming area opens at 9 a.m.
$6 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4 Single Occupant Vehicle.
Friends of Wakulla Springs: http://wakullasprings.org/
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs: https://thelodgeatwakullasprings.com/
Seacrest Wolf Preserve: https://www.seacrestwolfpreserve.org/