Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Visit Wakulla, in exchange for my press coverage. All opinions are 100% my own.
Florida is not just about theme parks, it’s such a gorgeous state with so much more to offer! Wakulla County for instance! It’s filled to the brim with nature’s beauty. Part of the Tallahassee, FL Metropolitan Area and bordered on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, this area of Florida boasts both the beauty of nature and convenient driving distance to a major metropolitan hub for fine dining, shopping, and more. It’s an area that has something for everyone. Wakulla County is definitely a hidden gem! This visit to Wakulla County focused on the natural beauty of the area.
The Bounty of Nature in Wakulla County
The number one tourist activity in the region is bird watching. With over 300 species of both migratory and nesting birds, this area of Florida, the area is a bird watcher’s paradise. It’s also a great retreat for those who love any and every other kind of natural beauty as well. With around 75% of Wakulla County’s area, being state or nationally owned, it’s a refuge for wildlife and for those who love to take in its beauty.
Wakulla County Visit
The accommodations were at the Magnuson Hotel Wildwood Inn, a golf hotel, located in Crawfordville. It’s in the historical district and within the region of Wakulla Springs State Park and San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. Also within the region of St. Marks Lighthouse and Leon Sinks Geological Area.
Our day began with a complimentary continental breakfast at the Magnuson Hotel Wildwood Inn, such a wonderful hotel that was nicely appointed and thoroughly comfy. After some great sleep the night before and a tasty breakfast, we were ready to continue on with the day.
Gulf Specimen Marine Lab
From the hotel, we headed to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab for a guided tour of the facility. It was quite an experience! Originally founded by Jack Rudloe in 1963 to provide marine animals to college and university science departments and research labs, it also became an educational center and supplier in the 80’s as interest in marine biology grew.
Today, the lab is a key part of many research programs in the USA, Canada, and Europe, and their work impacts around 100,000 students every year through student field trips, their SeaMobile which visits schools and festivals, and specimens provided to classrooms.
While there, we got to experience the touch tanks and were able to touch hermit crabs, starfish, sea urchin, and horseshoe crabs. We even got a look at nurse sharks, southern rays, cobia, and eels! We saw the turtle rehab area, where the lab rehabilitates sea turtles and releases them back into the wild.
Wakulla Welcome Center
Visitors to Wakulla County will want to visit the Wakulla Welcome Center. That was the second stop on our trip around the area. The welcome center is full of helpful information about the area, including its history, where to go, and what to see. It’s an excellent resource for those who want to make the most of their trip to Wakulla County.
Posey’s up the Creek
Wakulla County is also home to some of the best fresh seafood around, with impressive markets that have the freshest seafood the region has to offer. From shrimp to a wide variety of ocean fish, they have it all. For lunch, we stopped in at Posey’s up the Creek to enjoy some delicious seafood. The atmosphere at Posey’s is just about perfect for the area. It’s incredibly laid back, which makes for an inviting atmosphere as you chow down on some of the freshest, tastiest seafood around. I enjoyed sampling blue crab claws, fried gator bites, and fried jumbo lump crab meat.
Om nom nom. Our tour guide, David, ordered flounder, and it was an absolutely massive piece of fish, further proving that Wakulla County has some of the best seafood you’ll find anywhere.
Wakulla Springs Lodge and Boat Tour
After lunch, we headed over to Wakulla Springs Lodge. This historical landmark has quite a history in addition to a swimming area to beat the heat and a boat tour of the area. Edward Ball, a wealthy financier, opened Wakulla Springs Lodge in 1937 to host his friends, family, businessmen, and politicians in style. This gorgeous building features an intriguing combination of European folk art, Arabic scrollwork, and Native American influences. That might sound like it would be a jarring combination, but it all works splendidly together to create a space that is both visually interesting and inviting all at the same time.
Ball had an eye for detail like we’ve never seen. The veranda ceiling was a particularly impressive sight. It’s made of pecky cypress, which was painted blue and then sanded down so that only the blue that seeped into the knots and crevices of the wood remains. He put just as much thought into the flooring as well, with specific stones that were chosen to be made into the tiles. This impressive place is also home to the longest known marble bar. Located in the Soda Fountain/Gift Shop, this impressive bar measures at 70 feet 3 inches long!
Upstairs, I was treated to the library where the Florida Pork Chop gang held many of their meetings. It was home to a number of the most important political decisions in Florida’s early 20th century days. After that, we saw the room of Ball’s sister, Jessie Ball du Pont. It was massive! The closets were bigger than most bedrooms! Overall, the lodge is one of the more impressive places I’ve ever visited.
Unfortunately, inclement weather prevented us from hitting the swimming hole, which is a bummer because the swimming hole is Wakulla Springs! It’s the world’s largest, deepest freshwater spring, with temperatures averaging around 60 degrees to 72 degrees all year long. The dessert sampling in the dining room more than made up for that! We enjoyed trying the Key Lime Pie, Butterfinger Cake, and a 13 layer cake. It was all so good, but the 13 layer cake holds a special place in my heart. It was 13 layers of Heaven!
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
From Wakulla Springs Lodge, we headed over to the Wakulla Springs National Wildlife Refuge, which is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Wakulla County. Visited the St. Marks Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Florida, with its beginnings in 1831. In 1842, the lighthouse was torn down and another was built further inland due to erosion. The rebuilt lighthouse used the original lantern and illuminating device. Learning about the history of this lighthouse was a super interesting experience.
From there, we took a drive through the refuge, enjoying the natural beauty of all the plant life and pristine atmosphere. While driving through, we saw deer and alligator in addition to all the wonderful plant life. Wakulla Country truly is the Garden of Eden in Florida, folks.
After a long day of exploring Wakulla County, we returned to the hotel, where we got all cleaned up and made our way over to The Seineyard for dinner. This place is AH-mazing! The atmosphere is inviting, with a friendly demeanor and live music, and the portions are absolutely massive. I enjoyed sampling fried crab claws, fried calamari, fried green tomatoes, fried Sammie Cakes, and fried onion rings. Om nom nom.
Wakulla County – A Place You’ll Never Forget
Wakulla County….. It’s truly a place that no one will ever forget. Overflowing with nature’s beauty and bounty and stepped in history, Wakulla County is a hidden gem you must add to your Bucket List! If you’re planning a trip, consider making your destination Wakulla County. You will not be sorry!
Look at those happy faces!