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Enjoy Remote Florida and Visit Wakulla

Disclosure: I was recently hosted on a FAM trip to Wakulla County, expenses paid by Visit Wakulla and Wakulla County Fish & Wildlife Service.

It’s an entirely different experience from the “normal” attraction based-Florida vacation.

It’s peaceful.

Beautiful.

A group of amazing bloggers recently spent some time getting to know more about Wakulla County, found in the Panhandle of Florida. I’ve lived in Florida for nearly 15 years in total and I love that there are still places that amaze me. Wakulla is one of those places. The people here are beyond friendly and welcoming. Our tour guide, David Moody, has lived here all his life and as a Ranger for Wakulla County Fish & Wildlife Services, he knew all the perfect places to share with us. I wish you could have come with us, but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough room so I want to share our familiarization tour with you. Enjoy!

 

 The hashtags from the trip #WakullaFam #VisitWakulla #LoveFL
● Facebook.com/VisitWakulla
● Twitter.com/VisitWakulla
● Instagram.com/VisitWakulla
 We were graciously hosted at the Magnuson Hotel Wildwood Inn located just 30 minutes South of Tallahassee, in Old Florida. The rooms are spacious and the staff was very pleasant. The Inn boasted a fitness center and pool. We were greeted in the morning with a hot breakfast, complimentary to guests that featured waffles, eggs, sausage, and much more. The location was perfect for our trip as it was central to many of our activities, including our first thing on the agenda, Gulf Specimen Marine Lab.

 

 ● Facebook.com/WildwoodGolfHotel
● Twitter.com/MagnusonHotelFL
Although the weather didn’t cooperate with us fully, this was definitely the highlight of our trip for me. The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab located in an old commercial fishing village, Panacea, was founded in 1963 by Jack Rudloe, to support marine research and education at universities by supplying live marine animals to academic scientists.  With over 8,500 square feet of interior exhibition and program space, there are approximately 30,000 gallons of seawater aquarium space. It’s a favorite for local field trips in neighboring school systems and I can see why. It’s so hands-on, literally. There were so many touch tanks where you could actually touch and feel live marine life, below you can see where I was able to hold a Sea Cucumber, Sea Urchin, and other amazing marine life.

 

I loved watching them feed the animals and you could tell it was one of their favorite things as well.

 

 

Our hashtag #GulfSpecimenMarineLab
● Facebook.com/GulfSpecimenAquarium
● Twitter.com/GulfSpecimen1
● Instagram.com/GulfSpecimen

 

After our visit at Gulf Specimen Marine Lab we took a little side tour to learn more about the area. David shared that every 2 years they did prescribe burns in the area as type a hazard reduction. He also shared that scallop season had just started (July 1st) but it is fully recreational and we wouldn’t be sampling them in the local restaurants, unfortunately. We also learned that Wakulla was famous for its birds and bird watchers from all over the world frequented the county between October and February. If you are thinking of moving here, all the schools in the county were “A” schools and 75% of the land here is Federal or State lands. Wakulla is a bedroom community to Tallahassee and many folks pass through the area on the way to the beach or come to partake in their fishing tournaments. While touring the area we were able to get some great photos of locals. We stopped at one place along the way where you could bring your fresh catch to be cleaned or if you didn’t have time to go fishing for your own catch you could buy some of their fresh catch. I was amazed that their jumbo, head -on shrimp was only $8.99 a lb. when our stores sell it for nearly double.

 

Next on the agenda, lunch at Posey’s Up the Creek. It was amazing and David insisted we try the Fried Flounder. It was so flakey and mouthwatering. I ordered the shrimp and oysters steamed with Cajun seasoning and a salad that came with the best homemade Ranch dressing I have ever had in my life. We also tried their gator bites which were far more tender than any other gator I have tried.  Posey’s is definitely a must try when in Wakulla. While we were there nearly the entire county government officials stopped in to eat, that’s how good it is!

 

With our belly’s filled with some of the freshest seafood, you’ll find we were off to visit Wakulla Lodge and Wakulla Springs. A Florida State Park, Wakulla Springs is where time stands still. Looking out over the water and watching the families enjoy the Springs I would have thought I was back in the 1940s. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and we were not able to take the Boat Tour, but watching it come out of the fog that covered the Springs after the rainfall was even more amazing to me.

 The water of Wakulla Springs comes from 185 feet below the surface and is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. The Springs boasts over 200,000 visitors per year and has been featured in eight movies such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Airport 77, and the Tarzan films. During WWII soldiers were often found at Wakulla Springs for military training for amphibious exercises as well as for rest and relaxation. Wakulla Springs officially became a state park in October of 1986. In the winter it isn’t surprising to find manatees warming up in the Springs.

The Lodge at Wakulla Springs is equally impressive and its history is so interesting. We were granted a tour from a local historian and the General Manager that was so informative and rich in provenance. The Wakulla Lodge is a two-story lodge that features 27 guest rooms and was created by Florida business tycoon, Edward Ball. He turned this area into a luxury tourist destination when it opened in 1937. Edward Ball’s sister was a connected to the DuPont family via marriage and back in the day they both frequented the lodge and their two rooms are still rented out to guests to this day. In the gift shop is the world’s largest marble soda fountain over 70 feet in length. The marble and tile were handpicked and Mr. Ball ensured he bought enough for 250 years worth of repairs and add-ons so that it was all from the same place.

Our hashtag for this visit was #WakullaSprings
● Facebook.com/Wakulla.Lodge
● Facebook.com/pages/Edward-Ball-Wakulla-Springs-State-Park
● Instagram.com/LodgeAtWakullaSprings

Our final tour of the day was of St. Mark’s Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge. St. Marks Lighthouse is one of the most photographed landmarks on the Gulf coast and it’s the 2nd oldest lighthouse in Florida, but the oldest one on the Gulf coast. Although we did not go in the lighthouse, I learned that it features wooden stairs and the current tower was completed in 1842.  The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 68,000 acres of protected habitats and ecosystems. It’s a favorite place for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Our trip ended breaking bread together at The Seineyard, a restaurant adjacent to the Inn where we stayed. Our host, the owner was so nice and although the place was packed full of people we got our meal in a timely manner and it was great. It was recommended that I try their Grouper Throats, something I had never heard of before. My favorite item on their menu were their Fried Green Tomatoes! This is also the first place that I ever tried mullet, one of the fish the area is famous for. It was a great way to end our tour of Wakulla, with new friends and full belly.

Comments

  1. Mary Ambrosino says:

    That sounds like the perfect vacation. The food looks delicious and it is a bit of “old Florida”.

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