Throwback creature comforts amid calming waters.
Big Cypress Reservation
Fifteen miles south of Tallahassee on remote Route 267, a sign points toward a 6,000-acre forest where, at the end of a wooded drive, is a 1937 Spanish/Mediterranean lodge. Inside the grand lobby, a large fireplace is framed by floor-to-ceiling arched windows. An Art Deco iron and marble staircase leads upstairs while overhead, Moorish-style beams are painted with scenes of local wildlife, European folk art, Arabic scrollwork, and Native American details. Step through the lobby’s back doors and at the foot of a sloping lawn is Florida’s largest natural spring.
Wakulla County TDC
Surrounded by forest, Wakulla Springs is a draw for nature-lovers
This is Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (floridastateparks.org/park/wakulla-springs).
Chances are you may have already seen this place. Its crystal clear waters and surrounding jungle made it the perfect place to shoot films including several Tarzan movies as well as Creature from the Black Lagoon. Today the exotic nature of those classics is matched by the peaceful nature of Wakulla Springs. While on a boat tour, you may catch sight of deer, otters, alligators, turtles, herons, and bald eagles. The spring is a brisk 70 degrees, 185 feet deep, and pumps out an astonishing 250 million gallons a day.
As you adapt to the tempo of the park, something as simple as resting beneath the shade of an oak tree or taking a walk down a wooded path provides the tranquility you desire. And since much of the county’s coastline is protected by the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County has mapped out the Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trails, a selection of 10 waterways that open the door to remote environments via bays, rivers, and springs. A nearby outfitter, TnT Hide-A-Way (tnthideaway.com), can set you up for an excursion on the sparkling Wakulla River.
Ebyabe/CC BY-SA 3.0
Council House at Mission San Luis.
Not only has nature remained largely unchanged, so too has the historic lodge where you’ll find a vintage, marble-topped soda fountain with soda jerks still serving shakes, malts and ginger yips (ginger ale, ice cream, and whipped cream), which are as refreshing today as they were in the 1930s.
Although Tallahassee is nearby, it can seem worlds away from Wakulla Springs. When you settle in at night and darkness cloaks the forests and waters, only the lodge remains illuminated. Encircled by the sounds of nature, you are on an island of calm in a busy world. visitwakulla.com
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs has 27 rooms—some overlooking the spring—that feature period furniture, vintage bathrooms, and large closets to accommodate longer stays. The lack of in-room TV is a subtle reminder to unwind and relax. wakullaspringslodge.com
If your desire for more modern conveniences overrides your love of history, then consider the Governors Inn, which blends the best of both. Created from an old livery stable, Tallahassee’s popular boutique hotel features 41 warm and inviting rooms and is only steps from the Capitol. thegovinn.com
From morning to evening, the Wakulla Springs Ball Room serves a range of interesting meals. Breakfasts begin with items such as biscuits and gravy, steak and eggs, chicken and waffles; lunch brings sandwiches, soups, and salads; and dinner entrees include Cajun bayou pasta, stuffed lobster tails, and bacon-wrapped quail.
About 15 miles south of the park in nearby Crawfordville, Hamaknockers BBQ gets back to basics with barbeque pork, chicken, ribs, hamburgers, wings, beans, coleslaw, and cold beer. 850-926-4737.
Mission san luis
In nearby Tallahassee, Mission San Luis offers a fascinating look at a largely overlooked period in Florida history. The old mission is now an open archaeological site and museum centered around the village where Spaniards and Apalachee lived side by side between 1656 and 1704 until the British arrived. After that, the Spanish and a few loyal Apalachee burned down the mission and abandoned the province. missionsanluis.org