It’s late at night, and a small crowd gathers around the big screen television in the lobby of Wakulla Lodge, Florida’s only state park lodge, built in 1937. It’s too dark to see one of the world’s largest springs out the picture windows, and shadows dance across the taxidermied alligator in the corner. As the Creature from the Black Lagoon emerges on screen, everyone turns to gaze out the windows … to the spot where the movie was filmed.
Fees: $4-6 per vehicle. Boat tours $8 adult, $5 child
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
Wakulla Springs is a classic destination, the lodge the centerpiece of a state park that offers narrated boat tours along a crystalline river lined with tall cypresses and squawking birds, a genuine 1930s ice cream counter in its gift shop, and trails that ramble through shady forests to hidden springs. My favorite reason to stop by? The Ball Room, their somewhere-in-time restaurant with a sweeping view of the spring and the best fried oysters this side of Apalachicola.
The Wakulla Hiking Trail offers up to ten miles of exploration along the river floodplain, beneath ancient forests with trees of enormous size. Don’t miss Cherokee Sink, a separate park of the park with swimming hole and nature trail, south off SR 61.
Explore the park
- Cherokee Sink Trail - A karst window into the watery world of the Woodville Karst Plain, Cherokee Sink is a large, deep water-filled sinkhole in a less-traveled section of Wakulla Springs State Park.
- Spring hopping around Tallahassee - Between Madison and Marianna and across Wakulla County, explore a colorful collection of natural springs for swimming and snorkeling, all within an hour of Tallahassee.
- Wakulla Springs Trail - Looping around the floodplain of Wakulla Springs, the Wakulla Springs Trail provides up to 10 miles of hiking showcasing the variety of habitats along the river’s shores.