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.
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Address: 465 Wakulla Park Dr, Wakulla Springs FL 32327
Fees: $6 per vehicle state park entrance fee
Restroom: at the lodge
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sundown. Leashed dogs welcome. Do not take them into the lodge, the swimming area, or on tour boats.
From Tallahassee, follow US 319 / SR 61 south of Capital Circle. Turn left to stay on SR 61 as it heads south into Wakulla County. At SR 267, turn left. The park entrance is on your right.
From US 98, follow CR 365 (from the west) or SR 267 (from the east) to SR 267 west of CR 363. The park entrance is on the left.
Follow the park road back to Wakulla Lodge. The main parking area adjoins Wakulla Lodge.
About the Park
Wakulla Springs is a piece of Florida history, its lodge the centerpiece of a state park originally established as a private getaway in 1937 by corporate scion Edward Ball.
At 69 degrees year-round, the spring has a surprising number of takers at its beach during the warmer months.
A swimming platform floats out in the spring, while a multi-platform diving board invites the daring to drop into the 180-foot-deep spring basin.
Except when flooded, the waterfront is grassy so visitors can spread out a blanket and soak in the sun. You do need to beware of alligators, of course.
Look up when you enter the lodge, and you’ll notice the intricately painted beams holding up the roof. These are works of art completed by a Bavarian artist, depicting natural scenes.
The floors of the lobby are Tennessee marble, as are those in the 27 guest rooms. One of our favorite places to stay in Florida, this historic hotel has no phones or televisions in its rooms.
Only in the lobby can you mingle with guests, play checkers or cards, and watch movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon on the single television.
Old Joe, an 11-foot alligator shot by a poacher when we were kids, is on prominent display.
At the two ends of the lobby are two distinctly different places to dine. The gift shop contains a genuine 1930s soda fountain with ice cream and snack items.
The Ball Room is the more elegant place for a meal. It offers guests a sweeping view of the spring along with classics like Navy Bean Soup and oysters fresh from Apalachicola.
Many visitors come just to take the narrated boat tours down the Wakulla River. They are excellent for wildlife watching, the tall cypresses and squawking birds.
In fact, on one of our first visits here, we saw an alligator grab a deer right off the shoreline and pull it into the river.
Back then, glass bottomed boat tours were offered over the spring, when the water was so clear you could see the bones of mastodons and giant sloths 180 feet below.
Sadly, the clarity of the spring has dropped tremendously over the past two decades due to the growth of Tallahassee affecting the aquifer.
Bring binoculars and a camera to enjoy spotting the birds roosting and floating along the edges of this spring-fed waterway.
Hiking at Wakulla Springs
Two trails offer different perspectives on the state park. Starting at the edge of the lodge parking lot, the Wakulla Springs Trail loops the springs to showcase its ancient trees.
From a separate entrance, the Cherokee Sink Trail leads through an upland forest down an old road once used by locals to access a karst window that served as a swimming hole.
Looping around the floodplain of Wakulla Springs, the Wakulla Springs Trail provides up to 12 miles of hiking showcasing the variety of habitats along the river’s shores
See our photos of Wakulla Springs
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Stretching across 70,000 acres in Florida’s Big Bend, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge protects one of Florida’s longest wild shorelines, more than 43 miles in three counties.
Using the Tallahassee-St Marks Trail, the Coastal Trail, and the Florida Trail, ride a scenic 22-mile loop between the St. Marks and Wakulla River floodplains along the Big Bend
In the Apalachicola National Forest just south of Tallahassee, Leon Sinks Geological Area offers a delightful introduction to the wonders of karst topography on its trails