Tallahassee - Not Just the Seat of Government

As a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, I get to travel all around the state of Florida. Since my interests are in outdoor activities, Tallahassee was not on my top 10 list of places to visit. It didn't seem to be the kind of place that would attract kayakers, canoers and nature photographers. As a cave diver, I was aware of some of the first class springs and caves in that area, but still never ventured further, thinking Tallahassee was just the seat of government.

Well, I was wrong. The area around this Big Bend/Panhandle city offers more than we could do in a 5 day conference - freshwater and saltwater fishing, kayaking and canoeing, snorkeling in first magnitude springs, birding, boating, exploring beautiful dry caves and, of course, photography everywhere.
Situated in the Big Bend area of the Panhandle, the Gulf is about 30 miles away. There are numerous fresh water springs and rivers close by. An unexpected feature of the area is the rolling hills, with Spanish moss draping the oaks, and 78 miles on nine protected canopied roads that were the old trails of native Americans. The area is surrounded by Wildlife Management Areas and National Forests, all of which are the homes to wildlife of many kinds. The Nature Conservancy considers the Tallahassee area to be one of "America’s Last Great Places".
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge covers over 6000 acres and is home to an abundance of wildlife with over 200 species of birds have been documented in the park. There is a swim area and boat tours that run daily. Movies, such as "Tarzan" and the "Creature From the Black Lagoon" were filmed here. The Lodge was built in 1937 and is still operating today, offering a quiet elegance in a beautiful setting. The dining room is open to the public and offers excellent and unique fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After our lunch, we took the boat tour down river, where we got close-up views of alligators, snowy egrets, ibis, blue and green herons, anhinga and turtles.
A few days later, we explored more of the river by kayak and encountered manatee, alligators and birds. The Wakulla merges into the St Mark's river and eventually empties into the Gulf. Camping trips are offered by the outfitters. Part of our group used TNT Hideaway Outfitters. We used the Wilderness Way, and they both will drop you off and pick you up. They also offer guided canoe/camping trips on the Aucilla River and other local rivers. Go to, or We made the trip to Marianna to see the Florida Caverns State Park. These are beautiful caves with ranger/naturalist guided tours given every day except Tuesday and Wednesday. The caves have beautiful stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and other formations and is an easy guided, and informative walk. The Park also offers swimming, camping, hiking and horse trails, and fishing. Well worth the drive! Go to While we attended the conference in town, we stayed at the Hotel Duval, the town’s only boutique hotel, that is also noted for the only 8th floor rooftop lounge that oversees all of Tallahassee. Not far from the hotel is one of the many historical sites and museums - The Mission of San Luis. Native Americans have lived in this area for over 12,000 years, and this living exhibit, a restored community that once housed the Apalachee Indians and families from Spain, existed originally from 1656-1704. The Mission is open to the public, and in addition to the native buildings, Spanish village and religious buildings, is the site of archeological excavations and historical research. Mission San Luis is Florida’s only Spanish colonial mission that has living ancestors, the Apalachees. The Mission also has a museum exhibit, gift shop, and a large meeting room for functions.
Tallahassee is just off of Interstate I-10 and houses Florida State University. This city is a blend of a college town, politics, history and nature, and should definitely be on your "to do" list.

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