St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse

Tallahassee and vicinity is home to multiple parks and outdoor recreation. Too numerous to mention all, but a few are highlighted below.

Cascades Park is a 24 acre park located in the heart of downtown. Built by the citizens via a one-cent local option sales tax, everyone can enjoy a variety of outdoor and recreational amenities, including a state-of-the-art amphitheater, interactive water fountain, children’s play area, Smokey Hollow Commemoration and miles of multi-use trails. Cascades Park is located at 1001 South Gadsden in downtown Tallahassee.

Park hours are from sunrise to sunset except in lighted areas or during permitted events. For information on upcoming events, visit www.discovercascades.com. Tickets for concerts are available at www.capitalcityamphitheater.com.

Reservation (aka the Rez – part of FSU) Come out to the FSU Reservation for a day of relaxation or recreation. It is not on campus, but nearby at 3226 Flastacowo Rd. in Tallahassee. The FSU Reservation offers swimming, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, instructional clinics, picnicking, 40 ft. climbing wall, beach volleyball, a recreation hall with game tables and more. Children ages 15 and under must be accompanied by adult parent or guardian. Visit http://campusrec.fsu.edu/outdoors/reservation

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park boasts beautiful ornamental gardens which were first planted in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay after they purchased the property for their winter home. A masterpiece of floral architecture, the gardens feature a picturesque brick walkway, secret garden, reflection pool, walled garden and hundreds of camellias and azaleas.

Lake Hall provides opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Boats without gas-powered motors are allowed. It is a perfect setting for picnics at the pavilions and grills along the lake shore.

There are two short nature trails through the woods overlooking the lake and six miles of shared-use trails for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. Enjoy five miles of designated biking trails winding through the woods surrounding Lake Overstreet, located on park property adjoining the gardens. The Park is located half mile north of I-10 on U.S. 319/Thomasville Rd.

There are plenty of sites to visit within a 90 minute drive of Tallahassee. These day trips are a great addition to your visit to the capital city.

For outdoor enthusiasts, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse is a slice of heaven. Established in 1931, it is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. A wintering ground for migratory birds, it is spread between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties. The refuge is a ‘gateway site’ for the Great Florida Birding Trail.

As a National Historic Landmark, St. Marks Lighthouse, the second oldest in Florida, is one of the most photographed landmarks on the Gulf coast. The current tower was completed in 1842. It is a little over a half hour drive from Tallahassee.

Just off North Florida’s Gulf Coast, 28-mile St. George Island is one of the last inhabited yet unspoiled barrier islands in Florida. With miles of undeveloped beaches, St. George Island State Park offers plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and nature study. Two natural boat ramps provide access to the Apalachicola Bay that can accommodate small, shallow draft boats under 26 ft. There are great opportunities for shelling and beachcombing.

The shoreline is active during the summer months when sea turtles and shore birds such as the snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, and willet lay their nests within the park. Dolphins are also a common sight on the Gulf side and the bayside. The Park is located on St. George Island, 10 miles SE of Eastpoint off U.S. 98. St. George Island is about 70 miles from Tallahassee.

About an hour due south of Tallahassee is Bald Point State Park. It boasts some of the most picturesque scenic areas along north Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located at 146 Box Cut Rd. in Alligator Point, where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, Bald Point offers a multitude of land and water activities.

Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities making the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing. Each fall, bald eagles and other migrating raptors, along with monarch butterflies, are commonly seen heading south for the winter.

Bald Point offers access to two Apalachee Bay beaches for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing. Facilities include a fishing dock and picnic pavilions.

Florida Caverns is the only state park to offer cave tours to the public. It has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies. Cave tours sometimes sell out so call the Ranger Station at 850-482-1228 prior to departing for the park to ensure that all tours have not sold out for that day. Guided cave tours last 45 minutes and are offered year-round except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tours of the caves are not offered on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Florida Caverns State Park is also popular for camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. It also features a nine-hole, New Deal-era golf course set in beautiful rolling terrain. The entrance is adjacent to the main park entrance; contact the Florida Caverns Golf Course at (850) 526-1148. The state park is located at 3345 Caverns Rd. in Marianna (about 1 ¼ hours from Tallahassee).

For more information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns or call 850-482-9598.

There is so much so much more than space allows. Visit trailahassee.com to navigate through all your choices and find the best places where you and your family to enjoy the Tallahassee Outdoors.
Part 3 in July will focus on food and drink.