Off the Beaten Path: The Magic of Wakulla Springs

Ed Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Travel just a few hours east of Scenic Highway 30-A, and you’ll stumble upon a magical spot hidden deep in the forest with clear, refreshingly chilly water, lots of wildlife and some interesting Hollywood history.

Wakulla Springs is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, and it’s nestled right here in little ole Florida, about 30 minutes south of Tallahassee.

The clear blue water of the springs is lined with moss-draped trees. It’s serene and full of life at the same time.

Photo from Friends of Wakulla Springs

On a recent trip to Ed Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, we spotted birds, turtles crawling along the sand, even an alligator or two paddling through the water. Manatees can be viewed during certain times of the year. Children and adults line up to launch themselves off a large diving platform into the water above the opening of the cave below.

It feels magical and mysterious, which was not lost on Hollywood’s directors in the 40s and 50s. Tarzan’s Secret Treasure and Creature from the Black Lagoon were both shot here. In the 70s, Airport ’77 and Joe Panther were also filmed at the springs.

The state park features an old lodge, built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball. You can book a room for the night, with antique furniture and a view of the springs. The dining room features a full-service gourmet dinner and breakfast menu and the soda and lunch shop boasts one of the longest marble counters in the country.

We recommend spending the time and money on the glass-bottom river boat tour. It may seem like a touristy splurge, but the water is amazingly clear and you can see all kinds of wildlife out there. The park also has hiking trails through the forest, a perfect way to work up a sweat before cooling off in the springs.

If it’s really hot out or the beach is a little too crowded or if you’re just looking for something a little different, check out Wakulla Springs. You can learn more at wakullasprings.org.

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