As soon as I heard about this place, I knew that I *had* to go, and I wanted to go before busy season starts (aka, summer). So, I got in my car and drove 3 hours from Jacksonville to Wakulla Springs State Park, located about 15 miles south of Tallahassee.
Wakulla Springs is the deepest springs in North America, one of the deepest springs in the world. It is 128 feet deep and has an incredible cave system under the water. Scientists have found mastodons, sabertooth tigers, giant sloths and armadillos, and all sorts of animals down in the caves. They’re still down there, too, because in the water, they’re perfectly preserved and if they brought them to the surface, they would degrade.
Archeologists has also found a variety of former human societies along the shoreline of the spring as well, finding old structures, arrowheads and things like pottery.
Along with the archeology, there is also about 2 miles of untouched nature about a mile away from the spring’s start. The water becomes too shallow for boats to travel, so no one ever goes that far. It is filled with all types of swamp creatures – alligators, turtles, fish, birds, snakes and more!
Wakulla Springs is part of Wakulla Springs State Park. As a member of the Florida State Parks service, it is $6 per vehicle to enter, or if you’re like me, you can buy an annual pass for $60 (or $65 with taxes).
When I was there, it looked like a lot of locals came to swim, barbeque and just generally enjoy being outside. It wasn’t incredibly busy when I visited, but it wasn’t prime season yet, so I’m sure that it’ll fill up in the summertime.
The swimming area is fairly small, but big enough for the amount of people that were there when I visited. There is a two-story diving platform that brave souls can jump off of at either the first or second stories, and two floating platforms that you can swim/walk out to bask in the sun.
Now…. the water was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING!! I think that the water temperature was in the low 70’s (in Fahrenheit). In the late summer, I think that it warms up a bit but it was freezing when I went in May.
The state park also has quite a few hiking trails that you can take, but they didn’t seem to be very populated when I went (most people come for the springs). I took the Spur Hammock Trail (1 mile round trip) and a bit of the Sally Ward Trail (6 miles, one-way), and didn’t see a single other person on the Spur Hammock Trail. Besides walking through a million spider webs and gnats in my face, it was beautiful and incredibly peaceful. The nature sounds were some of the best I’ve ever heard – from the birds to cicadas to the wind, it was very calming. I took a video and to this day, I replay it for the nature sounds. At night, there are fireflies along the spring’s shore and I enjoyed sitting outside, just listening to the nature sounds, watching the fireflies and looking up at the stars.
Unique to Wakulla Springs is a historic hotel called “The Lodge,” built in the 1920-30’s, where I spent the night after swimming and hiking. It was $165 for me to stay one night and it was very cute and quaint. There are no TV’s in the rooms, no mini kitchens or anything like that (but there is AC and clocks and basic electricity).
One thing unique to the lobby of the hotel is the ceiling. “The lobby ceiling gets the most attention for its decorative painting of local wildlife scenes. Close examination shows it to be a combination of European folk art, intricate Arabic scroll work, and Native American influences” – The Lodge website (linked above).
The elevator is another experience at the Lodge, which is original to the building and is EXTREMELY cool. I’d never gotten to experience an old elevator like that before, so it was amazing.
There is also a restaurant at the Lodge which was decent but kind of overpriced, and a soda fountain where you can buy ice cream, soda, and snacks like nachos and hot dogs. The soda fountain boasts the longest marble stone countertop ever built at 70ft six inches long. You can also find the gift shop and the old post office in the same room as the soda fountain.
Through the Lodge, you can buy boat tours of the springs and I 100% recommend taking the tour. It’s only about $7 per person, lasts 45 minutes, and is operated by the Florida State Parks service. You have to make reservations ahead of your visit and they run pretty much all day. Through the boat tour, you can learn more about the spring, it archeology, history and wildlife. A fun fact about the spring that I learned from the boat tour: Have you ever heard of the old movie “Creature from the Black Lagoon“? That was filmed right there in Wakulla Springs in the early 1950’s, released in 1954! The boat takes you right to the spot where it was filmed. Awesome, right??
Taking the boat tour is amazing, but also made me realize just how many alligators are swimming in the same water that I swam in – literally just a few hundred feet away in some cases.
In years past, the boats for the boat tour had a clear bottom so when they went over the springs, you could see down. Unfortunately, the springs are no longer clear enough to see more than a few feet down (caused by algae build up, and I was told that it wasn’t anything bad), so those boats were retired.
Overall, I absolutely enjoyed my visit to Wakulla Springs and would 100% recommend it to everyone! There is something to do for people of all ages. Whether you’re a hiker, a swimmer, a boat and history lover – there’s something for everyone.
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Wakulla Spring, or have I convinced you?! Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!