Although I live in the city, I spend a lot of time outdoors studying birds and wildlife, and I realized a few years ago that Wakulla County is one of the best places in Florida to do this. So, last Friday a friend of mine and I decided to visit the area, and we weren’t disappointed.
Our first stop was Wakulla Springs State Park, and being middle-aged and a lifelong Florida resident, seeing the Wakulla Lodge reminded me so much of old Florida I immediately called a friend of mine from grade school—he now lives in Chicago—and told him I felt like I was 10 years old again. Growing up, we both visited Silver Springs, Weeki Wachee, Marineland, and even Six Gun Territory (I know, I’m old), so it was great seeing a part of our state that has stood the test of time. Also, as soon as we went behind the lodge and walked up on the spring’s viewing platform we saw a manatee and her calf, and after a long walk on the hiking trail we had a staring contest with two deer that were only about 25 feet away!
As you may have realized by now I’m not a theme park kind of guy, which is another reason I came to Wakulla. I love the fact that there are so many hotels and restaurants in the area that are locally owned, which is why I chose to stay at the Magnuson and eat dinner at the Seineyard. The seafood there was the best I’ve had in a while, and I’m glad we got there at 5:15 because around 6:00 PM all the seats were taken. I recommend the fried shrimp and coleslaw, and I also noticed the salad dressing was homemade.
The next morning we went to St. Marks NWR, and being wildlife enthusiasts, it was great to see three deer as soon as we drove into the park. Right after we pulled into the parking area I noticed an easel where visitors right down what animals they’ve seen, which is a great idea (I thought it would be redundant to write down we’d seen deer since they seem to be everywhere in the area).
After we drove about a mile we parked by the trailhead on our left and decided we’d walk about 3 ½ miles north and then turn around and come back. During the walk we saw and heard many woodpeckers, a couple egrets, several deer, five small alligators, and right before we turned around we saw a bobcat sitting in the middle of the trail! It only let us get within about 100 yards of it, but my friend and I were thrilled because we have never seen one in the wild. I know if you live in the Wakulla area you probably see them often, but both of us our city boys, so to us, it was a BIG deal.
Besides the abundance of wildlife, another good thing about the area is the solitude—in our five hours of hiking in two days, we only saw one other person on the trails, and that was toward the end of our second hike (he was a birder that was so serious about his hobby he offered us a peace sign instead of sounding a greeting—I loved it). My only regret about the trip is I forgot to write on the visitor board that I saw a bobcat!
Randy is a freelance writer with a degree in Journalism from the University of Florida. He writes for several magazines, including Bird Watcher’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day. He coached track and field for high school and college over 20 years, and is married with a son.