Beneath the surface of the sleepy waterfront village of St. Marks, Florida, lay centuries of intriguing stories waiting to be told – of Apalachee Indians, Spanish explorers, and Indian wars; of forts and cannon fire, pirates, sunken ships, and battles with invasive forces up through the Civil War. This historic gulfport city may be the third oldest settlement in North America, staking claim to one of the longest histories of any place in Florida. Nomadic native tribes roamed the area long before documented European influence began with the arrival of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528, who was searching for gold. Many flags have flown over Fort San Marcos de Apalache, built at the strategic confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers; the historic site has has a long, colorful history of occupation by the Spanish, English, American, and Southern Confederate forces. The National Landmark is now a Historic State Park with interpretive signage and museum displays.
St. Marks became an important shipping port during the cotton trade. Florida’s first railroad, built in 1836, connected the port to the nearby territorial capital of Tallahassee for use in the export of cotton. The abandoned rail line now serves as a popular bicycle and equestrian trail. The historic St. Marks Lighthouse, located in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the second oldest lighthouse in Florida, still stands sentinel over the shores of Apalachee Bay. First constructed in 1831, the picturesque, lavishly photographed, whitewashed masonry tower and keeper’s quarters rest securely on a base of limestone rock taken from nearby Fort San Marcos de Apalache.
Over the years, St. Marks has become renowned as a fishing village for both commercial and sport fishing. Today, the quaint town stands ready to welcome visitors with a historical bed and breakfast inn, fish camp, grocery, restaurants, seafood market and modern marina, boat rentals, public boat ramps, charter boat captains, fishing guides, gift shops, and two lovely city parks perfect for family picnicking.
Surrounded by the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Apalachicola National Forest, and situated on two Outstanding Florida Waters, St. Marks caters to the nature lover and paddling enthusiast. River guides and outfitters provide necessary equipment and supplies for your paddling needs. The City of St. Marks is a designated Waterfronts Florida Partnership Community pumping new energy into the community through current revitalization projects. You know fall has arrived when fishermen start hauling in stone crabs in preparation for the popular Stone Crab Festival, which takes place every year at the end of October.
Plan your visit to this historic waterfront town – where the pages of the past come alive to meet the present. Where you can add your own name to the guest book of history alongside the centuries of others who have come before and those still to come. To historic St. Marks, Florida.