We recently spent the night at the historic Lodge at Wakulla Springs in the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. The Lodge and park are about 250 miles north of Tampa Bay and about 30 miles south of Tallahassee.
We set out early on a Friday morning back in October for the Springs. Officially named after the original owner, it was about a half day drive for us, straight up US 19 from Clearwater to the Florida Panhandle. We were actually headed to the Monarch Butterfly Festival at the nearby St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday.
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was thirty miles away from the refuge, so provided for easy access to the Saturday festival. The lodge in its day, a grand hotel, built with Tennessee marble, local heart cypress, and imported tiles, opened in 1937. Edward Ball, a financial manager and son-in-law of the DuPont family built the lodge so that people could enjoy this unique woodland and spring. The State of Florida purchased he lands and lodge after Ball’s death in 1986.
The Lodge and the grounds have quite the history. Archaeological finds in the park include early stone blades and Clovis spear points dating back to 12,000 BC, discovered during the lodge renovation. Fossilized remains of mastodon and other prehistoric animals remain in the spring and a fossil can be seen at the entrance to the jungle ride.
Florida Springs are favorite locations for movies because of the tropical appearance and Wakulla is no exception. Most famous were Tarzan movies and many scenes from the classic film “Creature from the Black Lagoon” were filmed at the spring.
The Lodge is also home to the oldest working Art Deco Elevator, one that would have had an attendant …back in its glory.
After lunch we had the house specialty, ginger yip at this historic soda fountain.
Swimmers in the spring
While we waited to board the “Wakulla River Florida Jungle Cruise” for 5pm (reservations required), the last cruise of the day, we watched brave souls diving into the sixty-eight degree water.
Rangers narrate a tour of the river in these historic little river boats. Unfortunately the spring is too cloudy for the glass bottom boat ride.
Coming from south-central Florida , we found the bird population at the spring identical to those on our waterways. Given that we were four hours north, I found this interesting. For folks interested in seeing birds, such as the ibis, little blue heron and anhinga in this picture… normally seen in south Florida, this is the boat ride for them.
I don’t mean to do a review of the lodgings here or the restaurant, but I will follow-up with a Trip Advisor Review. We paid $169 for our room. This included a substantial breakfast and admission to the park. Even with that, it was pretty expensive, given the room. The lodge in many ways remains true to its 1937 roots and often not in a good way. An awful lot is in need of repairs or just cleaning.
The park’s isolation pretty much guarantees that lodgers eat in the park. I looked at the various Google and Trip Advisor Reviews prior to our trip. The food was well-reviewed and we thoroughly enjoyed all three meals…but the service…well there were definitely holes. Again a topic for a review. The lobby is lovely so we were only a little annoyed at the long wait for dinner. People gather here to play antique checkers and other games as the rooms do not have televisions but do have wi-fi. There is even a Pokemon Gym in the back yard.
Early the Saturday morning I set out on my morning trail run on the Wakulla Springs Trail…right out the front door. The six-mile trail crosses the river and heads east. It was chilly, in the 50s, but with not a cloud in the sky. I gotta say that this was truly one of the best trail runs that I have experienced. The well-maintained trail and woods are quite interesting, with many of the trees labeled so that I could read the little placards as I ran. Unlike the birds, the trees here are quite different from South-central Florida, with quite the mixture of hardwoods, uncommon in most of Florida, and trees common to south-Florida, such as palms. Some trees were even losing leaves and exhibiting fall color. Truly a great end to our stay.