St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

#3 in Best Things To Do in Tallahassee
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Key Info

Lighthouse Road

Details

Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.5Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Although Tallahassee sits more inland compared to other popular vacation destinations in Florida, this capital city has plenty of wildlife and scenic landscapes to offer visitors. Case in point: the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Located just 23 miles south of Tallahassee, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit for anyone looking to spot some indigenous animals.

Established in 1931 as a protected habitat for migratory birds, St. Marks Refuge now acts as the home for more than 250 species of birds, 52 species of mammals, 40 species of amphibians and 66 species of reptiles. Of these species, many are rare or endangered, including the whooping crane, the flatwoods salamander and the West Indian manatee. Visitors, therefore, have plenty to look for on this sprawling 80,000-acre wildlife sanctuary.

For those looking for a bit more activity, travelers can hike, fish, bike and horseback ride on the property. Previous visitors particularly enjoyed the refuge's recently renovated St. Marks Lighthouse, which was built in 1842 and is the second oldest lighthouse in the state. However, because the lighthouse is still in use, visitors are not permitted to climb the steps to the top. Still, the structure offers plenty of photo-ops and is a prime spot for bird-watching.

To enter the refuge, visitors are required to pay a $5 fee per vehicle or $1 if arriving by bike or on foot. An additional $2 fee covers anyone who wants to tour the keeper's house of the lighthouse. Restrooms, boat ramps and a gift store can all be found inside. Dogs are welcome at the refuge, as long as they are leashed. Outside food is also permitted, but visitors must toss their trash after exiting since there are no trash cans inside. St. Marks Refuge is open year-round during daylight hours, and the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; it is closed on most federal holidays. For more information, visit the St. Marks website.

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#1 Tallahassee Museum

Located about 6 miles southwest of downtown Tallahassee near Lake Bradford and Cascade Lake, the Tallahassee Museum is the perfect attraction for those looking to have some fun outdoors. Moved to its current location in the 1960s, the museum has evolved to include 52 acres of nature trails, living exhibits of flora and fauna, historical buildings, and a zip line and aerial adventure course.

Prior travelers said the outdoor adventure activities and rare wildlife living throughout the property more than justify the museum's admission price. However, even though the on-site parking lot does offer handicapped spots, the absence of paved pathways and accessible ramps makes the property difficult for visitors with mobility limitations to traverse.

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