- Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
- 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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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 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 300 species of birds, 52 species of mammals, 40 species of amphibians and 65 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 70,000-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 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 85 wooden and iron 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 foot. 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 Saturdays and Sundays; it is closed on most federal holidays.