The Byway connects five museums, nine state parks and three state forests offering two distinct experiences: the Forest and Coastal Trails. The Forest Trail follows an ancient sea bed through stretches of pine forests, wetlands and river flood plains. The Coastal Trail provides a look at old Florida fishing villages and maritime history including three 18th century lighthouses and a 16th century Spanish fort. Below are a few highlights. For a full list, please visit www.floridabigbendscenicbyway.com.
Along the Coast to the Oyster Bay
Located in the center of St. George Island, this lighthouse was tended for more than 100 years leading mariners safely into Apalachicola Bay. Now it serves as a museum. Visit st.georgelight.org for seasonal operating hours. Admission to climb the lighthouse: $5 adults, $3 children under 16, children 6 and under free.
Once the third largest shipping port on the Gulf Coast, the city is historic homes and buildings fill this seaside community. Enjoy fresh seafood and famous Apalachicola oysters, shop in galleries and boutiques in former warehouses built when the town relied on shipping.
Families learn about the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem first hand. Interactive touch aquariums provide hands-on encounters with starfish, sea urchins and crabs. Guided tours of the facility, local salt marshes and dock are offered. Lab is open Monday– Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday noon-4 p.m. Admission: $8.50 adults, $6 children 3-11 years old and $7 for seniors. Reservations needed for tours.
This National Historic Landmark is where Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in the area with 300 men in 1528. Located at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, the Spanish built the original fort in 1679 to protect the Spanish missions in the area. Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Park entrance FREE. Museum admission $2. Children 5 and younger, FREE.
The Refuge is a part of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail. Visit the ranger station and borrow binoculars and scopes to view birds and wildlife found throughout the park. The grounds also include a historic lighthouse. Each October thousands of Monarch butterflies stop here for food and rest on their migration to Mexico. Open sunrise to sundown 365 days a year. Admission: $5 per vehicle and $1 for pedestrian/bicyclists.
Both local outfitters offer canoe/kayak rentals and guided trips down the Wakulla River. Known for its clear spring fed waters, the river is a great place to see area wildlife especially manatees. Contact outfitters for prices and hours.