Find tranquility and peace at Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Nature softly beckons you to this peaceful wonderland. Picturesque rolling hills dotted with grazing cows usher you into Florida’s Forgotten Coast less than an hour’s drive from Tallahassee. Low lying clouds frame this idyllic setting along a winding quiet country road. This trip is easy on your eyes and your wallet. For the less than $20 a car, you can visit two of Florida’s hidden gems.
Kayaking, hiking, camping, angling await you at Wakulla County. There’s an abundance of outdoor recreation and wildlife at Edward Ball State Park and St. Marks National Refuge at Apalachee Bay on the Gulf Coast in Wakulla County.
Edward Ball State Park is home to Wakulla Springs. Take a refreshing dip in the swimming area and enjoy a relaxing cruise along Wakulla Springs. Get a glimpse of manatees, alligators and other wildlife in their natural habitat. The State Park also offers hiking trails and outdoor benches with grills. Stay the night at Wakulla Lodge and grab some ice cream at the parlor inside the lodge.
Climb a beautiful lighthouse; witness a breathtaking view at St Marks.
Established in 1931, St. Marks is a habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. During a hike, you may see deer, wild turkeys, owls, amphibians, reptiles and more. The lighthouse constructed in 1831 is on the National Register of Historic Sites. The light keeper’s house is attached to the 88 foot tower. Recently restored to its former glory, St. Marks Lighthouse reopens to the public in September.
Your visit to Wakulla County will leave you with postcard memories and peaceful experiences and a bundle of cold cash in your wallet.
Instead of counting sheep, I counted seven manatees and my blessings before bedding down at Wakulla Lodge. Located at Edward Ball State Park, the Historic Lodge offers a panoramic view of Wakulla Springs.
Everything is convenient. A swimming area and the Wakulla Springs Boat Cruise are a few steps away. A hiking trail is also across the street and bar-b-que grilling areas outside. There’s plenty of outdoor recreation to be had.
Inside the Wakulla Lodge, there is a pleasant dining room and an ice cream parlor with a gift shop. The rooms are clean and spacious. My room had a single bed, a double bed and a rollaway bed in a huge walk-in closet. Despite a few specks of chipped paint, the property which opened in 1937 wears its age quite well.
The prices are affordable and it’s a nice quiet getaway for the family. You won’t have the distractions of tv or the Internet. While there is Wifi, it never connected in my room. The front desk explained there was no internet due to a storm a few weeks ago.
It is also “hit and miss” making phone calls from a mobile device. Wakulla Lodge is a great retreat from the noise of modern living. While the Internet may or may not connect, families will have a chance to connect and experience the Real Florida.
When I purchased my ticket for the Wakulla Springs boat cruise, my only question was “Will I see manatees today.” I love manatees and I had planned this side trip just to see them. But the man at the ticket counter replied there were no reported sightings of manatees for the day. With my hopes somewhat dashed, I purchased my ticket for the 4 pm cruise. After all, the forecasters predicted rain and there had been no rain. Could the manatee forecast be wrong? Zero chance of manatees, I wondered.
Five minutes into the tour a huge manatee swam beside where I was sitting. I gave out a loud cheer. The guide was startled by the manatee and stopped for photo ops. He said this manatee sighting and a bird piercing a fish would be the highlights of tour. But he like the forecasters, was wrong. For a few minutes later, we watched a mother manatee nurse her calf before they swam away. Then sometime later, we saw a tiny manatee join his older sibling for a swim. Mom was overseeing the brood on the edge of the water nearby.
We had witnessed so many precious moments it was hard to believe that I had seen this all in the course of an hour. Before we ended the cruise, another manatee was sighted. Seven manatees in all.
At the end the cruise, the captain said he had never seen so many manatees on a cruise during the Spring. I smiled lifting my hands with heartfelt gratitude to the One who had sent manatees and sunshine my way. Zero chance of manatees? Hardly.
When I visited Titusville earlier this year, I was touched when I saw a street sign honoring Challenger Astronaut Ronald McNair. He was one of the seven astronauts who perished during the launch of the Challenger. A physicist and NASA astronaut, I’m sure he and his family had high hopes for his future.
Like the most of the nation, I watched with horror as the Challenger exploded in 1986. Often our nation’s military heroes die on some foreign soil, a distant place on a map. Their deaths sadly seem so far removed from us. But our televisions brought this sorrow closer to our hearts and living rooms.
In Titusville, I thought about the community, family, and friends who may be still grieving this loss. The “McNair” street sign became a memorial. On Memorial Day, we reflect and remember those who served our nation with the greatest of all sacrifices. We must also remember their loved ones who daily struggle with the emptiness in their hearts. Let us never forget.
I visited the Pensacola Lighthouse with my family after attending a reunion in Mississippi. This would be the fourth and final lighthouse to sketch during our trip. I was happy to end the trip with a lighthouse I had longed to paint. Located on the western most tip of Florida, the lighthouse seemed to be unreachable.
Although rain had been forecasted for the day, we decided to visit the lighthouse on a cloudy day. After clearing security, we headed to the lighthouse. The National Naval Aviation Museum was in eyesight of the museum. Although I’ve been to many air shows, the sight and sounds of the Blue Angels flying near the lighthouse captured my imagination.
To see more of my art and to learn more about lighthouses, visit my website Elaine Marie Artist
I traveled to Trinity Buoy Wharf to sketch London’s only lighthouse, Bow Creek or Trinity Lighthouse, a day before my visit to see the paintings of JMW Turner in the Tate Museum in London. I admire the art of Turner and was excited about my upcoming visit to the Tate Museum. There was much to see-Turner bequeathed over 300 paintings to museum.
But first I was headed to the lighthouse. As we got off the Tube, we followed the directional signs to Trinity Buoy Wharf. Once there, we happened upon a lightship, in addition to the lighthouse. Two light vessels at one stop! Amazed, I hurriedly sketched the lighthouse. As the wind flipped the pages, I quickly sketched the lightship while my daughter took shelter in a nearby restaurant.
As I sketched the lightship, I thought about Turner and pondered how I could pay tribute to him. Pausing for moment, I became spellbound by the lightship that was now converted into a studio. It seemed pregnant with stories of its past.
Back in the United States, I looked at my yellow foreground and became inspired when I read how much Turner used yellow. According to the book How to Paint like Turner, “Some of Turner’s most daring and experimental innovations centered around his use of yellow. It seems to have been his favorite color and he used it liberally…For more than thirty years his use of yellow became one of the most frequently mentioned aspects of his art, with critics variously accusing him of ‘yellow fever’…”
Experience the best of Jacksonville, Florida while exploring unique art, handcrafted items and custom jewelry at the boutique shop Made in Jax at the Jacksonville Airport. Over 60 local artists are showcased.
Stop by to see my Archival Gliclee Lighthouse watercolor prints. Each print in the Escape Artist series is signed and features a narrative with visitor information, interesting facts and a fascinating tale. To learn more about me, visit my website, Elaine Marie Artist