Wildlife Abounds at Apalachee Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Entry Sign to Wakulla Springs

Wakulla Springs offers swimming, historic lodging, boat tours & more.

On the way to St. Marks Lighthouse I stopped by Wakulla Springs. For years I wanted to go to Wakulla to see the manatees. On the day of my arrival, I was told no manatees had been sighted. Still I purchased a ticket on the boat tour. Much to my delight a huge manatee swam beside me a few seconds after the tour began. Before the end of the tour, I saw 6 more manatees including 3 calves. 
A picture of a large manatee

This manatee outwitted the expert’s prediction.


The next day I headed to St. Marks. Once I arrived at St. Marks I realized I should have stayed at Crawfordville. Despite the name, Crawfordville is very lively and has much to offer like dining, shopping and pleasant hotels. There’s little see or do in St. Marks for landlubbers and the lodgings are subpar.  

A scenic view of St. Marks Wikdlife Refuge.

A scenic view of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.


After spending the night at a Bed and Breakfast Inn, I headed to St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. Besides the lighthouse, the Refuge has picnic areas, a beach, a welcome center and gift shop. I enjoyed a scenic and quiet drive to the lighthouse. The salt marsh, pine forest, egrets made for a picturesque backdrop. It’s a nature lovers paradise with eagles, alligators, bitterns, ducks, herons, ibises and more. 

Picture of St Marks Lighthouse

St. Marks Lighthouse had two female lightkeepers.


The St. Marks Lighthouse recently reopened after being closed for renovations for 6 months. It is the second oldest lighthouse surviving in Florida. It is listed on the National Register. The keeper’s house is attached to the 88 foot tower. 

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Good News and Bad News

St Marks after restoration.

St. Marks after being newly restored.

Hurricane Michael brought devastating damage to the west coast of Florida. The aftermath of the hurricane brought good news and bad news for a lighthouse on the west coast that was recently restored.

 The St. Marks Lighthouse keepers quarters staircase was destroyed but water did not get inside. 
Other areas of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge sustained damage that caused the closure of roadways and damage to other facilities. (Tallahassee Democrats) 

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Lighthouses Built to be in Harm’s Way 

Hurricanes do terrible damage to lighthouses. I know that lives are of far more value than lighthouses. Still I can’t help but wonder how Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the other lighthouses on the East Coat will be impacted by Hurricane Florence. It goes without saying that lighthouses are high risk real estate. The sole purpose of a lighthouse is to save lives in dangerous places. 
I thought about this while finishing this article on New Canal Lighthouse in New Orleans. It was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
I visited the New Canal Lighthouse during an overnight stay in New Orleans. I realize the typical tourist in New Orleans doesn’t visit a lighthouse but I was surprised when the Concierge had no knowledge of any Lighthouses in the area. In fact there were two-New Canal and Port Pontchartrain. 
Undaunted I used GPS to find the lighthouse. I arrived a few hours before the lighthouse opened. 
The New Canal Lighthouse resembles a house. The rebuilt lighthouse sits atop pilings to prevent storm surges like the one caused by Hurricane Katrina. The lighthouse was restored by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation in 2012. 

Hillsboro Lighthouse Celebrates National Lighthouse Day

Enjoy a boat ride, explore the grounds and climb the Hillsboro Lighthouse in Pompano Beach, Florida. Join the Hillsboro Lighthouse Society’s National Lighthouse Day celebration on Saturday, August 11. 
The Hillsboro Lighthouse first illuminated on March 7, 1907, completed the chain of lights which extended from Jupiter Inlet to the Torguas. The lighthouse, also called “Big Diamond” is unique. With of a beam of 28 nautical miles, it is has the strongest light beam of all US lighthouses. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. 
The shuttle to the lighthouse sails in the morning at 8:15, 9:00, 9:45, 10:30 and 11:15. Pay $35 for day or purchase yearlong membership for the same price. For more information, visit Hillsboro Lighthouse

Beacons of the High Seas

According to the Navy League, no industry has been more vital to the economy of the United States than that of America’s maritime industry. Lighthouses was once the cornerstone of maritime industry. 


For the month of August, I will be celebrating National Lighthouse Day with discounts on my lighthouse art at the boutique store Made in Jax at the Jacksonville International Airport. 


Save big on my Gliclee prints at the airport. Gliclee (zhee-KLAY) is a museum quality investment that uses acid free watercolor paper, and pigment based archival inks. This insures that Gliclees never fade, degrade or yellow. Unlike a print that may fade, a 6 color ink jet process ensures a Gliclee retains its original luster. 

The best deal in Nantucket

Granted Nantucket is known as an upscale resort with pricey hotels. The visitors read like a who’s who list from Fortune 500. Despite of all the pricey obstacles, I was lured by the four lighthouses. I was also intrigued about staying at a historic building. Star of the Sea Hostel in Nantucket was once a Life Saving Station. It had been a part of the United States Life Saving Service.


I admit to being reluctant about staying at this hostel. I mean I didn’t know to expect when I booked two nights for $80. That wasn’t exactly the going rate in Nantucket. Yet, I recalled saving a bundle of cash and being happy when I stayed at the dorms at historic Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and Suffolk University in Boston. But a dorm with 32 bunk beds didn’t seem very inviting. I wondered about privacy and the bathrooms.


But the excitement of staying where the Keepers would look for shipwrecks was persuasive. There are steps to the lookou in the women’s dorm where I would be sleeping. I finally voted in favor of the lookout, lighthouses and my pocketbook when I read all the positive reviews. 


Once I checked into the hostel all my concerns evaporated. The furnishings were modern and well kept. The bathroom had a private door. 

My bunk was on the bottom in a quiet corner of the dorm. The first night the dorm was packed. But at night the dorm was quiet because everyone observed the quiet hours from 10 pm to 7 am. I watched a movie with the free wifi and put my phone on silent. 


In the morning there was a light complimentary breakfast with cereal, coffee and assorted breads. For those who want to prepare a heavier meal, there’s a fully equipped kitchen with dishes, pots and more. 


My second evening at the hostel was extremely quiet as most of the quests had checked out. During my stay, three ladies were kind enough to befriend me and invite me to sit at their table. I learned from them that there are cabins for rent in addition to the beds in the female dorm. They also taught me the truth of hostel’s motto: “There are no strangers only friends you haven’t met.” 

It takes a village to get to Sankaty

I knew from the start that my journey to Sankaty Lighthouse would be a long one. I stayed in a hostel on the southern coast of Nantucket Island at Surfside Beach and Sankaty Lighthouse was located on the eastern coast. I rode a bus into town then caught a bus to Sconset. 


Upon getting off the bus, I looked for directional signs to the lighthouse and found none. After walking the wrong way, I asked for directions. A couple of acquaintances the day before recommended the scenic route for the two mile trek to the lighthouse but gave no detailed instructions. Thankfully, I met a family who gave me printed instructions and tips for navigating the route. The path to lighthouse was scenic but tricky indeed. It led through a rocky road between some cottages then to a short paved walkway and to a grassy winding unmarked trail. 


As I crossed a couple of lawns during the walk, I became unnerved. I felt like I was trespassing but I had been reassured that the land on the path was public. After walking for a while, I became concerned that I was lost. One couple told me I was indeed lost and directed me toward the pavement. Another couple said they were walking to the lighthouse and invited me follow them along the grassy path I was on. This preposition seemed more reasonable. When the winding path eventually ended, we began the final 15 minute trek on a paved road to Sankaty Lighthouse. 


As I approached the lighthouse, I was delighted to see two lights flashing at the 70 foot red and white lighthouse ahead. Built in 1850, Sankaty lighthouse overlooks the Sankaty Head Golf Club and the Atlantic Ocean. There was marker indicating the previous location of the lighthouse which was moved in 2007. Signage told the story of the lighthouse. As I set down and sketched, I reflected on the long winding path and pondered how to include it in my final art. 


After being warned about the presence of deer ticks in the grassy areas, I decided forego the scenic route and take the paved road back to Sconset.