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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Reflections at St. Marks Lighthouse 

My painting of St. Marks Lighthouse.

My painting of St. Marks Lighthouse.

It was a time for me to reflect before the New Year began. I painted this lighthouse after spending a subdued day in quiet meditation.  In my moments of solitude, I thought of St. Marks Lighthouse. Quietly tucked away on Florida’s gulf coast it is a few miles and a world away from Tallahassee. Away from the hustle bustle of the capital,  Apalachee Bay is a reflection of what Florida is really about. Salt marshes, pine forest, egrets make for a picturesque backdrop. It’s a nature lovers paradise with eagles, alligators, bitterns, ducks, herons, ibises and more. 

A view from St. Marks Lighthouse.

A view from St. Marks Lighthouse.


A day from the hustle and bustle of life reminded me what life was really about. 

A lady pauses to take a photo of St. Marks Lighthouse.


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

elainemarieartist.com

Shop Small, Save Big

New Canal Lighthouse.

Save on my museum quality prints at the Jacksonville International Airport.

Experience the best of Jacksonville 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. 

Made in Jax.

Local artists are showcased at Made in Jax.


Save big on my museum quality 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. 

Purchase unique gifts at Made in Jax.

Purchase unique gifts & souvenirs from Made in Jax.

You May Hold the Key

Many lighthouses are owned by non profits.

Many lighthouses like the St. Augustine Lighthouse are owned by non profits.


In 2016, Florida Keys Reef Lighthouses were listed among the most endangered historical sites by a Preservation group. Now the fate of the Lighthouses may soon be in the hands of the public or non profits.
Five Keys Reef lighthouses have been declared excess by the Coast Guard. They will be offered for free to a non profit or government agency. If that fails the Lighthouses will be put up for public auction.
According to Adam Rondeau, regional public affairs officer for Government Services Administration, “The disposition of these lighthouses will be conducted in accordance with the National Lighthouse Preservation Act.” (Miami Herald)

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) 

Elainemarieartist.com

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