Top Landmarks of Florida’s Panhandle

Explore Florida’s Panhandle

Visit Florida’s Panhandle for an experience like no other. The region stretches roughly 200 miles from the state line at Alabama east to Apalachicola. The area is home to an array of historical, natural, and cultural gems. Come along as we explore the top landmarks of Florida’s panhandle.

Apalachicola

US Highway 98 at the Apalachicola River

Referred to as the Forgotten Coast because it remains unspoiled by development, this region of Florida has the charm of a bygone era. Apalachicola is a small, historic port town on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The laid-back vibe of this quaint community makes it ideal for relaxing or strolling the historic district. Apalachicola has long been known for its seafood. The town’s fish houses have long played a part of the region’s oyster industry.

Among the town’s museums is the John Gorrie Museum State Park. Mr. Gorrie invented the ice machine here in 1851. This led to the invention of the air conditioner, which any Floridian can tell you is the most important invention ever! Stop in to one of the town’s friendly bars or micro-breweries and have a drink in his honor!

Insider Tip: The Apalachicola River marks the change in time zones between Eastern and Central once you cross west of the river. Plan your travels and arrival times accordingly!

Learn more about Apalach, as the locals call it, here.

Falling Waters State Park

1130 State Park Road, Chipley

This quiet, serene sate park is full of natural beauty, hiking trails, and an amazing butterfly garden. The real draw here is Florida’s highest waterfall!

Walk the boardwalk to reach this natural landmark. Against the dense green Florida foliage, Falling Waters drops 100 feet into an ancient sinkhole. Enjoy the sound of the stream as it travels down to points unknown. Where the water goes, nobody knows – the bottom of this sink hasn’t been discovered!

The park also houses the remnants of Florida’s first oil well, and a grist mill from the 1860s.

Visitors to Falling Waters can also enjoy hiking, swimming in the fresh water lake, and fishing (bring your own equipment and fishing license). Tech savvy travelers might enjoy geo-seeking, a high-tech type of treasure hunt.ย  Learn all that Falling Waters has to offer here.

Wakulla Springs State Park

465 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs

This 6,000 acre designated National Natural Landmark has something for everyone.

Nature lovers will marvel at the world’s largest freshwater spring. You can check out the shimmering turquoise water from the comfort of a riverboat tour. Lucky visitors might spot an alligator or manatee making a guest appearance!

History hounds can learn about the peoples who have lived here for thousands of years. Guests can tour, and even stay in, the 1937 Wakulla Springs Lodge with its original decor.

Remember the classic film “Creature from the Black Lagoon?” Film buffs will enjoy knowing the movie was filmed here!

Adventurous types can jump from the 22 foot dive/observation tower into the 70-degee waters of the Spring. For those who’d rather ease into the water, the grassy beach is also an option. Visitors with mobility issues can arrange to use the park’s assist vehicle to access the water.

The park has hiking and equestrian trails (you’ll need to bring your own horse). Dining options range from upscale to an old fashioned soda fountain.

Insider Tip: Upon arrival get your riverboat tickets ($8 per person) and then explore the lodge until it’s time to board.

Start planning to make new memories at Wakkulla Springs here.

Tallahassee

Mission San Luis

2100 West Tennessee Street, Tallahassee

Step into the 17th Century at this Spanish colonial village. Walk among Apalachee Indian and Spanish structures as they stood over 300 years ago.

Historians have carefully re-created the village. One of the most impressive buildings is the five-story high Council House, where over 1,500 could have gathered at a time.

This family-friendly landmark has programs and activities for visitors of all ages.ย  To learn more about what awaits you at Mission San Luis click here.

Florida A&M University

1601 South Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Tallahassee

High atop Tallahassee’s highest hill sits Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Founded in 1887 as Florida’s first black university, a portion of this beautiful campus has been designated a national historic district.

Visitors are welcome to stroll around the campus. Be sure to look for the beautiful Carnegie Library (1907) and Lee Hall (1928), which is now a performing arts venue.

Pensacola

Explore all Pensacola has to offer, from pristine Gulf Beaches to rich historical features. This waterfront city was home to the first European settlement in the United States. As the town only lasted a short while before being wiped-out by a hurricane, St. Augustine, gets all the cred.

The charming Victorian architecture and thriving downtown and fishing industry make this an exciting city. The restored downtown is one of the most laid back, yet hip cities in the Sunshine State. Numerous historic buildings have been lovingly restored and house restaurants and shops.

Start planning your visit to America’s first city here.

Hold Down the Forts!

Florida’s northern Gulf coast is known for its white sand beaches and wind-swept dunes. The region also once played an important role in U.S. military history. After Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States a number of forts were constructed to protect the Gulf coast:

Fort Barrancas

3182 Taylor Road, Pensacola

Constructed in 1839, This National Historic Landmark is located within Naval Air Station Pensacola. The views  of the ocean from the visitor center are spectacular. Visitors of all ages will enjoy exploring the original tunnels. Some say this fort is haunted. You’ll have to investigate for yourselves.

Insider Tip: The Fort can only be accessed through the checkpoint of the Naval Air Station. Be sure all visitors have valid photo ID to show at the gate.

Fort George

501 North Palafox Street, Pensacola

Built in 1778 to protect British Florida from the Spanish. That didn’t work out so well when the Spanish captured Pensacola in 1781. The original fort is long gone, but a portion of it has been recreated to mark its original location.

Fort Pickens

1400 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach

Constructed in the 1830s to defend Pensacola Bay, Fort Pickens still stands on Santa Rosa Island.

Also at Fort Pickens there are two gun battery structures from the early 1900s. Check out the spectacular Gulf view from the top of these bunkers — it’s worth the climb.

Fort McCree

Perdido Key

Fort McCree was all but destroyed by the Union during the Civil War. Even thought the fort is long-gone, visitors still enjoy the isolation of “the lost fort of Pensacola Bay.” Getting to this fort means hiking several miles from the nearest road, or better yet, take a boat!

Gun batteries were added in the early 1900s to modernize the forts. Visitors can tour Battery Slemmer and Battery Center for great photo opps.

Scenic Highway 30A

Rosemary Beach north to Grayton Beach

This designated Florida Scenic Highway transcends the typical road trip. A drive down Scenic Highway 30A is a journey through a unique version of Florida.

Along the way you’ll encounter unspoiled Gulf beaches and charming beach villages. The combination of natural and man-made features make this one of the Florida Panhandle’s top landmarks.

This two-lane road runs from Rosemary Beach north 24 miles to Grayton Beach. This popular roadway even has its own fan club, the Friends of Scenic 30A.

Enjoy the Ride

From the natural wonders of the world’s largest natural spring, to the streets of America’s first city, Florida’s panhandle has something for everyone. Enjoy the slower pace and easy ride. No matter where in the Florida panhandle your adventures take you, you’re sure to return home with great memories and new stories to share.

Written by Jacqui May

Jacqui May has a background in nonprofit project management and writing. She is currently a freelance consultant, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and writer. She enjoys working with diverse organizations to connect them with resources, and make a difference in the community.

Jacqui is a straight ally and several of her close family and friends identify as lgbtq. She volunteers with organizations serving veterans, developmentally disabled adults, the homeless, and low-income community members.

Originally from New York City, she is a long-time Floridian and has extensively explored the Sunshine State. Jacqui loves history and believes that everyone has a story worth listening to.


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