This time of year, many families are looking for ways to entertain their kids during spring break. For those not planning to travel far, our area is full of fun, and often inexpensive, outdoor adventures.
As part of a series of field excursions led by Extension Agents over the past few years, we’ve been able to introduce visitors and lifelong residents of the panhandle to some tremendous natural resources that are right at our back door.
Following are three examples of family friendly trips worth marking off your “Florida bucket list.”
Perdido River: the natural border between Alabama and Florida, the Perdido stretches over 65 miles from its source near Atmore, Alabama and ends up at Perdido Key in the Gulf. Clean, clear, and sandy-bottomed, the Perdido River is a perfect spot to tube, kayak, canoe or paddleboard and several local outfitters can provide equipment. While on the river, you might experience a flyover from a bald eagle, see towering bald cypress, or explore shallow backwater springs and swamps.
Further east is Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. This region is one of the most biodiverse in the state, with endemic tree species—like the Florida Torreya, found only in three counties in the state—along with many hardwood species found more typically in the central Appalachians. The extensive limestone cavern and spring systems in Jackson County are home to beautiful swimming/diving spots as well as the caverns. The ranger-led tours are excellent, as well as the hiking trails within the park grounds. The cave tour takes about an hour and is mildly strenuous. There are no tours on Tuesday or Wednesday, so keep this in mind when planning a visit.
At the edge of our district is Hollywood-famous Wakulla Springs. Film site for both “Tarzan” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, the spring teems with wildlife year-round. A guided tour via pontoon boat will bring you up close to manatees, alligators, ospreys, anhingas, and large herons. Hiking trails, a swimming hole, and the historic lodge and restaurant are open to visitors as well. The nearby Chipola River is also a beautiful spot to paddle.
Every county in the Florida panhandle has tremendous water resources, from the Gulf to inland rivers and even waterfalls. Take time to explore on your days off this spring!