Friday, June 6, 2008

Reliving the Best Vacations - Part II

It will be forever difficult to top our vacation to St. Joseph Peninsula. However, we've taken a few others worth mentioning. Given our larger-than-average family, it is increasingly difficult to find a place to stay that can accommodate six people in one room. When Delta was an infant, we could usually get away with it. Now that she's older, we have found that we must either rent a house, stay in a condo, or request two adjoining rooms. This has severely limited our vacationing since we I am so frugally minded. This next vacation destination comes in second not only because of the outstanding time we had visiting Wakulla Springs last year, but because the staff happily allowed us to reserve a room that was really probably too small for our family but fit nicely into our budget. Since we basically only slept there, it wasn't a problem.

The Wakulla Springs Lodge was once a home to Edward Ball, a wealthy businessman and brother-in-law to Alfred I. duPont of the famed duPont family. The lodge, which maintains much of its period character, includes marble floors, antique furniture, and a rare vintage elevator still in excellent operating condition. As with our last getaway, you won't find a television in your room, though there is a telephone with a data port and a large screen television can be found in the lobby. The staff are happy to loan you a documentary or movie from their collection of those filmed on location in the area, such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, a few Tarzan flicks, and Airport 77. (Bring your own if you want to watch anything else!) Also in the lobby area are several marble checker boards with over-sized ceramic checkers where you will find guests at all times of the day and night playing and socializing. The old fashioned soda fountain and ice cream parlor/gift shop are also a fun stop, especially for the kids. Though the food seemed a bit pricey in the Ball Room Restaurant, you may wish to sample the "world famous" navy bean soup or fried chicken for breakfast. We just HAD to try the chicken for breakfast. Our 14 year old was forced to kind enough to watch her three younger siblings so we could slip out one morning.

Any time we go on vacation, the kids aren't complete without a dip in the water. Thank goodness Wakulla Springs, one of the largest and deepest fresh water springs in the world, provided plenty of opportunity for swimming, though it was dang cold. Floating docks are placed several yards out and there is a diving platform for the especially adventurous guests. At only several dollars each, the boat rides, including glass bottom boats, are also a must. (If you must choose between the two, I'd go for the boats over the fried chicken.)

Not too far from Wakulla and an extension of the park is Cherokee Sink. It's been referred to as a popular picnic area and swimming hole, but we stumbled upon it ourselves and wish we'd known about it sooner. The water was not as cold and it wasn't nearly as crowded. I will say though, that I got the creeps swimming there. It's so deep and you can't see through the murky water. When we got back home, I Googled the sinkhole to learn more about its depth and history and found that a woman had drowned there only a week before our visit. It was suggested that she may have gotten disoriented after diving into the water and went down instead of up.

On a lighter note, another interesting place within a short drive is St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge. For only $5 a car, you can see some pretty interesting wildlife. During our visit we saw countless alligators, one of which decided to cross the road right in front of our vehicle, an otter, and several wild hogs. There is also a lighthouse on the property (though it is closed to the public) and many species of birds and plant life.

So, again, add this one to your short list of places to visit on a budget. The rooms are between $85 and $105 per night and the recreational activities, which also include things like walking/bike trails, are reasonably priced, even for a larger family.


Marianne Thomas said...

Hi there! Congrats on your publishing success!

I lived in Jax, FL for 2.5 years; these pictures bring back a lot of memories of the Sunshine State.

Thanks for stopping by W-M and keep blogging!

Wild Squirrel said...

Thanks, Marianne!