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Bradfordville Bugle

St. Marks Wildlife Refuge summer day trip guide

Jul 14, 2022 11:07AM ● By Cristi Mc Kee

The St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, located just about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, is a wilderness oasis that is close to home and the prime spot for a summer day trip with family and friends. St. Marks Wildlife Refuge is actually one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the U.S., and encompasses parts of Taylor, Wakulla, and Jefferson Counties. With 68,000 acres of land belonging to the refuge, there are plenty of fun things to do and interesting things to see during your day trip this summer. An entrance fee is required per car. To get the most out of your visit, a day trip guide can be found below. 


Pack a picnic — The peaceful, natural environment that is St. Marks Wildlife Refuge creates an ideal environment to have a relaxing picnic in. Restrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables are located throughout the refuge, so you can take your pick and choose a spot that everybody will enjoy. Be sure to clean up and throw away any trash after your picnic! 

Attend a class — Throughout the year, the refuge offers a plethora of different classes and workshops for all ages. Their Environmental Education Building, located next to the Visitor’s Center, hosts wildlife photography classes, environmental education classes, the St. Marks NWR Photo Club, First Sunday at the Refuge programs, and more. Consider taking a class or attending a workshop or program during your day trip. Find their calendar of events, here.

Get there early to see the sunrise — The refuge is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset, with the gate leading to the road to the lighthouse going up at 6:00 a.m. each day. Starting your day trip early allows you to see a beautiful sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico—a perfect way to begin your time at the refuge.

Stick around to watch dolphins — Driving into the lighthouse parking lot, you may be treated to a fascinating dolphin sighting experience. The lighthouse parking lot overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, and dolphins are often seen jumping and hunting in the ocean. 

Look up — High in the sky, there is a possibility that you will see eagles soaring, ospreys nesting, pelicans and seagulls flying and more. Keep an eye out for these intriguing birds while on your day trip.

Hike — Some call the trails at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge a “trail runner’s dream”— with good reason! Numerous trails are found throughout the refuge, with something for beginning trail hikers to more advanced ones alike. Flora and fauna (and alligators sunning on the bays), can also be spotted on these trails. 

Bring a camera — Between the dolphin sightings, beautiful flora and fauna, alligator sightings and eagles soaring in the sky, you may want to bring a camera to capture a couple of shots during your day trip. 

Visit the lighthouse — This one might be obvious, given that the lighthouse is a very popular attraction at the refuge. Tours of the keeper’s house are given on the first Friday and Saturday of each month, open to those who are 12-years-old and older. A $2 entrance fee is required for the tour.