From Destin to Tallahassee was a breeze! Our drive was only 165 miles, which is such a short travel day. The sun was shining, the roads were nice, and we arrived right around the earliest check in time. Tallahassee is not just the capitol of Florida, but also home to Florida State University, and is right around 200,000 people, which is just large enough to give you a little bit of everything you might need.
For this stay, we had a waterfront view right next to Lake Talquin. It was really tranquil, tucked in beneath the Spanish moss-covered trees and just 20 minutes away from downtown Tallahassee. The campground had the basics…bathrooms with showers, water and electric hookups, a fire ring and a picnic table at each camp site, and a dump station next to the entrance/exit to the park. Next door was a boat ramp and dock for easy lake access, and just down the road we were trails within the Lake Talquin State Park. For the low-key camping experience, this place was just right. If you require full hookups, on-site laundry, etc., you will need to look elsewhere. We took advantage of a warmer night and had our third campfire since we have been on the road, and listened to the frogs, crickets and other wildlife serenade us. We loved our stay and would come back again.
The day after we arrived, we decided to explore the downtown Tallahassee area. Because it’s the capitol of Florida, it really is a beautiful little city, and surprisingly hilly for Florida. In the heart of downtown is a nicely landscaped park with an amphitheater, ample walking paths, and connections to historic landmarks. This park is next to walk/bike paths that connect you to the Railroad Square Art District. We had hoped to explore more, but I was having another one of my all-day sneezing fits, and needed to head back for a nap. 😞
Tate’s Hell hike & St. George Island
My friend Tali that I met in Montana has been helping me out with great hiking tips and a multitude of other recommendations as we travel along, and the hike through Tate’s Hell State Forest was one of them. Thanks Tali! 😍 We had a lovely drive from Tallahassee to the Gulf Coast, which took about an hour and a half. There are no facilities (e.g. bathrooms, picnic tables, etc.) at the first trailhead, just FYI. I’m not sure if there are any at the second trailhead, because we didn’t travel there, but it’s just a few miles down the road.
There are two loops, including the shorter East Loop and the longer West Loop. We started out on the West Loop going clockwise, and took as many of the side trails off the wider main path as we could. At a cutoff around the 3 mile marker we headed back eastward. Along the way, the trails alternated between muddy bogs to pine straw to sand. The highlight was seeing these tiny little carnivorous plants called sundews that aren’t much wider than an inch and a half. It was also nice to be out in the warmth of the sunshine enjoying nature.
Most of the northern part of the West Loop was a fire road, and we didn’t see as many interesting things. The areas next to bogs had raised foot bridges to walk around them, which was great so we wouldn’t get our feet wet. We decided to do the East Loop, but in hindsight I wish we had not, because we didn’t see much of anything and the trail was mostly sand. 🙁 We were tired and hungry afterward to decided to head over the St. George Island nearby for a drink and some food.
Along the drive to the island, we noticed there were long docks next to the bridge, and realized that they must have been repurposed from an older bridge. It’s nice that they still made it accessible for fishing and foot traffic. On the island we went to the Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe. It was shaded, cold and windy where we were seated, so we kind of regretted our tropical drinks that we ordered. 🥶😂 However, the smoked tuna dip and blue crab claws helped tide us over until we got back home. We had a lovely drive back on a different route and really enjoyed the whole day.
Bike ride to St. Marks
Th next day we decided to take advantage of a dedicated walk/bike path converted from an old railroad that takes you from Tallahassee down to St. Marks, and is around 16 miles one way. The trail is mostly shaded and has ample benches, bathrooms and other parks and playgrounds along the way, making it family-friendly and easy for everyone to enjoy. It’s fairly flat and there isn’t a lot of scenery or even curves in the path, so it was mostly uneventful. It did get windier later on, so we were lucky we didn’t get hit by some falling palm fronds we discovered on the way back. 😯
While down in St. Marks, we stopped at the Riverside Cafe. There is ample seating and even a bar dockside where I saw a bunch of pelicans hanging out, sunning themselves. The food was kind of lackluster, and due to the open air aspect of the bar, we did get pooped on by some birds. 🤢 However, it comes with the territory, so we couldn’t be too upset. Next time we will have to choose our table more carefully…🧐
Although it wasn’t the most exciting bike ride, it was nice to get out and enjoy the sunny weather, and it’s great that they make this area accessible to the public. It may not be a very difficult bike ride, but it could be great training grounds for a marathon, so you can take advantage of the open space for anything from an idle stroll to an ambitious challenge and make it your own.
Fort Braden Trails Hikes
Right next door to our campground are the Fort Braden Trails in Lake Talquin State Park. We walked up the road and cut in around 3/4 mile from the campground, which puts you on a trail with pink trail markers. We went counter clockwise and cut over onto a trail with orange markers, which is a little longer and more meandering. While exploring, we saw a lot of beautiful fungi and a few sections that had undergone controlled burns.
After a big day of rain, I decided to return and travel the trail marked with pink clockwise and saw a big detour right off the bat because of hornets. The detour routed me back onto the highway for about 1/4 mile. Later on I saw a deer and what I think was a large hawk gliding through the forest not once, but twice! Even after a heavy rain, the trail was in pretty good condition with the sandy soil, which drains quite well. The stream crossings are a bit messy, but still relatively easy to navigate. I loved having this place within walking distance of our campground.
Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille
On one of the stormiest days during our stay, we decided to head out for a bite to eat. Next to the Florida State University campus is Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille, a local chain restaurant in Florida that specializes in cajun, creole and southern cuisine. We each had one of their signature drinks and their fried green tomatoes, which I discovered isn’t even a Southern tradition. Who knew?!?
For our main courses Matt had a shrimp and scallop dish with collard greens on the side and I had mmhi-mahi with an arugula salad and “smashed potatoes” on the side. We liked our mains, but were disappointed with our side dishes. Matt’s collards were so salty that they were inedible. I was expecting actual smashed potatoes (boiled, smashed then roasted potatoes), and instead I just got mashed potatoes. Overall, it was a nice meal and our waiter, who appeared to be a young college student, kept us entertained with his enthusiasm. 😂
Florida State University (FSU) Museum of Fine Arts
After the rain, the temperatures dropped again in the region, so we decided to explore the FSU Museum of Fine Arts, which is associated with the school and is free for entry. Heading downstairs first, we saw pottery on display by ceramist Jiha Moon, which was quite unique and beautiful. In the rest of the downstairs were photographs from photographer Bruce Davidson, expressing some of the grittier parts of life and spanning several decades.
Upstairs was a tribute to the Flying High Circus, which was a college circus! It was surprising to find out you could go to college and run away to the circus at the same time. 🎪 They had videos, audio recordings, photos, props and clothes. In another room, they had sketches of costume designs on display. The whole museum is small, so it only took about 20 minutes to walk through it, but the curated exhibitions were very well done and worth seeing.
Bare Naked Kitchen
After visiting the art museum, we walked down the street for lunch to this cute place called Bare Naked Kitchen. They had some creative and varied seating inside for both small and large groups, including a couple of swings. The design was light and airy and the food was on the “healthy” side. I loved it, because they had some creative mixtures of veggies, grains, fruits, flavors and textures, so the bowls we chose were delicious. Matt had the Porkfection bowl and I had their Eve’s Temptation Salad. If I were staying longer, I would go back, because they had a lot of yummy looking items on the menu. 😋
Alas, our time in Tallahassee came to an end after just one short week. Unfortunately, on our moving day, I had ANOTHER all-day sneezing attack, my second one in a week! 🤧 Although I had planned to drive, Matt had to take the reins instead. Let’s hope I can get a handle on my rhinitis so it doesn’t keep ruining entire days with incessant sneezing and blowing through entire boxes of tissues. 😕 Our next stop is Gainesville, another Florida college town, home to University of Florida. As they like to stay, “Welcome to the swamp!”