Established as a wintering ground for migratory birds in 1931, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest wildlife parks in the country. Encompassing more than 68,000 acres between Jefferson, Taylor and Wakulla Counties, the refuge is home to several coastal habitats, ranging from tidal creeks and saltwater marshes to several Florida river estuaries and islands. The Refuge is also home to an abundance of fauna and flora and features several historic structures such as St. Marks Lighthouse and a large Visitor’s Center.

1.Activities and Attractions

Activities and Attractions
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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. The refuge features numerous fishing venues with many different freshwater and saltwater fish to catch, and a boat ramp offers direct access to the St. Marks River. Visitors can also enjoy water-based sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. The Refuge has several hiking and biking trails that traverse through the widely varied habitats and ecosystems of the park.


St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is home to a diverse range of wildlife, birds, and plants that offer excellent opportunities for bird and wildlife-watching, painting and photography, and drawing and sketching. Wildlife species range from alligators, amphibians, black bears and bobcats, raccoons, otters, foxes, and coyotes, as well as several species of shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and waterfowl. It is also home to one of the most desired wintering sites for the endangered whooping cranes that migrate south with the help of the Operation Migration aircraft. The refuge is also a stopping point for thousands of Monarch Butterflies on their annual migration, and a festival is hosted annually around this to educate people on how to tag the butterflies before they continue through their migration.

St. Marks Lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse on the Gulf coast and the second oldest lighthouse in Florida, the St. Marks Lighthouse is a historic landmark based in the park and one of the most photographed buildings on the Gulf coast. Located on the east banks of the mouth of the St. Marks River overlooking Apalachee Bay, the St. Marks Lighthouse was completed in 1842 and is the only lighthouse in Florida with wooden stairs.

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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of nationally-recognized environmental educational programs that focus the refuge, its landscapes and habitats and the fauna and flora that live within it. Correlated to state and national science standards, programs cater for all ages with outdoor- specific lessons and a new Nature classroom next to the Visitor Center, which is equipped with microscopes, nets and other equipment. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge currently offers 18 environmental educational programs that include hands-on activities, interactive games, and lessons, exercises, and challenges for all ages. Programs range from Introduction to the Refuge, Butterfly Encounter, Adaptable Animals, Insect Safari, and Eco-Links to Coastal Explorer, Freshwater Ecosystems, Earth Scientist, and Orienteering. Other programs include Coastal Habitats/Tower Pond Trail, Digital Photograph, Feathered Friends, Reptiles and Amphibians, Magnificent Mammals, Endangered Species, Living with Fire, Tree-rific Trees, and Whooping Cranes.

Next door to the Visitors Center is the Environmental Education Building, known as Nature's Classroom, which boasts 3,200 square feet of space and features a classroom called the Monarch Butterfly Room and a modern conference room known as the Barred Owl Room.

In addition to being used for environmental education programs, Nature's Classroom is used for wildlife photography classes run by the St. Marks NWR Photo Club, ‘First Sunday at the Refuge’ programs, and local and national conferences.

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3.Visitor’s Center

Visitor’s Center
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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge has a large Visitor Center, also known as the St. Marks Unit, which features a variety of brochures and maps, a bookstore with a variety of books and merchandise for sale and a Nature Store, which sells items that highlight the animals and plants of the refuge.

Visitor Information

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round during daylight hours. The gate on Lighthouse Road opens at 6:00 am. The Visitor Center is located at 1255 Lighthouse Road and is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

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Visitor Center, 1255 Lighthouse Road, St. Marks, FL 32355, Phone: 850-925-6121

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Things to Do in Florida: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge