Take a Day to Explore the Central Panhandle
When visitors take a day to explore Washington County, Florida, they find a surprising number of getaway options. Centrally located in the Florida Panhandle along Interstate 10, Washington County is just an hour north of bustling beaches. There are small town charms, outdoor adventures and intriguing bits of culture to explore and enjoy. And there is a bounty of memories to be made. Paddlingis a favorite pastime here for both locals and visitors. With miles of pristine waterways, there is always a new on-the water adventure to be had. But there are many other ways to enjoy a getaway in this diverse community. Check out these top five picks:
Wildlife Up Close
Many may think of gators as a typical sight in Florida, but wolves? Yes, Washington County has both and has amazing opportunities to get up close and personal with them. This is home to Seacrest Wolf Preserve (3449 Bonnett Pond Road, Chipley, FL 32428). The largest preserve of its kind in the lower 48 states, the preserve offers one of the rarest opportunities in the world for humans to interact with wolves. Group encounters and VIP tours are available. Tours of Orange Hill Gator Farm(3172 Orange Hill Road, Chipley, Florida 32428), offer encounters with nearly 200 gators of all sizes. The farm tour is an opportunity to interact with alligators, learn about their breeding and feeding habits, growth cycles, habitats and conservation efforts.
This is the real Florida. Filled with small-town charm and an appreciation for its history, Chipley is a great place to spend a day. Its South Third Street, a designated U.S. Historic District, encompasses 13 historic homes, including some of the best examples of Queen Anne Victorian style architecture in the state of Florida. Nearby, the fruits of the region’s thriving agricultural industry are yours for the taking. The Main Street Market (1251 Jackson Avenue, Chipley, FL 32428) and the seasonal Chipley Farmer’s Market (685 7th Street, Chipley, FL, 32428) offer fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers. The markets and other downtown shops offer great ways to enjoy small-town Florida culture.
A Night Out
Local theatre offerings here give visitors not only an evening of entertainment but also a chance to enjoy time with the locals. For your chance to enjoy a unique performance and feel like a part of the community, check out the seasonal offerings at the Spanish Trail Playhouse (680 2nd Street, Chipley, FL 32428). This community theatre was originally founded in 1962 and is still going strong. Or you may prefer to take in the Branson-style show at Gilley’s Family Opry (3351 Mallory Road, Vernon, Florida 32462). For the more adventurous crowd, there is dinner and the excitement of the poker room at the Ebro Greyhound Park.
Monuments, Markers and More
A driving tour to take in the History is preserved in one of the oldest church buildings in the state at Moss Hill Church (Vernon, FL). Established by the Holmes Valley Methodist Mission in the early 1820s, the building that stands today has been in use since 1857. The church cemetery contains graves of Civil War soldiers that fought for the Vernon Home Guard. The stories of Washington County’s unique history are told through markers and monuments throughout its communities. Take a driving tour and see the Possum Monument in Wausau, the Kudzu Historical Marker in Chipley and the Holmes Valley Native American Marker, which all tell stories only found here.
Hit the Trails
In addition to the pristine rivers, there are other trails to explore, as well. Hikers looking to connect with nature will find beauty in the wilderness at Falling Waters State Park (1130 State Park Road, Chipley, FL 32428) and Pine Log State Forest (5583-A Longleaf Road, Ebro, FL 32437-1227). Pine Log also has miles of equestrian trails, as does Sunshine Riding Trails (2273 Rolling Pines Road, Chipley, FL 32428), which offers riding lessons and trail rides for individuals or groups. There are trails for those who prefer four-wheelers, too! The Swamp Off Road Park (3690 Mobile Swamp Road, Chipley, FL 32428) is taking off-roading to new heights with its expanded obstacle course. If a cart path is your trail of choice, you’ll enjoy hitting the links at Sunny Hills Golf Club (3634 Country Club Boulevard, Sunny Hills, FL 32428). Considered the panhandle’s best value in golf, the 18-hole, par 72 course is open to the public seven days a week.
IF YOU GO:
When planning your getaway, be sure to check out eclectic slate of annual events in Washington County. From worm fiddling to watermelon eating to the crowning of the Possum Queen, there is sure to be a festival to tickle your fancy.