St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. Established in 1931 as a wintering ground for migratory birds, it encompasses 68,000 acres spread between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties. St. Marks NWR provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year, providing an opportunity for Panacea to capitalize upon that tourism draw. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife.
Otter Lake Recreation Area is only minutes from downtown Panacea and cooled by beautiful moss-draped oaks, making it a favorite picnic spot for locals and visitors alike. The scenic view of Cypress tree reflections in the still lake waters are worth a picture or two. A nice hiking trail circles the lake. Activities for residents and tourists include picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, nature photography, and wildlife viewing. Facilities include picnic tables and shelters, hiking trails, restrooms, and a small boat launch. This beautiful asset is right in Panacea’s back door and an excellent resource for capturing visitors and an opportunity to more deliberately connect the park with other local assets.
Ochlockonee River State Park
Another regional natural asset only a few miles from Panacea, Ochlockonee River State Park has trails that allow visitors to explore the park and see the diverse wildlife and a variety of natural communities such as pine flatwoods and sandhill. A boat ramp provides easy access to the river for paddling or fishing. Both freshwater and saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the park, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and speckled perch. For overnight visitors, the park has full-facility campsites with access to restrooms and showers as well as youth group camping options. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the ranger station.
Apalachicola National Forest
The largest forest in Florida, Apalachicola National Forest has an abundance of freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, and natural springs. It encompasses 632,890 acres and is the only national forest located in the Florida Panhandle. The National Forest provides water and land-based outdoors activities such as off-road biking, hiking, swimming, boating, hunting, fishing, horse-back riding, and off-road ATV usage.
Panacea lines Dickerson Bay’s west coast, providing a long waterfront landscape for homes, parks, and commercial uses. The Rock Landing dock on the south end of Panacea features breathtaking views of Dickerson Bay. This is where commercial and sport fishermen bring home their daily catches of blue crab, oysters, pink and white shrimp, mullet, trout, and grouper, which is sold to local restaurants and markets.
A local community park, Woolley is located on Dickerson Bay and offers Playground Equipment, a Walking Trail (One lap is 1,080 feet or approximately .20 of a mile), Restroom Facility, Parking, and a Boardwalk.
Located directly across from the Wakulla County Welcome Center, the Panacea Mineral Springs have the potential to be restored to their original glory, including creating a replica of the early 1900s hotel at the site. Founded in 1895, Panacea was named for the healing properties of its many mineral springs. There are at least seven small springs on the site. Six of the springs have the remnants of concrete structures around them, vestiges of their use in the early 1900s as a spa to which people traveled to seek cure in the mineral waters. In addition to a hotel in the early part of the century, the site had baths and trails. The historical and ecological significance of this site is immense and there is substantial potential to make it a more celebrated local asset.
Ochlockonee Bay Bike Trail
The trailhead is located at Mashes Sands County Park, just south of Panacea. This 24.5-mile out-and-back is a paved bicycle/pedestrian trail extending from Mashes Sands County Park along Surf Road to the City of Sopchoppy. The trail provides an outdoor recreation opportunity for biking and light hiking through the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It provides a view of wild marshes, tidal creeks, and native wildlife and vegetation. Please note that there are no public amenities or shelters along the trail. Connecting downtown Panacea to this trail would provide the opportunity to capture riders for overnight or day trips.
Capital City to Sea Loop (CC2S)
The Capital City to Sea Loop (CC2S) is poised to revolutionize cycling in Wakulla County. Once it is completed it will stretch from Tallahassee all the way to the Wakulla County Gulf Coast, giving Tallahassee cyclists unprecedented access to cycling trails throughout our area. The first segment in Wakulla County is complete with 12 miles of paved off-road trail. It begins at the St. Marks Trail intersection of Coastal Highway (US 98) and Woodville Highway (US 61) and ends in front of Wakulla High School. The next section of the CC2S takes travelers through parts of the Apalachicola National Forest and directly through Panacea along US 98, eventually connecting with the Ochlockonee Bay Bike Trail, providing excellent opportunities to capitalize upon cyclists traveling the full route.
Big Bend Scenic Byway
The Big Bend Scenic Byway is a 220-mile corridor that covers both forest and coastal resources of Leon, Franklin and Wakulla Counties. It is one of 150 highways across the U.S. to carry such a designation. Over 300 species of birds, 2,500 plant species, and more carnivorous plants than any similarly sized area in the world call the Big Bend home. The Forest and Coastal Trails, offering two distinct experiences, culminate in a two-day drive unlike any other. The Big Bend Scenic Byway: Coastal Trail runs right through the heart of Panacea on US Highway 98, providing opportunities to capture travelers enjoying the route.
Wakulla County Welcome Center
The Wakulla County Welcome Center in Panacea marks the site of a turn of the Century resort community. Step inside the Welcome Center to see pictures of the mule powered tram car that carried travelers to that same spot, and other classic photos from the past. The Center also has information on the area, such as maps; recommendations on where to eat, where to stay, and what to do; and Educational and History Displays. Visitors can learn what makes the environment in Wakulla County unique, and what gives it a special place in America’s history. Visitors are then encouraged to step outside to the deck overlooking Dickerson Bay and experience the natural world of Wakulla.
Bottoms Road Boat Ramp
The Bottoms Road public boat ramp is located at the end of bottoms road and provides vantage of Levy and Dickerson Bay. Bottoms Road extends out through salt marsh to the county-owned boat launch on the Gulf. It is a standalone ramp open for public use 24 hours per day.
Located just south of Panacea, on the south side of Ochlockonee Bay, Chaires Creek is another popular local paddling trip. Recreational and fishing enthusiasts will enjoy the extensive tidal creek system as well as the fishing in Tucker Lake (the ending point of Chaires Creek) and creek can be excellent. The creek is shallow and the 2 miles from Ochlockonee Bay to Tucker Lake are sheltered. Just one of the many paddling opportunities in the area attracting tourists and residents alike.
Spring Creek Inside Passage
A water trail starting just a couple miles from Panacea, Spring Creek Inside Passage begins at Bottoms Road Boat Ramp. Paddlers then travel north, along the shoreline of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This 8-mile trail is popular for wildlife viewing and photography and brings visitors upon oyster bays and marsh land.
Tide Creek Inside Passage
Another water trail beginning on the south side of Panacea at Levy Bay Boat Ramp, paddlers continue to head south through Tide Creek, passing under Mashes Sands Bridge into Ochlockonee Bay. This is a short 3.5-mile trail, but paddlers can experience the vast tidal marsh system as well as excellent birding opportunities, including Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Clapper Rails, Harriers, and Marsh Wrens.
Saltwater Paddling Trail
Beginning at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, extending around the Florida peninsula and Keys, and ending at Fort Clinch State Park near the Georgia state line, the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (commonly referred to as the CT) is a 1,515-mile sea kayaking trail. The CT is divided into 26 segments and segment 5 starts at St. George Island State Park and ends at Aucilla River launch, going right past Dickerson Bay and Panacea. Leveraging this trail and attracting paddlers for overnight stays could encourage additional visits and investment in the community.
Mashes Sands County Park
Amenities at Mashes Sands County Park, just 7 miles south of Panacea, consist of picnic facilities, beach, fishing pier, restrooms, parking, and a boat ramp. Mashes Sands Beach is located Hwy. 98 intersects Ochlocknee Bay Bridge.