I recently saw a post that claimed to list five hidden gems that were in or around Tallahassee. Being an expert (at least I like to think so) on the Tallahassee area, I took the bait and clicked the link. I was happy that they included Maclay Gardens and the trail loop at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park but I was sad that all of the other items mentioned were located one to two hours outside of Tallahassee. It really is a shame because Tallahassee is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet and has tons of hidden natural gems. I decided then and there that I would be compiling my own list of the top five hidden gems that are actually located in or around Tallahassee.
1)Maclay Gardens – The gorgeous gardens, located in Northeast Tallahassee, were founded in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay. The couple first purchased the picturesque property in Tallahassee to be their winter home. Over the years, the couple with a love of Camellias established one of the most beautiful ornamental gardens in the country. Today, Maclay Gardens is a masterpiece of floral architecture.
The park features a canopied brick pathway, an ivy enclosed secret garden, a reflection pool that leads to the lake, a walled garden and hundreds of mature camellias and azaleas. In addition to the formal garden, the park land features recreational sites for swimming, grilling, canoeing, hiking, jogging, biking, and horse-back riding.
2) Millers Landing – Located just off of Meridian Road, Millers Landing is by far one of the most beautiful canopy roads in Tallahassee. Follow the winding road beneath the high oak canopy all the way to the end and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Lake Jackson. Along the way you will pass public biking and hiking trails that circumnavigate the beautiful woods surrounding Forest Meadows Park. These trails, which explore the area known as Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, can be accessed via the trailhead on Miller Landing Road or through the Forest Meadows sports complex nearby, both of which offer parking. Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park is located on what was once the Meridian Plantation area of Ayavalla Plantation.
The area’s long agricultural history is apparent as you make your way down the picturesque canopy road. At one point, on the right, you will see the remains of one of the old farmhouse structures. After the civil war, much of the land was maintained by tenant farmers. At the end of the road, the landing allows water-worthy vessels to navigate Lake Jackson, a fact which proved especially useful in Tallahassee’s early agricultural days; hence, the name ‘Miller’s Landing.”
3)Goodwood Museum And Gardens – The 170 year-old plantation and gardens, located in the heart of Tallahassee, was first established in the 1830s as a corn and cotton-producing plantation. Originally, the estate covered more than 2,400 acres. However, after the Civil War, the plantation’s size dwindled and by the 1880s the property was home to a mere 160 acres.
Today, Goodwood opens its home, carriage house, and gardens to the public. The garden is home to only heirloom plants and preserved turn of the century North Florida garden design. Walking through the gardens is a pleasure as you experience the unique collection of Old Garden Roses, large Sago Palms, heirloom bulbs, centuries old live oak trees, flowering magnolias, azaleas. Much of the charm of Goodwood Plantation and Gardens resides in the continuance of its relaxed, informal and un-manicured presentation of the grounds.
4) Lichgate – Many locals have never even heard of this place and it is such a shame. Lichgate is, hands down, one of the most magical places in Tallahassee and quite possibly on the planet. Nestled out of sight on three acres of land adjacent High Road, the magical realm of Lichgate is hidden from passing view. Visitors are invited to walk down the wooded path into a magical land within the center of Tallahassee.
Immediately upon entry, visitors are greeted with one of the most impressive live oaks in North America. The five-hundred-year-old tree stands guard at the gate of a fairy-tale type cottage with a steeply gabled roof, leaded glass windows, and a stone foundation. The gardens, labyrinth, and paths surrounding the cottage are nothing short of spectacular. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk each day and visitors are always welcome.
5) Leon Sinks – The trail system at Leon Sinks Geological area is rugged but fun, and filled with regional beauty. For a botanical show with witnessing visit in the early spring. The more than four mile trail elevates into sandhills punctuated by long leaf pines, and accentuated by patches of wildflowers that are especially showy in spring and fall.
Walking along the trail at Leon Sinks, you may notice spontaneous waterfalls that occur when groundwater seeps from above the clay cap of the forest soil and drips down through the ferns and other vegetation. Note the interesting land formations as you walk along the ridge, and be sure to watch for a glimmer of bright aquamarine water through the trees. The bright color marks the spot of one of the area’s best treasures, Hammock Sink. The natural pool of aquamarine is deep, cool, crystal clear, and colored by nature herself.