Roadside attractions: From historical to hysterical, this is Northwest Florida

special to Gannett Florida
Walton Sun

Northwest Florida is outdoors Americana at its finest.

Amid the rural roadways, historic towns and pristine waterways, there are plenty of surprises in this region, which stretches from east of Pensacola westward toward Tallahassee, along Interstate 10 and beyond.

Many visitors come to enjoy the paddling, diving and fishing the local waters are known for. Others stop over on the way to, or squeeze in a getaway from, their visit to the beautiful Northwest Florida beaches.

There are some unexpected sights to see here, sure to add fun memories to any trip. Whether hopping off the interstate or taking a day trip from the beach, here are some quirky, one-of-a-kind sites worth the trip.

In Carrabelle, you can stop in at the world’s smallest police station (105 Street James Ave., Carrabelle). The station got an upgrade from a call box bolted to a building to a cozy telephone booth in 1963. Today it’s a favorite photo spot in town.

The possum monument (2nd Avenue, Wausau, FL 32463) was erected in 1980 in the town of Wausau in honor of the marsupial, praised for providing both food and fur to the region’s early settlers.

The kudzu historic marker in Chipley notes the introduction of the now-ever-present vine to the United States and touts its positive characteristics.

You know about the little house on the prairie, but did you know there’s a Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Site (County Road 163 in Westville 32464) here, too? In 1891 Laura, husband Almanzo and their daughter Rose moved there. They stayed just under a year.

Among the scenes in the classic Southern towns of the region, train depots tell stories of commerce and travel in Greensboro (30 Green Ave., Greensboro, FL 32330), Blountstown (corner of Railroad Avenue and North Pear Street, Blountstown, FL 32424), Chipley (685 7th St., Chipley, FL 32428), and DeFuniak Springs (1140 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435). Murals in Chattahoochee, Quincy, Blountstown and Chipley depict important elements of the past.

For traditional coastal gems, many enjoy a visit to the coastal lighthouses of the region. Cape St. George Light (2B East Gulf Beach Drive, St. George Island, FL 32328) was reconstructed after collapse and opened to the public in 2008.

The 103-foot iron and steel Crooked River Lighthouse (1975 Highway 98 West, Carrabelle, FL 32322) still stands after being moved from its original guardian spot and Cape San Blas Lighthouse (200 Miss Zola's Drive, Port St. Joe, FL 32456) now stands overlooking St. Joe Bay.

If the summer sun and heat get too much for you, head underground at the Florida Caverns State Park (3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL 32446) in Marianna and enjoy the coolest (and only) cave tour in Florida.

Of course, there are major attractions in the area that draw visitors all year long. In a region that spans from blue gulf waters to inland forest trails, the outdoor attractions are top on the list.

A stop at any of the area visitor centers is a great way to plan to see them all. Lodging options are abundant and varied, from beachfront luxury to a campsite under the stars.

Explore Northwest Florida efforts are a result of a public/private partnership that promotes travel to the region which includes Northwest Florida counties bordering the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee Rivers.

The partnership encourages sustainable economic development through the preservation and promotion of the natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and historical resources within the rivers’ basins by providing services to enhance and support the tourism industry throughout the region. For more information, visit