Panacea’s Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory is the “real deal”, founded by Jack Rudloe in the early 1960s to provide marine specimens to scientists and researchers. The facility has grown over the years, to become a full-fledged tourist attraction, while still delivering sea creatures of all sorts to educators and scientists. A trip through the “aquarium” will give you a first hand, and often hands-on, look at octopuses, horseshoe crabs, turtles, stingrays and even jellyfish.
Sometimes it’s best to let the folks who manage facilities like the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory speak for themselves. Here’s a few words, likely written by the esteemed Mr. Rudloe himself:
“Where the Sea Reveals its Secrets
At Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea, you begin to get a better sense of what’s really out there. On a quiet back street between the highway and the bay, we house a collection of sea water tanks and aquariums. Water bubbles and flows in a swirl that sustains unique collections of the bizarre and the beautiful. Unlike most big public aquariums that emphasize porpoises and big fishes, we focus on creatures such as seahorses and hermit crabs, emerald eyed spiny box fish, electric rays and red and white spotted calico crabs – just a few of the the endless living treasures of north Florida’s still shining coast.”
Monday-Friday 9AM to 5PM $9.95 for adults (12+ yrs)
Saturday 10AM to 5PM $8.95 for seniors (65+ yrs)
Sunday 10AM to 5PM $7.95 for children (3-11 yrs)
The lab and aquarium at 222 Clark Street isn’t hard to find, and we’re certain that you can ask anyone in Panacea (or in all of friendly Wakulla County) for directions. But, if you’re directionally challenged, here’s some help:
From Tallahassee: Take US Hwy 319 (Crawfordville Hwy) south (approx. 15 miles) to US Highway 98 Coastal Hwy. Turn left on Rock Landing Rd (go approx. 4 blocks). Turn left on Clark Drive, the aquarium is approximately 3 blocks on the left.
From Apalachicola: US Highway 98 Coastal Hwy east(approx. 48 miles) past Alligator Point to Panacea turn right on Rock Landing Rd(go approx. 4 blocks) turn left on Clark Drive the aquarium is approximately 3 blocks on the left.
From St. Mark’s: Take US Highway 98 Coastal Hwy west (approx. 17 miles) to Panacea turn left on Rock Landing Rd (go approx. 4 blocks) turn left on Clark Drive the aquarium is approximately 3 blocks on the left.
And if you’re hungry before or after your visit to the aquarium, stop for lunch or dinner at Posey’s Steam Room & Oyster Bar, on Coastal Highway (US98), for an excellent plate of fried shrimp, oysters, or local mullet. They’re friendly, too–and the food’s great!