Perry, Madison, and Monticello
Southeast off Highway 27 is the town of Perry. This part of Florida was built by the forestry industry, and homage is paid at Forest Capital Museum State Park, south of town on Highway 19. A small village, complete with an historic cracker homestead, was created to illustrate the history of forestry. On display are ordinary household objects and farm equipment from days past. Each year in October, the Florida Forest Festival brings the town to a halt, as thousands descend on the town for the ESPN lumberjack show, steam engine displays, arts and crafts, and demonstrations such as cane grinding, butter churning, blacksmithing, soap making, and best of all, the World's Largest Free Fish Fry. About 15,000 visitors chow down on fresh Gulf fish each year. Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday - Monday; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Call (850) 584-3227.
Discover one of Florida's truly hidden treasures! Continue south of Perry on U.S. 19/98 to S.R. 51, make a right onto S.R. 51 towards Steinhatchee, pronounced (Steen-hatchee) and follow it until you almost reach the coast. Tucked within a pristine habitat of plentiful pines, moss oaks and silver palms sits Steinhatchee Landing Resort upon the lush banks of the Steinhatchee River, which meanders just three miles more to the Gulf of Mexico. The resort offers a soothing combination of the amenities of a fine resort within the peace of unspoiled natural surroundings, making it a perfect setting. Activities include fishing, scalloping, birdwatching, canoeing and boating in an area that abounds with wildlife. Call (352) 498-3513. You'll be glad you stopped.
If your compass is pointing east, take U.S. Highway 90 out of Tallahassee through the circular downtown quaint Monticello, until you reach the charming town of Madison, which abounds with history and natural beauty. A historical walking tour, within six blocks of downtown's Four Freedoms Park, exhibits antebellum and late 19th Century Greek Revival architecture. Stop by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, 248 SW Range Ave., for a walking tour brochure. Call (850) 973-2788.
Owners Tilly and Betty ('B') are tickled pink for tourists to stop by and tour O'Toole's Herb Farm, 305 N.E. Artemesia Tr. in Madison off Rocky Ford Road. Spend a day in the country, walking amidst acres of herbs, then shop for herbal and nature-related items at the onsite gift shop. Hours: By appointment. Call (850) 973-3629.
Monticello's hottest ticket in town is to the Monticello Opera House, behind the courthouse at the intersection of Highway 90 and Highway 19, a rambling Victorian building and glorious performance hall for ballet, cabaret, musicals and drama productions. Show schedules vary according to season, but tours of the Opera House are throughout the year by appointment. Call (850) 997-4242. Monticello is approximately 30 minutes east of Tallahassee on U.S. Highway 90 (Mahan Drive), which is lined with crepe myrtles almost all the way there. Other attractions in Monticello include Greek, Classic and Colonial Revival architecture, an African American Historic Sites walking tour and the annual Watermelon Festival. In the outlying areas, several antebellum plantations now stand as hunting lodges for winter residents.