- Arriving early isn’t only recommended, it’s essential to reserve a tour spot
- Cavern floors and be spipperry
- The Russ House is worth visiting and its free!
It took two trips to Mariana, FL to get to tour the Florida Caverns. The most important thing anyone needs to know about the Caverns is that daily tours are limited and on a first come first serve basis. So, get there early or call ahead to ensure openings are available. We called ahead on our first trip and were told they still had about 20 openings on their last tour. By the time we arrived-sold out. Just so the trip wasn’t completely for not we spent some time exploring a huge city park nearby. It was nice to let the kids run around after about an hour drive.
Our second trip was much better. We left early and arrived early. Although its not far from our hometown this area has a different feel. The trees look bigger and fuller, it seems more hilly, and overall has a feel more like southern Alabama or Georgia instead of Florida. We bought our tickets and even though we arrived early we still had a wait of over two hours before our tour began. Using our park map as a guide we navigated to an area called the Blue Hole. Most Florida springs are very clear but his one wasn’t. Maybe we caught it on a bad day. The area around the spring was park like with picnic pavilions and plenty of room for most anything.
Nearing our tour time we made our way closer to the main lodge. A playground nearby was enough to occupy the kids for awhile and gave me time to see if any historic tours were open in the area. Mariana is a historic town and we passed so many old homes I was hoping I could at least find one. After some digging I found a couple contenders but wasn’t clear on hours and times. Either way it was time for our Cavern tour so me made our way to the starting point. Our tour mates were an even mix of local southerners and northern tourist. Its a nice tour and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks they might be interested in seeing caverns. It’s not spectacular, but a pretty good tour.
Heading out from the Florida Caverns we decided to stop by a small park in front of the Mariana Welcome Center. The welcome center is a historic home called The Russ House which seemed to be open for free tours daily. We ate lunch in the park and made our way towards the front door. We walk up to a huge two story circular porch and enter into the foyer who’s ceilings rise through both floors and into a cupola at the top. We’re greeted by a nice lady who works at the house during the day. We talk about the City of Mariana and are guided through much of the house. It has been renovated to include meeting rooms and a conference room but still maintains enough of its original character to make the stop worthwhile. The guide tells us one of the owners committed suicide in an upstairs bedroom and he still occupies the house. After doing some more research I find out The Russ House is considered one of the most haunted in the state, in case you’re into that sort of thing. Overall the Mariana trip is wroth experiencing if you live within a couple hours drive. Otherwise I would just make it a stop onto see another destination.