After the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll face one of the two really long and lonely sections of US 98: the 40 mile stretches on either side of Perry. Kind of nice in the daytime, but at night they’re downright spooky. No street lights, hardly any houses or commercial buildings, and very little traffic. You feel like you’re the last person on Earth. Another part of the state I tell people about when they complain about how over-urbanized Florida is.
Halfway between St. Marks and Perry (6 miles down CR 14) is a very popular place for boaters, Econfina River State Park. It has some picnic areas, as most of the state parks do, but no beaches. (see Google map)
- Econfina River State Park (4384 Econfina River Road)
Just before you get to Perry, take a right at CR 356 to see a forgotten fragment of Florida history, Hampton Springs. The Hampton Inn was a very popular resort here way back when, but time and traffic patterns shifted and it faded into obscurity. Taylor County recently converted the old Inn grounds into a park. You can see the remains of the foundation and imagine what was. (see Google map)
So, what is there to do in Perry? Don’t really know, as I mostly just pass through. As a lot of folks do, I’d wager. Four major US highways go through it: US 19, US 27, US 98, and US 221. But perhaps most importantly, what doesn’t come anywhere near here is any interstate. Which could have made Perry dry up and blow away like so many other towns after the Interstate Highway System was finished. But there was enough industrial (mostly lumber) and government “business” (it being the county seat) to keep it going. Perry does rather sprawl, and seems to have most of the amenities you’d expect in a city much larger. You’ll see them all on the way to the historic downtown. Get to US 221 and head north. Once you cross a canal and some railroad tracks, it’s like you’ve stepped back into the 20th century. The early part, that is.
The city put together a walking tour so you can see the historic sites (see here). The map’s a bit fuzzy though, so I put together the same route on Google maps. The addresses are approximate, but if you look at the pictures, you’ll know what’s what. The only two NRHPs in the county are here, the old post office and the old jail. (see Google map)
- Perry Historic Station (Old Train Depot) (310 South Jefferson Street)
- Big Bend Hospice (aka The Blair Building) (Jefferson Street and Green Street)
- Bloodworth Sundries (Jefferson Street and Green Street)
- Old Perry Shoe Store (Jefferson Street and Green Street)
- Rosehead Junction (aka The Schwartz Building) (Jefferson Street and Green Street)
- Old Perry Post Office (201 East Green Street) (NRHP)
- Big Bend Fitness (50 South Washington Street)
- The Emporium/Peacock Building (50 South Washington Street)
- Taylor County Historical Society (Main and Washington Streets) (AGFHA)
- First United Methodist Church (300 North Jefferson Street)
- Greystone (300 N Jefferson Street)
- O’Quinn’s Pharmacy (200 North Jefferson Street)
- Photos, Frames & Trophies (200 North Jefferson Street)
- Wells Jewelers (200 North Jefferson Street)
- Dansby Building (151 North Jefferson Street)
- Beggs Funeral Home (formerly Old First Presbyterian Church) (201 West Main Street)
- Capital City Bank (aka The Dixie Taylor Hotel) (115 West Green Street)
- Perry Office Supply (115 West Green Street)
- Old Taylor County Jail (400 North Washington Street) (NRHP)
- Taylor County Courthouse (108 North Jefferson St)
Go south once you’ve done the tour and catch US 98 south. Before you leave town, you can visit Forest Capital Museum State Park, which recounts the history of the lumber industry in the region. Contrary to Google maps, it’s on the west side of US 98 near the airport. (see Google map)
Remember that it’s 40 miles to the next town, Cross City. There is a convenience store on the corner of SR 51 and US 98, but I’d fill up before you leave Perry, just in case.
Before you get that far, though, you can take a detour on CR 361 and travel through a very marshy-scrubby part of the state. It’s 35 miles until you get to the next outpost of civilization, the remote and drowsy town of Steinhatchee. I think it’s properly pronounce Steen-hatchee, though I usually say Stine-hatchee. It’s on the Steinhatchee River, and the main industries are fishing and scalloping and get-away-from-it-all tourism. The town dates back at least to the early 1900s, so It’s old enough to have historical stuff. I’ve not found any, so maybe they couldn’t preserve it like Cedar Key did. (see Google map)
From here, the easiest way to get back to US 98 is up SR 51. If you kept going north, you’d eventually wind up in Mayo. Or go southeast on US 98 to Cross City.
That’s all for now, folks. See you on the road!
Route length: 95 miles