15 Best Things to Do in Palatka, FL

Palatka, FL
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Nicknamed the “Gem City of St. Johns,” Palatka is an old city filled with the charm and history of Florida.

Founded in 1821 as a trading post, the city saw progress with the arrival of the railroad.

During the late 1800s, Palatka grew by leaps and bounds as a leading source of timber and citrus.

The city’s natural beauty enthralled many travelers.

There are several landmarks here that many in the area enjoy seeing, like the old James Hotel.

You’ll find many festivals throughout the year, including the city’s trademark Blue Crab Festival and Florida Azalea Festival.

Palatka also boasts several luxury hotels that include renowned establishments like the Saratoga, Arlington, the Putnam House, and LaFayette.

Here are the best things to do in Palatka, FL:

Explore the Historic Bronson Mulholland House

Exterior of Bronson Mulholland House
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The Bronson Mulholland House is a beautiful old mansion within walking distance of the St. Johns River.

This old house has stood steadfast for over 160 years, with a rich history.

It remains a beautiful and well-preserved example of antebellum architecture.

The property spans two acres of green space featuring majestic live oaks and magnolias.

Plaque of Bronson Mulholland House
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, it’s open for tours; people have also rented the house for weddings and other events.

The historic building is decorated with period antique scenery.

The grounds are expansive and charming, filled with brick paths and newly mowed grass.

It’s also handicap-accessible through a ramp on the house's left side.

There are also public restrooms catering specifically to the disabled community.

Caterers also have free rein to use the kitchen.

Enjoy the Azaleas at the Ravine Gardens State Park

Lush trees at Ravine Gardens State Park
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ravine Gardens is one of the nine state parks in Florida made during the New Deal era.

It’s also a tropical paradise.

This state park has two ravines over 120-feet deep, with steep faces at a 45-degree angle away from each other.

These ravines aren’t like ordinary gullies, sinkholes, or trenches caused by temporary flooding.

Permanent ravines come with the characteristic of a constant flow of water.

Groundwater bubbles up, cutting into the bank and carrying soil and sand downstream to the St. Johns River.

Tall pylon at Ravine Gardens State Park
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The riverbed formed due to flowing water carving through rocks, sands, and clay for thousands of years.

In 1933, the government transformed the garden into a scenic and romantic place.

You can walk along a 1.8-mile-long paved road that twists through the garden, offering visitors beautiful views.

There are many places to sit and have a picnic or barbecue with your family here.

Visit the gardens from January to March when the azaleas bloom.

Stone fountain on the grounds of Ravine Gardens State Park
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn about the Ecology of Palatka at St Johns River Center

The City of Palatka and Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka Pulp and Paper Operations in Florida have forged a partnership to benefit the ecosystems around their community.

This unique venture, called the St. Johns River Wetlands Center, focuses on conserving wetlands in the St. Johns river system.

St. Johns River Center is a top-rated place for families to have fun and learn about ecology and conservation.

The center has a clean, warm atmosphere that includes an expansive atrium with a magnificent 30-foot living tree display.

There’s also an observation deck with panoramic views of the beautiful St. Johns River at this gorgeous little museum.

Feel the Thrills of Golfing at Palatka Golf Course

Just beyond St. Johns River’s expansive waters and through Palatka’s charming downtown area, you’ll find a historic course that offers an exciting challenge at an affordable price.

Established in 1925, the Palatka Golf Course offers 18 uninterrupted holes nestled within the tranquil woods of Ravine Gardens State Park.

This 5,942-yard long course sits at 1715 Moseley Avenue in Palatka, Florida.

Beautiful oak trees surround the golf course, providing a lot of shade on a regular day.

Throughout the day, you can enjoy picking up different pieces of valuable information from the staff.

They are always ready to share their expert advice with you.

Whether you’re a pro golfer or a newbie, the Palatka Golf Course provides an enjoyable round of golf for everyone.

Catch a Game at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium

There’s nothing like watching a football game under the Friday night lights.

If you’re in Palatka during football season, catch a game at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

Veterans Memorial Stadium is a fabulous venue to hold any sporting event.

This is a lovely place to watch football, soccer, and other sports.

Their field has well-manicured natural grass and concrete seats and excellent and large stands available for spectators.

An old obelisk monument along the field edge lends character while also marking a city achievement in 1981.

Veterans Memorial Stadium also hosts graduation ceremonies.

See the Celebrated Annual Azalea Blooms

Florida is known for its wildflower azalea trees.

The best event to see these beautiful flowers is the Florida Azalea Festival in Palatka.

The annual festival takes place at the end of February or the beginning of March.

This two-day event first took place in 1938 and continues to be an annual celebration for visitors and locals.

In its infancy, most of this festival centered around the Ravine Gardens.

As its popularity grew, they moved most activities along the Palatka Riverfront, where visitors can enjoy Florida’s warm weather.

The Palatka Main Street Program stands at the core of the city’s annual Azalea Festival.

The Ravine Gardens Park addsto the festivities.

They have such a diverse collection of gorgeous azaleas that people love seeing.

Play the Lanes at Putnam Lanes

Putnam Lanes is a cozy bowling alley that accommodates both beginner and professional bowlers.

You can play bowling at affordable prices there.

This family-oriented business has an affordable snack bar & arcade.

There are also arcade games and leagues for people who want to join the fun with their friends or family.

If you want to sign up for leagues, they have bowling equipment of your choice.

This is also another good place if you want a summer special like their bowl-free program.

Sign up your kids to play over the summer.

They also have family packages, corporate events, birthday parties, and group reservations.

Throw Your Claws in the Blue Crab Festival

For over thirty years, Palatka has celebrated its best-known inhabitant, the tasty and succulent blue crab.

Locals believe that this delightful crustacean migrates up and down the St. Johns River in search of the tastiest plankton to snack on.

They even create festivities around it!

The Annual Palatka Blue Crab Festival takes place at the end of May.

You can sit by the river or along downtown streets meditating on classical music.

Gorge yourself on unending amounts of mouthwatering blue crabs dipped in piles of garlic-buttered breadsticks.

In addition to the full-day concerts, the festival features dozens of vendors and food trucks, a kids’ zone, and carnival rides.

Go Picnicking with the Family at James C. Godwin Riverfront Park

The James C. Godwin Riverfront Park is a beautiful place for all sorts of outdoor fun.

There are several inviting places here, which allow for large and small parties and relaxing picnics.

The park spans unique riverfront property, so you can enjoy the view of blue waters lapping against the docks, along with their mooring posts and other accessories.

This is just a fun place where one can spend time with family members.

You can also go alone, or with a friend.

There are even some great fishing spots, too.

Plus, there are plenty of restaurants you can visit nearby and some pretty awesome historical sites right around the corner.

Visit the Larimer Arts Center

Exterior of Larimer Arts Center
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The Arts Council of Greater Palatka took ownership of the Larimer Memorial Library space in 1992.

Soon after, the council gave this lovely space the name “Larimer Arts Center.”

This historic building made the U.S. National Register of Historic Places for its considerable historical significance to the community.

During the 1920s, James Ross Mellon commissioned Henry John Klutho to design the building as a donation to the people of Palatka.

Mellon was a seasonal resident.

The construction of the Larimer Memorial Library cost $100,000.

After much thought and consideration, Mr. Mellon named the library after his wife, Rachel Hughey Larimer.

The dedication event attracted thousands of guests, fascinated by the library’s thoughtfully laid-out interior, according to magazines at the time.

You can find Larimer Arts Center at 216 Reid Street in Palatka, Florida.

Roam the Palatka North Historic District

Exterior of St. Mark's Episcopal Church at Palatka North Historic District
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The Palatka North Historic District is a charming place to spend an afternoon.

This Palatka area became a U.S. Historic District in 1983.

Stroll down the tree-lined streets and admire the historic homes, many of which date back to the late 19th century.

The Palatka North Historic District is home to 76 historic buildings, including the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the Bronson-Mulholland House.

The district sits along the St. Johns River.

Check out the Judge Isaac H. Bronson mausoleum, one of the historical landmarks found here.

If you’re feeling hungry, there are plenty of restaurants in the area serving delicious food like Beef O’ Brady’s and Angel’s Dining Car.

Bring Your Kids to Project P.L.A.Y. Park

Project P.L.A.Y. Park is a lovely community park for families with young children.

The park is a fun space with lots of art geared towards children and also for adults who enjoy puppetry.

It has themed playgrounds and indoor spaces for performances, separate toddler play areas, high-speed slides, and in-playground seating that allows parents to supervise from all angles.

Part of the Putnam County Sports Complex, this park has some high-speed slides and swings that are great for parties.

There’s also an excellent puppet theater perfect for impromptu talent shows.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Hank Bryan Park

Like every other county in this state, Florida is famous for its green pastures.

Hank Bryan Park gives you a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and soak up some sun with family and friends.

This Palatka park is known for its luscious greenery, including many oak trees.

You can come here and have a picnic, sit on a bench, meditate, arrange a date, take your dog for walks, or check out an event.

One park area features jungle gyms so kids can climb and get up high.

There are also swings for children and other things, such as tables where people can sit and eat lunch or dinner.

Hank Bryan Park even offers a paved trail that goes around the park so people can get some exercise.

There’s also a nicely maintained and fenced-in basketball court close to the picnic area.

Go Sightseeing at Palatka South Historic District

Exterior of the first baptist church at Palatka South Historic District
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the southeastern outskirts of Palatka, a less populated portion of the town touts an exciting historical area you have to see for yourself.

Designated as a U.S. historic district in 1983, Palatka South Historic District is home to 243 historical places and buildings.

You’ll find a unique collection of private homes, public places, and businesses that all create a stunning picture of life in Palatka at the turn of the century.

Exterior of a house at Palatka South Historic District
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a walk through the Palatka South Historic District and visit shops and restaurants lined along streets paved with stones salvaged from demolished homes.

You can experience how the early settlers lived in Queen Anne-style cottages that artisans built years ago.

The presence of mature oak trees makes you feel like you’re on sacred land.

Old school building at Palatka South Historic District
DanTD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Check Out the Palatka Murals

You can find murals all over Palatka, a city that also offers much to lovers of street art.

Visitors explore Palatka to see all the murals painted on buildings throughout the city.

Local artists painted many of the murals, depicting scenes from Palatka’s history.

Many people walk around town, taking pictures of their favorite murals and posting them online.

If you’re looking for something to do on a sunny day, take a stroll through downtown Palatka and enjoy the artwork on display.

Final Thoughts

Palatka may not be as large as the enormous cities of New York and Florida, but it’s got some exciting features worth checking out.

Those who enjoy visiting parks should plan a trip because they’ll find this area packed with adventure.

Those who love art and history need to add Palatka to their lists too.

The destinations on this list have unique offerings.

Plan an itinerary just for you!