Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Palatka, FL

  • Published 2023/05/02

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

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Pick Fresh Blueberries at Towers Family Farms

Bring the whole family for a day of blueberry picking atTowers Family Farms.

This family-owned and operated business is right on Millican Road and is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

The farm opened in 2013 with 10 acres of blueberries planted the following year.

Today, it has grown to 20 acres of USDA-certified blueberries with the addition of a small strawberry and vegetable patch.

Have fun picking blueberries and fill your baskets with varieties like the smaller Farthings or the sweet and larger Meadowlarks.

Shop for fresh blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, along with sweet peaches and other produce like cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and hot peppers; you can also buy watermelon when they are in season.

If you visit during April, you can join the Blueberry U-Pick Festival for a whole day to enjoy picking your favorite fruits and vegetables at the farm.

You can also book events at the Woodland Meadows, the farm’s 6,000-square-foot event venue which includes a reception room and spacious patio, perfect for any reception or party.

Enjoy your visit to Towers Family Farms.

See the Artifacts at the David Browning Railroad Museum

Exterior of the David Browning Railroad Museum

DanTD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

TheDavid Browning Railroad Museum is another interesting attraction you can visit in Palatka.

Located on North Eleventh Street, the museum is housed at the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Union Station.

Currently, it also serves as an Amtrak station with the museum operating from Monday to Friday.

The depot is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and managed by the Palatka Railroad Preservation Society.

Check out the historic photos and documents from the early ACL Union days.

Learn facts about railroad history in the area and browse through maps, signs, and various artifacts on display.

You’ll also get to see Irvin Saylor’s “Railrodeo” which is hailed as the “World’s Largest Mobile HO Scale Model Railroad.”

This 32-feet long model includes 16 operating trains with detailed landscape fixtures and animation; it also toured the country in 1975.

View all these collections at the David Browning Railroad Museum.

Catch the Events at the Bostwick Blueberry Festival

Enjoy a whole day of fun activities and of course, lots of yummy blueberries at theBostwick Blueberry Festival.

A well-loved county event that started in 1997, this free festival is held at the Bostwick Baptist Church on Tillman Street.

Bring the family for a blueberry pancake breakfast and try an array of blueberry delights like ice cream, homemade blueberry pies, and other sweet treats.

See who gets to win the Blueberry Baking Contest and watch contestants vie for Mr. and Miss Blueberry.

The festival also features fun kids’ activities, arts and crafts, and lines of country-themed vendors.

You can also check out other items for sale like used books, tropical and blueberry plants, and Blueberry festival tokens and souvenirs.

There’s also a pet adoption booth and live entertainment all day.

And of course, you can’t miss those freshly-picked Miller blueberries at the Bostwick Blueberry Festival.

Take the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail Adventure

You’ll enjoy lots of scenic views and beautiful landscapes along the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail.

This 19-mile multi-use recreational trail stretches from St. Johns to the Putnam County areas and features a 12-foot wide paved trail that you can access at several points.

From the farthest east, you can access the small Vermont Boulevard Trailhead.

Also From St. Johns, you can start from the Vermont Heights Trailhead or Armstrong Park which is five miles from the Vermont Boulevard Trailhead.

Likewise, you can access the Cora C. Harrison Preserve just seven miles from Putnam County’s end trail.

All these four trailheads are managed by St. Johns County Parks and Recreation.

On the west end is the East River Road Trailhead which marks the end of the trail.

You can enjoy biking and hiking along the shaded roads and also stop by to see some interpretative exhibits about the Armstrong Community near Armstrong Park.

You’ll also find five kiosks along the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail that offers maps and information about the trail.

Try Artisan Beers at Azalea City Brewing Company

Exterior of Azalea City Brewing Company

DanTD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring your friends to Azalea City Brewing Companyand enjoy assorted craft beers.

This brewery is located onSouth 7th Street inside an old Coca-Cola building and started operating in 2020.

Drop by from Tuesday to Sunday and sample any of their year-round beer flavors like the 386 IPA or Mud Spring Oatmeal Stout.

Try the Hot Blonde mixed with mango and some local Datil peppers, or get to try seasonal drinks like the Doppelbock and Strawberry Berliner Weiss.

Taste and sip other Lighter Styles like the 7 Sisters Lager, Bartram Blonde Ale, Coffee Cream Ale, Dreamsicle Cream Ale, and Palatka Lean.

Otherwise, go for Darker Styles on the menu like the Coconut Imperial Stout and Ravine Red Ale, along with other styles including Hard Seltzer, or have the Palatka Haze Hazy IPA.

They also have Guest Taps, crowlers, growlers, kegs, and other beverages like Whites, Reds, Sparkling Wines, Kombucha, Soda, and Kids’ Juice Box.

Azalea City Brewing Company also features live music and food trucks every Friday and Saturday night so you can have more fun during the weekend.

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!

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