Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Starke, FL

  • Published 2022/07/20

Starke is a city in Bradford County, Florida, and serves as its county seat.

It is a North Florida city with a good heaping of southern charm.

It is one of two North Florida cities named after Madison Starke Perry, Florida’s governor, from 1857 to 1861.

Starke was established in 1857 when a railroad line passed through the city, connecting Fernandina to Cedar Key.

It was the route’s midpoint, and, as a result, the trains would regularly stop in the city.

In Starke, you can taste a dose of Southern cuisine, show your athletic prowess outdoors, and marvel at this scenic city’s lovely sights.

If you enjoy history, drop by the historic district and see the Eugene L. Matthews Historical Museum, which showcases items from Bradford County’s history.

Another taste of history is the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park, which houses an array of military equipment and restored World War II barracks.

If you like festivals, you can attend the Strawberry Festival, which features the sweetest strawberries in town.

You can also drop by the Starke Bike Festival, which has a swap meet, motorcycle games, live music, and food.

Another thrilling attraction is the Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park, a nearby road driver training facility.

The best things to do in Starke are listed below.

Get Educated in the Andrews Center at Santa Fe College

Exterior of Andrews Center at Santa Fe College

(Ebyabe), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Colleges and universities are valuable intellectual community resources that offer many educational options.

Santa Fe College’s Andrews Center is in Starke and features a live performance venue.

It also features the Eugene L. Matthews Historical Museum, which hosts many events such as art shows, dramatic plays, and guest speakers.

The institute’s primary aim is to provide excellent education to embellish individual performances and raise professional standards.

Exterior of Old Bradford County Courthouse at Santa Fe College

(Ebyabe), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Andrews Center provides Bradford County an opportunity for a college education right at home.

It offers community and continuing education, high school dual enrollment, and associate degree programs.

High school dual enrolment allows students with high responsibility and maturity to pursue a high school diploma and earn tuition-free college credits.

The GRRATE project gives students experiential learning options such as robotics, rocketry, and guitar-building.

The Bradford County Initiative increases African-American engagement with Santa Fe College and improves enrolment among African Americans in the county.

Taste Irish Food at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

In 1985, owner Jim Mellody dreamed of opening a family-friendly restaurant.

He imagined a neighborhood pub where families and friends could converge to enjoy sports, good food, lots of fun, and a comfortable atmosphere.

With his wife Jeanette, they promoted the Brady family name and created what is now Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.

It was the first sports bar and grill to open in Brandon, Florida, and the regulars quickly gave it the nickname “Beefs.”

Jim’s love of sports galvanized him, and he filled his restaurant with satellite dishes and televisions so his patrons could watch sporting events.

He also papered the walls with all the authentic sports memorabilia he had collected throughout the years.

He ensured an authentic Irish Blessing was featured on every menu, bidding happy times and good fortune to every guest.

The menu grew to have lots of variety and signature favorites with an Irish spin.

Today, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is one of the fastest-growing restaurants in the country.

Taste Yummy Barbecue at Sonny’s BBQ

Sonny’s BBQ is a long-standing barbecue chain specializing in sides, salads, and meats smoked over oak.

This place loves everything about barbecue: the food, culture, camaraderie, how it brings people together, and the good it does when the community partakes in it.

From cuts of meat and types of wood to seasoning and saucing, Sonny’s BBQ tries to create the most delicious barbecue.

At the heart of all their restaurants is Sonny’s Pitmaster, a seasoned barbecue veteran.

Their pitmasters must wield an in-depth knowledge of barbecue: how it evolved, where it began, and all the geographic variations and cultural differences.

One of their fundamental skills is recognizing a cut of meat and where on the animal it came from.

At Sonny’s BBQ, they always smoke with oak, which burns slowly, giving the barbecue its characteristic flavor.

They also like to get their sauces and rubs just right, considering it as much as making barbecue.

Buy Beautiful Old Antiques in The Shoppes at Thompson Street

Do you want to go antique shopping while you’re in Starke?

You’re in luck, for The Shoppes at Thompson Street is a unique collection of services and shopping.

It features collectibles, antiques, art, vintage jewelry, essential oils, fragrances, crystals, decorative flags, and more.

Upon entering the shop, you will immediately relax in the friendly atmosphere that permeates the premises.

The primary focus is jewelry, and The Shoppes at Thompson Street’s goal is to salvage these items from the melting pot.

From 1979 to 1980, the high price of gold and silver inspired the melting and selling of handcrafted pieces, and now these high prices are back.

The owners have collected a variety of pre-loved vintage, modern, and estate pieces.

With each purchase of a piece, a customer buys a one-of-a-kind gem, a conversation starter, and a future heirloom.

You will also find Pete’s Antiques and Precious Metals in the shop, which specializes in fine art, vintage jewelry, precious metals, and antiques.

Get Your Caffeine Fix at Ellianos Coffee

Coffee lovers rejoice, for Ellianos Coffee at Starke has something for every caffeine junkie and drinks aficionado.

It provides premium quality specialty coffee, fruit smoothies, handcrafted espresso beverages, and many more delicacies.

It also offers an assortment of muffins, bagels, cookies, biscotti, and breakfast croissants to complement your favorite beverage perfectly.

Ellianos started with coffee lovers Scott and Pam Stewart, who took notice of the booming drive-through coffee shop industry.

They made it their mission to serve top-quality specialty coffee to meet the demands and cravings of busy Americans.

Today, their dream has come true, and the Ellianos franchise is readily available in 35 states.

Try their signature creations, such as Café Dolce with a white mocha latte, Tuscany Toffee with toffee latte and caramel sauce, or Milan Mint Mocha with mint and dark mocha latte.

Kick Back and Relax at Fun Point

Fun Point is an all-in-one arcade and restaurant bound to spread good cheer to anyone visiting.

Their delicious food and drink options will surely please many palates, and the lively arcade has everything you need for a fantastic time.

You can get lost in your own little world with their virtual reality games, and you can challenge your friends to a skee ball tournament.

Fun Point always makes sure amusement rules the place, regularly offering karaoke nights, bingo nights, trivia nights, and more.

CEO Harry Patel has made it his mission for every guest to leave wishing they could come back as soon as possible.

Fun Point has many entertainment options available for people of any age serving as the perfect place for gatherings of friends and family.

If you have any special requests to accommodate your plans better, simply ask the friendly people in charge.

Take Your Kids Tumbling at North Florida Elite Cheer & Tumble

North Florida Elite Cheer & Tumble is a gymnastics center in Starke whose mission is to provide quality instruction in a fun and safe environment.

This place has something for everyone from ages three and up!

It offers preschool tumbling, weekly tumbling classes, open gyms, ninja classes, and multiple competitive programs.

At their weekly tumbling classes, your kids will master skills like the forward/backward roll at level one and the standing back handspring at level two.

They will learn skills such as the round-off tuck at level three and layouts, standing tuck, and punch front step-outs at levels four to six.

Their Cheernastics program was created for families who want to master the cheer basics minus the commitment and cost of a competitive team.

Their Limited Travel Teams is also an excellent introductory program for those who want to compete but aren’t ready for a total commitment.

Enjoy Tee Time at Starke Golf & Country Club

Golf is one of Florida’s finest past times, and visitors often get overwhelmed with over 1,000 courses to choose from.

Starke Golfe & Country Club offers fantastic views and challenging play for golfers at every skill level.

It has a nine-hole course where you can play just shy of 3,300 yards.

This makes it the perfect choice for those who want to squeeze in a short round without spending too much time.

It is a par-36 course well-known for its landscaped greens, scenic fairways, and water hazards coming into play on seven holes in the form of streams and small ponds.

You will also see native vegetation and strategically placed bunkers that border the fairways.

The layout features some challenges but is very player-friendly, offering an excellent, affordable course to beginner golfers.

A notable course is the par-5 fifth hole, with three separate creeks running through the fairway.

Discover Military History at Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park

Camp Blanding Museum was established in 1990 and currently features many displays that center around Camp Blanding’s history and World War II involvement.

It is situated outside the main gate of Camp Blanding, which is still active and filled with troops and their regalia.

Learn about military history and the US Air Force, and see some amazing artifacts from base training sites.

On display, you will spot uniforms, photo exhibits, equipment items, vehicles, and aircraft that date way back to the 1940s.

They tell the story of Camp Blanding, the units that stayed there, and the enclosing area during World War II.

Camp Blanding Memorial Park is a vast military exhibition area that surrounds a lagoon with monuments to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the nine Army Infantry Divisions.

You will also find a gift shop selling military books, patches, pins, badges, and many miscellaneous military items.

Chase Many Thrills at the Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park

The Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park, or the FIRM, features 400 acres of mixed terrain used for challenging motorsports.

Don’t miss the chance to spot your favorite vehicles such as Jeeps, Ferraris, Miatas, Corvettes, Maseratis, and Miatas.

They come in exciting themes such as autocross, rally car, exotic car, or off-road rides.

The Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park has grown to incorporate different tracks and trails for nearly every driving style, including a 1.6-mile road course.

It features a challenging road course, a European-style driving school, special forces, a security training academy, and an ideal venue for special and corporate events.

At the Rallypro Performance Driving School, the park provides world-class instruction for the private sector and US military branches.

They offer high-performance driving education with fully immersed and in-depth instruction on various performance driving techniques.

At RallyPro Rally School, you will learn to move at high speeds, handbrake sliding the car around tight hairpins, and utilize left-foot braking and the famous Scandinavian Flick.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Admire the Beauty at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Large victoria lily pads on Kanapaha Botanical Gardens' water

Jazmine Thomas /

Located in Gainesville, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 68-acre non-profit facility comprising 24 significant collections that can be seen from a 1.5-mile walkway.

The name Kanapaha is derived from the Timucua Indian words for palmetto leaf and house.

These refer to the village’s thatched dwellings on the shore of Lake Kanapaha.

It is notable for having the state’s most extensive collection of bamboos and the Southeast’s largest herb garden.

Beautiful plants in Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

romarti /

Some of its gardens are organized by taxonomy, while others feature principles of natural selection or ecology.

The signature plants at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens include a stand of Chinese royal bamboo and, during warmer months, Asian snake arums and Chinese water lilies.

The most colorful months at the gardens are from June to September.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens hosts lovely events throughout the year, such as a Bamboo Sale and the Spring Garden Festival, North Florida’s premier horticultural affair.

Close view of Kanapaha Botanical Gardens bamboo

romarti /

Meet the Wild Animals at the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation

Wild horses at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation

Leonardo E Martinez /

Gainesville’s Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation features an exotic and unique collection of animals that have been abandoned or injured.

It is located on 276 acres of thriving Florida woods and farmland and is home to approximately 40 endangered and rare species and over 100 animals.

The foundation features tours by professional zoologists that include not just the animal’s tale but essential details of the species and its preservation.

It offers field and camping trips to get children interested in different species.

The Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is proud to house different animal species that people don’t often get to see and to assist in keeping the different genetics alive.

It provides monetary help to some of the country’s best conservation groups in many species’ countries of origin.

At the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, they believe that people must form an emotional connection to animals to want to preserve them.

Connect With Nature at River Rise Preserve State Park

Rise Preserve State Park is a beautiful park 37 miles outside Starke.

It takes its name from where the Santa Fe river dips underground in Leno State Park and emerges three miles away.

The park is covered in serene woods filled with huge trees, including cypress, tupelo, sweetgum, and red maple.

Its river swamps, sandhills, and hardwood hammocks provide lush ground for many animal and bird species.

The shaded forests, sinkhole ponds, and swamps are home to alligators, turtles, deer, and many endangered species such as gophers, frogs, tortoises, and sand skinks.

Around the trails on River Rise Preserve State Park, you will find breeding birds such as Eastern wild turkey, blue-gray gnatcatcher, barred owl, summer tanager, hooded warbler, blue grosbeak, and more.

There are over 35 miles of trails for equestrians, cyclists, and hikers to explore.

Equestrians can end their days camping at the park’s primitive equestrian camp.

Spend Time Outdoors at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

A lake at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Natalya Chernyavskaya /

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is one of Florida’s oldest state parks and offers a lesson in the state’s topography.

Twenty minutes away from Starke, it is set in winding sandhill landscapes with lakes inside ancient sinkholes, centering around a ravine filled with ferns.

Nature trails allow you to climb down to the ravine and follow the stream to Little Lake Johnson, where you can paddle a canoe across the expanse.

View of Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park's picnic shed

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The state park has one of the few remaining examples of an old-growth stand of longleaf pines, with marshes, lake, and scrub providing habitat for plenty of wildlife.

If you enjoy fishing, it is relatively easy to catch a blue gill bream in Little Lake Johnson from a small bank area near the swimming spot.

If you like birding, the park has a wide variety of birds, including American Bald Eagles, Eastern and Osceola wild turkeys, wood ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks, and more.

Palmetto trees at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Nikki Herbst /

Let Your Imagination Run Wild at Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention

Exterior of Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention

Owen Allen from Atherton, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Found in Gainesville, Florida, 33 minutes away from Starke, the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is committed to the transformation of communities.

It does this by inspiring and equipping future entrepreneurs, inventors, and visionaries.

It took its name from Dr. James Robert Cade, the lead inventor of Gatorade, and began as a project in 2006.

Since its opening in 2018, over 100,000 visitors have immersed themselves in the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention’s excellent hands-on programming for children, designed to inspire creativity and spark imagination.

Interior of Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention

Cade Museum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum will help you think like an inventor by experiencing their exhibits.

It will allow you to meet entrepreneurs and inventors through classes, forums, and other events.

In addition, the museum provides you with the opportunity to be an inventor or entrepreneur by engaging in educational programs.

The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention’s events and programs are designed to engage you in purposeful creativity, leading to incredible inventions and ideas that change the world.

Final Thoughts

Southern warmth and hospitality will greet you as you explore the city of Starke.

Starke has many surprises for visitors, from ample shopping and fine dining to knowledge seeking and outdoor exploration.

Visit this warm, loving, and friendly community today and fall in love with this city in Florida.

© All rights reserved.