Not a Bad Drive: Palatka, Florida

what to do in palatka florida

Whether you’re a local who wants to take a country drive next Saturday or a visitor who is taking back roads to get to St. Augustine, a trip to Palatka is a sweet stop not too far away. Still much more “small town” than St. Augustine, it can be hard to know what to do in Palatka, Florida! I’m gathering some stop-worthy suggestions to make your planning easier.

What to do in Palatka, Florida

Wildlife, nature hikes and boating are all I know of Palatka. I read online that you can skydive there but I haven’t worked up the courage to try.

  • Palatka’s highlight is Ravine Gardens State Park. First of all, the lay of the land is unique in Florida… we don’t have many ravines around here… when you’re at the base, it’s as close to a Florida mountain as it gets!! Whitewater Branch, the creek responsible for the ravine, flows year-round and has slowly carved out the ravine to its present state. 18 different Azaleas bloom on site {peak is Jan – March} and make this a gorgeous park to hike, bike or picnic in.

ravine gardens palatka

Where to Eat in Palatka, Florida

While St. Augustine is only an hour away, we don’t make it over to Palatka too often. I’m no expert in Palatka dining but will share the places I can recommend!

  • Corky Bells Seafood 185 US-17, East Palatka The deck seating overlooking the water is what keeps us coming back to Corky Bells. I love being on the river and this is a sweet spot to relax. Food is predictable “Florida Fish Camp” fare… gator tale, conch fritters, oysters when available, etc. I ordered blackened mahi last time and enjoyed it. Visit Corky Bell’s daily from 11:00 – 9:00 pm. Open ’til 10:00 Friday and Saturday. Call to confirm (386) 325-1094
  • Angel’s Diner 209 Reid Street, Palatka It’s famous mostly because it’s Florida’s oldest diner. Angel’s has been around since 1932… the kids and I stopped in because I wanted them to experience the oldest diner! We don’t have as many diners in Florida as I see elsewhere {though we’re fortunate to have Georgie’s Diner in St. Augustine}. Order anything… but as it’s a diner, I usually go for breakfast because who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?! Visit Angel’s Diner from 6:00 am – 9:00 pm daily. Open ’til 10:00 Friday and Saturday. Call to confirm: (386) 325-3927
  • This & That Cafe 700 St Johns Street, Palatka My facebook friend Joan told me about her experience at This & That Cafe recently. She wrote a great review you’ll want to read {below}… it’s making me want to road trip to Palatka just for lunch!
    where to eat in palatka

    • “I love Minorcan Mamma’s post! What a long, beautiful history she has here! We’ve only been here for two and a half years and are still exploring. It was wonderful to discover Ravine Gardens last year, and we returned again yesterday to find the azaleas still in bloom and gorgeous. After finishing our hike there, we looked for a place to have lunch and happened upon a new place on St. Johns Street called This and That Café, opened just five months ago. We had our dog with us, so we were looking for an outdoor patio and this was perfect. They have deli sandwiches and daily lunch specials, rotating different countries’ specialties with country cooking and chef’s specials, and all lunches are just 5.95. We both had the Philipino stir fry, which was served with a fresh biscuit, and our dog got her own water bowl. Inside, there is cozy seating, a dessert case that looked inviting, and a variety of drinks, including smoothies, espresso and Cuban coffee. We liked that their outside seating included lots of chairs and little café tables lining the perimeter of their property. And just catty-corner to them is a used book store. So, I would definitely return. I can picture myself stopping there after a hike in Ravine Gardens, walking across the street to find a good book, then sitting, maybe reading a bit or just people-watching while sipping a Cuban coffee and enjoying a pastry. We also spotted another place just across the street called Magnolia Café that looked inviting, for when our pup stays at home. Whether we’ve been here for many generations or just a couple of years, this area is a gift, isn’t it?” -Joan Shannon Visit This & That Cafe M-F 6:30am-5pm; Sat and Sun 7:30am-5pm Call to confirm: (386) 530-2044


  1. kathy weller says

    one of the best bar and grills, is the cheyenne saloon, great food from breakfast to lunch. cocktails at a very good price, enjoy a great breakfast from omlets to pancakes, and one of our towns best bloody marys. friendy staff, and will always meet a new friend….great outdoor bar, and enjoy the cluck wagon on the weekend, serving the same great food as inside kitchen… wings around, we make and sell our homemade wing sauce, a must stop while traveling through palatka

    • says

      Well there ya have it! I hadn’t heard of Cheyenne Saloon. Thanks! ~Allie O.

  2. says

    We love visiting St, Augustine. Thank you so much for mentioning Palatka, Florida! I can tell you some of what’s new as of June, 2017.

    Hawg Wash BBQ Joint is a fantastic transplant to our downtown from Welaka, where I am sure they are sorely missed. Worth every mile my friends and I drove to eat there when they were in Welaka, it is so nice now to be within walking distance.

    Order their award-winning fare at the register when you go in, get your beverages at the self-serve fountain, and then relax anywhere you want to sit while they prepare to bring your order to your table. Spacious seating in a sprawling, barn-themed setting with wood floors and quite the collections of major awards and all things pigs lend a laid-back, easy-street atmosphere just spot on for leisurely meetups.

    Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Palatka on 3rd Street, Hawg Wash Barbeque Joint is a happy, three-block walk to the scenic St. Johns River to the east with its very popular, brand new playground with swings and a zip line for the little ones. Spend some serious down time nestled near beautiful fountains across from the newly built Hampton Inn on the waterfront. You could even carry your scrumptuous Hawg Wash BBQ Joint loot to picnic under the pavilion, and enjoy the breeze while your children play. Fish from the docks or shore if you’re feeling lucky–which of course, you will be feeling being in Palatka–but make sure you have your license!

    While you’re strolling our streets, check out the massive, historically accurate murals along the way, or take the guided tour if you want. On it, you will see beautiful, historic homes and learn all about pivotal events in history that occured right in Palatka.

    Watch the exciting construction progress on the waterfront college student housing going in, Now under complete renovation in a historic building proudly standing just behind the St. Johns River Water Management District’s museum facing the clock tower, eventually, the complex will have eateries and shopping downstairs for all to enjoy. Those will be really cool rental flats for a lucky few students working their way through college here at St. Johns River State College or one of our area professional trade and industry schools. They’ll be a bit of a hike but a breeze by bike to the campus a few miles straight up St Johns Avenue.

    Shopping venues line St. Johns Avenue and are beginning to branch down several side streets in both directions in case you want to tool around for a girls’ destination getaway! Shop till you drop–or until 9:00 PM anyway. Then, check out the super nice riverfront view at Beef O’Brady’s for drinks, dinner and sometimes music before heading to your Quality Inn and Suites riverfront room right next door toswim and chill after a fun day tucked away in our sweet town.

    Come by car, bike, boat or plane to enjoy small-town warmth with big, glad-you-came welcomes at our many cafes, bistros, sports bars and independent shops. Stay overnight, so you can enjoy major, award-winning plays and music productions at Palatka High School, St. Johns River State College or The Larimar Theater.

    Palatka Art League hosts many events throughout the year. Find stunning paintings and sculptures by local artists in downtown shops as well as decorating many local restaurants’ walls until you find that one special picture that you just can’t leave town without! Lady Jane Mason, newcomer Addie Mitchell, and Nolan Richards are among our treasured, not-to-be-missed artists. A popular new restaurant in that section of St. Johns Avenue downtown, is Maria Chiles, serving authentic Mexican cuisine. That place is always busy, so plan on coming before you feel like you’re starving to avoid a long wait.

    Nolan’s photography is one of many outstanding professional artists who post daily on Facebook at “Whats going on in Palatka Florida USA (The Gem City of the St Johns). Surrounded by the beauty of our historic homes and churches, sprawling parks, natural ravines, golf and country club, gardens, lakes, the river and waterfront wildlife and fauna, Palatka’s professional photographers capture stunning engagement and bridal photos against memorable backdrops of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This website is a great source to find out what’s positive, new, up and coming to Palatka, such as 80 new jobs at the paper mill!

    Our classic movie theater is located in the mall facing SR 19 a couple of blocks up from SR 100. Clean and bright as the smiling faces that’ll greet you, they serve up fresh snacks and original recipe, movie-themed slushy drinks to complement the fun, movie character t-shirts they sell. You got yiour Groot on? Hahhaaa! The old-timey comfy seats cushion your fanny so perfect for escaping the heat or spending a rainy day theater-hopping to binge watch your favorite current releases.

    Be sure to bring your market bag, basket or a cooler for stocking up on some of the season’s fresh produce at the newly opened Hoot Owl Farm House. Located a couple of miles from the bridge up 17North, they are facing Wendy’s not long after you cross the railroad tracks. Oh, man, their homemade ice creams are mouthwatering, and the Italian Ice is smoother than silk! And speaking of railroad tracks, stop at the railroad museum on the right just before crossing the tracks on your way to the theater and then hoot Owl Farm House.

    Palatka Rocks in more ways than one with the fun of finding handpainted, Palakta Rocks stones creatively hidden along main avenues, the waterfront and in some stores. If you find any, post a picture of them on the Palatka Rocks Facebook page, and rehide wherever you want for another person to find. Feel free to bring some of your own to hide if you want. You are sure to find some on a romp through Ravine Gardens State Park, another natural wonder close by where you can enjoy your Hawg Wash BBQ loot in any number of shaded, covered picnic areas around the park with full amenities.

    Downtown Palatka and surrounding has several new restaurants and stores within a three-to-five-mile radius. So get away today! Come, play and stay in Palatka! You packed yet? See you soon!

    • says

      Eva, this is fantastic! Thank you so much for all of these thoughtful additions! ~Allie O.

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