Ravine Gardens Park
This is a nice city park (actually owned by the state) set back along the marshes that form the western bank of the St. Johns River.
There are two major hiking loops that also serve as decent birding areas when the foot-traffic is at a minimum.
Most of the park is dedicated to family picnicking and clean, stone restrooms are provided at each end of the park for your convenience. Grill stands are available for cooking
We were in the area during the Azalea blooming and that is beautiful. There are some "formal" gardens but the main draw of the park is the hiking trails around the streams and pond.
to get there:
from US17 connect to Moseley Avenue. go south on Moseley to Twigg Street and then east on Twigg and there you are
My home town
Palatka, Florida is not to be confused with Palatka, Siberia or Palatka, Arkansas. The belief here is that the name comes from an Indian word meaning shallow crossing. Before bridges it was the chosen place to cross the St. Johns River and from the time of the railroads has been a preferred place for bridges. Palatka is one of those towns whose history seems more lustrous then its present.
It sits on the St Johns River in Northern Florida and declares itself to be the "Bass Fishing Capitol of the World." We are not far from St Augustine, Gainesville (home of the U of Florida) and Jacksonville, but too far from any of the great gateway airports with cheap fares. Travelers do come to Palatka for festivals, fishing and friendly people, but for me it just represents home.
For further map orientation, Palatka was once described by a developer as being the central hub of Northern Florida with the spokes being roads to Jacksonville (75 miles), St Augustine (30 miles), Orlando (100miles), Ocala (75 miles) and Gainesville (45 miles). He went on to say "all roads lead to Palatka." Recent development of Northern Florida has largely left Palatka and Putnam County behind. Not everyone thinks this is a bad thing, but like it or not the current jump in property values indicates that further change is on the way.
"What to see"
The river, the river, the river.
The best way to find a fishing guide is go to ask Jerry at the barbershop in the center of town, or ask at either the east or westside tackle shops. There are houseboat rentals with captains for a relaxed stay on the river. Nearby there are great places for canoe or kayak runs. Gator hunting is seasonal and more difficult to arrange because the licenses are awarded by lottery. It would take some effort to find someone with a license and to make the arrangements to go out with them. A call to the above mentioned tackle shops could give you the lead you needed.
The city has beautiful riverside property, a traditional southern courthouse and the small town feel of a place yet to be re-discovered. There are several hotels available with one on the river, but probably the neatest place to stay would be the "Azalea House", a bed and breakfast in the "historic northside" two blocks from the Mulhulland House and two blocks from where I live. The Mulhulland house is a preserved 19th century southerner home open to the public. Next door there a mini-museum worth a quick look if it is open when you visit. Also within two blocks is the oldest church and the first to have a school in Palatka, Saint Mark's Episcopal Church. It is considered an historic monument and has an informative marker to prove it. To see inside go on Sunday or inquire at the church office behind the church during regular workdays.
Also in the city is the Ravine Gardens State Park. In flat Florida this is a unique feature and a very pleasant place to get out of the sun. There always seems to be some flowers in bloom and there are nice trails for a relaxed walk. There is a day fee for a visit.
For educators, I fully expect the Children's Reading Center Charter School to become the next (or will it be the first?) must see attraction in Putnam County. It's unique program focused on teaching struggling readers and training rural teachers is wonderful. (See the "off the beaten track" tip.)
Let me be frank, although I have invited many foreigners to visit -- "Mi casa es su casa, de veras"-- my home town is not an end destination. So far my argument that it would be a great central base from which some of the rural, "real" Northern Florida could be experienced has failed. And this does not surprise me at all. I have found it a great place to live, but I would not necessrily want to visit. In the area, I would rather chose St Augustine or Cresent Beach. A two bedroom condo on the beach goes for about $1500 a week these days.