Why Palatka is NOT the Armpit of Florida

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“You live in Palatka?  That’s the armpit of Florida!”

Seriously.  Someone told me and my mom this once, and we weren’t really sure how to respond.

If you aren’t familiar with the town, it’s the halfway point between Saint Augustine and Gainesville, where many have stopped for gas, a drink, and to relieve themselves on their way to or from the beach.  Nobody wants to stay for too long- once a man told me “I’ve never seen a pretty girl from Palatka with all her front teeth!”.  (People I CANNOT make this stuff up.)

For a long time I thought they were right.  Palatka doesn’t exactly have a lot going on by any stretch of the imagination. But upon my recent return home for a few weeks, I got to thinking, maybe it isn’t all that bad here.

Here are my reasons why Palatka can not possibly be the armpit of Florida.


It was once the “Gem of the Saint John’s”

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Courthouse in downtown Palatka, FL

During the 1880’s Palatka was a huge trading point along the Saint John’s River, so much so as to be coined “The Gem of the Saint John’s”.  Now, if you’re from Florida I know what you’re thinking…the Saint John’s is nasty.  But it wasn’t always like that.  During the 19th century famous hotels in Palatka could host around 6000 people, a pretty good amount for this size of town.  Unfortunately, in 1884/1885 a fire burned down most of the hotels, as well as ruining the city’s citrus industry, causing less and less people to visit.

Point being, a place that was once considered a gem surely can’t be an armpit?  And anyways, gems are usually found in the deepest trenches.

Ravine Gardens

Seriously understated, this place is drop-dead gorgeous.  If you haven’t been to visit yet, you need to.  (Maybe once the weather cools off a bit). There are lots of trails through the area to see the gardens that are located near the Saint John’s River.  The 2 deep ravines go 120 feet deep, and are at a 45 degree angle.  If there’s any reason at all to come to Palatka, it’s to see this beautiful State Park.

The Saint John’s River

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Saint John’s River and an Oak tree in Palatka, FL

Okay, I know I just said that the Saint John’s River is nasty- and it is… but that doesn’t mean you can’t go sailing or boating on it?  It’s a great place to learn how to sail (I did), and even if you aren’t a sailor, you can still power boat around. There are nearby cities, you can picnic, or go fishing.

Palatka is also the starting point for the Mug Race- an annual sailing race that is supposedly the longest river race in the world.

In 1959 it was dubbed the Bass Fishing Capital of the World

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Whether or not it truly is the Bass Capital is to be determined.  Though there’s no denying the large amounts of Bass Fishing Tournaments that go on in Palatka.  Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital will be hosting it’s 27th annual tournament this upcoming year!


I won’t lie.  As I went out to gather photos, it was so hot and humid I felt like I was in an armpit, so maybe why they called it that.  All in all, Palatka is definitely not the most backwoods place in Florida, you just might have to look a little harder to see what will make her shine.

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