I know, you saw Palatka and were immediately confused, but stay with me. Maybe you have already done all the day trips you can think of and are out of ideas, or you are trying to find something educational and new for your Moms Club or Homeschool Group.
I recently took my girls on a day trip to Palatka and realized there are a few awesome places to go where they can learn some Florida history, explore the water cycle (spoiler alert, there’s a new part to the water cycle we never learned growing up) and even just spend time with nature. This small sleepy town, that was once bigger than Jacksonville, can make a great little day trip.
The Palatka Water Works Environmental Education Center, located in the Historic Water Works, facility provides a hiking trail, Water Cycle information, a chance to meet and greet with a tortoise and lots of interesting information. My girls even made water cycle bracelets before we walked the trails. For a more in-depth experience, you can contact Shann Purinton at 386-325-9585 and just let her know you’ll be visiting. She happened to be on site when we showed up and was a wealth of information for my girls. The entire facility is run by volunteers who are specialists in the areas they now help take care of and they are all excited to share with knowledge with kids. Road Trip Tip: Go here first. Only one building has AC, so it can get hot while exploring.
Located in downtown Palatka, in a newly renovated building, we were pleasantly surprised by all the St. Johns River Center had to offer. Educational scavenger hunt, hands on learning, and even some crafts as your kiddos learn about the Florida rivers and their ecosystems. My girl’s favorite part? The main display where you have to search and find the various animals and plants shown to you. If you are going as a group, you can organize in advance and have even more available to you. For us, we were lucky the workers were changing out some displays and were willing to tell my girls all about it. You can even view the river from the rooftop, but it got a little too hot outside for us for that.
My oldest is a Junior Ranger enthusiast so a visit to Ravine Gardens State Park is a must for her. Perfect to eat a packed lunch, then explore the suspension bridges, ancient gardens, get a hike in, and of course hit the playground to ensure your little ones can get even more energy out before heading home. Road Trip Tip: If you visit Ravine Gardens State Park in January through early March, you might get to see all the Azaleas in bloom!
If you start early, you can easily spend your morning and even into early afternoon exploring these locations before the drive home. If your kiddos are like mine, they enjoy a reward at times, so a stop by an old fashioned, order at the window DQ for some ice cream. The girls really enjoyed our visit and want to go back! Who knew, all in Palatka, FL.
Melody is a graduate of Jacksonville University, married a Jax Beach resident, moved away for 12 years, then returned to the area in 2016. Together they have two girls. Melody works as owner/photographer of Melody Coarsey Photography, she loves yoga, family, traveling, dining with a view and the ocean.