Chock-full of Mother Nature’s bounty on the picturesque Southwest coast of Florida, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers not only secluded beaches and picture perfect scenery but also wildlife encounters, varied opportunities to explore the outdoors, be active on land and on the water, even take in the arts and sample local wines and foods in eclectic dining venues. Following are a selection of engaging activities to help you build your next Charlotte Harbor vacation itinerary, with an emphasis of enjoying the great outdoors.

Swim with your American Spirit and friends this (and every) 4th of July getting wet and wild for America with a leisurely 1.5-mile swim across the Peace River at the annual Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim. It’s smooth swimming with this event, no sign ups, no registration fees, and the only rules are to use your common sense, courtesy and have fun with your friends and family. The swim starts at Noon on the north side of the southbound US 41 bridge and ends at Harpoon Harry’s in Fishermen’s Village.

For those who like to take a walk on the wet and wild side, you can take part in a free Seagrass Adventure Estuary Wading Trip where after an introductory program on aquatic environments, participants walk a short distance with their guide in Lemon Bay, and using dip nets and hand viewers, wade into the shallow waters in search of the plants and animals that reside there. This exciting hands-on activity is both educational and fun for people of all ages with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.

Open to all ages and activity levels, Hooked on SUP provides YOLO paddle board rentals and instruction in Englewood, Boca Grande and surrounding areas. You can even rent a GoPro camera to video your paddle. Their paddle board Yoga on Water classes provide both meditation and a core workout experience. For groups there are even party paddles and full moon paddles.

Explore the Southwest Florida Wilderness with a Swamp Buggy Excursion by Babcock Wilderness Adventures. 90-minute Buggy Tours explore the Babcock Ranch and Telegraph Cypress Swamp. Expert guides provide in-depth descriptions of animals, plants, and the cattle and horses that are raised on the ranch. Excursionists will see alligators and other animals located in Southwest Florida on their tour.

Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary provides a healthy living and recovery environment for abandoned and abused exotic wildlife – think lions and tigers and bears, oh my, plus panthers, bobcats, primates, reptiles and more! During self-guided tours at this not-for-profit outdoor sanctuary, visitors can meet those who love and care for these wild beasts, then have the opportunity to see animals that are not often viewed up close in person.

Punta Gorda, with its old Florida charm beckons you to continue to enjoy the great outdoors even after dusk, when you can mingle and make music with the locals in Gilchrist Park. Join in or listen to diverse musical offerings of guitar, bluegrass, jazz, folk and country music at this waterfront park Thursdays from 6 - 10 p.m. 400 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda. The Gilchrist Park Waterfront Music Jam Session is a must do whether or not your talents lend to the athletic versus the symphonic.

August 24 – September 2, 2013 the community of Englewood celebrates their 57th Pioneer Days festivities with a contests and events including a parade, cardboard boat race, kiddie’s chalk art festival, diaper derby, Englewood “Idol,” Fish-a-thon, paddleboard grand prix, mad hatter’s fun run, shipwreck dance and more. For dates, times and locations visit

For those who enjoy water sports with their significant other, enjoy peace, tranquility, natural surroundings and a sampling of the “old Florida” state of mind kayaking the Charlotte Harbor estuary shoreline which includes 53 trails for a total of 197.8 miles ideal for Canoe/Kayak excursions through the Charlotte Harbor Blueway Trails. But the coup de grace is that if you want to transition a budding romance into a lifetime commitment, and a wedding on the water fits your personal style, Phoenix Rising Kayak will orchestrate a kayak wedding where you paddle with a guide (a registered Florida civil servant) to a remote barrier island who then engages you in an intimate wedding or vow ceremony. Visit for package details that include the ceremony, a fruit and cheese plate, champagne toast and even a post nuptial fly-fishing lesson.

About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers a pristine unspoiled beauty that has served as the backdrop for seven major feature films as well as countless memorable vacations. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” The city of Punta Gorda was named in one of “Top Ten Places to Retire Healthy” by U.S. News & World Report. Englewood was named as #2 of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by

For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104, Port Charlotte, FL 33948; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor’s Guide; or visit the Web site at


Jennifer Huber
Tourism Public Relations Manager
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
(941) 743-1900

Charlotte Harbor Visitor
& Convention Bureau
18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
941-743-1900, FAX: 941-764-4932