CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (July 14, 2015) – Today’s life pace has heightened the need for clearing mind clutter, getting unplugged, and spending quality time with loved ones; and there’s no better way to do so than to get away and enjoy natural pursuits in unspoiled surroundings like those who actually live there.
For your next vacation, get away to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands whose Slow Travel Movement offerings are Florida’s chicken soup for the traveler’s soul.
Here visitors can connect to the Old Florida pace, its people and culture. Here you can disconnect, to reconnect with family. Here you can inspire your kids to get outdoors, encounter wildlife, and become more aware of nature. Discreetly follow a meandering gopher tortoise, collect shiny fossilized sharks teeth, wade up to your knees to dip a net in the bay and bring to the surface an enchanting sea horse. Then cast your eyes to the sky to catch sight of soaring ospreys, gulls, pelicans and more. Forget technology, and embrace Mother Nature’s bounty, from spectacular sunrise to magnificent unobstructed sunset. Throughout Charlotte County, where Old Florida prevails and commercial development does not intrude, you’ll follow the road less traveled and be richer for it indeed.
First, opt for leasing a vacation rental home as your base of fun time operations. Rental homes on barrier islands make an ideal multigenerational getaway. The average weekly rental is $2800.00 on Don Pedro Island. There are no hotels or commercial businesses on Don Pedro with the exception of a small store and restaurant at nearby Palm Island Resort. Families can be comfortable in their own rental home or villa and they can save money by preparing their own meals. A car ferry transports people to the island in 4 minutes and the mode of transportation when there is mostly via golf cart, bicycle or walking. Vacationers can also stay in rental homes on the Gulf of Mexico with access to dockage on Bocilla Lagoon, homes on Kettle Harbor with docks and access to the Intracoastal Waterway and in homes with docks on the Intracoastal Waterway. For a complete listing of vacation rental properties to choose from, visit the destination’s “Where to Stay” website section at www.charlotteharbortravel.com/stay.
If renting on Don Pedro, from Stump Pass at the north end of the island to Little Gasparilla at the south end, there are 7 miles of uncrowded, pristine white sand beaches. Vacationers can walk right out the back door and be on the beach. Shelling and fossilized shark’s tooth hunting are a favorite pastime. Sunsets are stunning and different every night. High end accommodations include fully stocked kitchens, linens, towels, sheets, flat screen TVs, internet, grills and are furnished with beachy decor.
Farmers Markets abound throughout Florida and popular destinations in the county include: the Punta Gorda Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday on Taylor Road. Ph: 941-391-4856. Then every Sunday there’s the History Park Farmer’s Market at 501 Shreve Street, Punta Gorda. Ph: 941-380-6814.
For recreation there’s lots to do, as locals will attest, out-and-about on the water and inland too. Charlotte Harbor is widely recognized as the Tarpon Capital of the World, but there are lots more for anglers, sailors and cruisers to enjoy too. Prefer to troll with an experienced fishing guide? There are plenty of outfitters to choose from like Capt. Ralph Allen with King Fisher Fleet, Capt. Chris O’Neill with Tail Chaser Charter Services and Capt. Van Hubbard of Let’s Go Fishin’ Inc..
To wash down all this local farm (or sea) to table goodness, the county also features a winery, and a craft brew house with taproom. Catania’s Winery in Englewood offers wine tastings Thursdays – Saturdays . In Punta Gorda, the Fat Point Brewing Taproom offers craft beers brewed locally seven days a week.
Named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the U.S.,” the area offers several regattas, sailing charters and schools, even sailing for those with disabilities. Smoke & Roses, a pristine 47 ft. luxury catamaran offers half, full and multi-day cruises for up to six passengers. Explore the area’s Blueways on nearly 200 miles of Blueway Trails which are mapped for kayakers, with 53 trails rated for access, difficulty and scenic value. Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours, It’s Time! Kayak and Canoe, and GAEA Guides offer guided wilderness Blueway trips on some of Florida’s most scenic waterways. Each can tailor a trip for beginners or experts, with opportunities to spot an amazing variety of birds and perhaps a chance encounter with a manatee or dolphin.
Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is the newest and hottest human-powered water activity, a cross between surfboarding and kayaking, offering a great workout and a lot of fun in calm water or waves. Rentals are available at several locations including Hooked on Sup and with SUP Englewood.
For a slow and thorough exploration on land, enjoy a free leisurely pedal along the Peace River in historic downtown Punta Gorda courtesy of the first Florida free bike loan program. The city was recognized in 2010 as a “Florida Bike-Friendly Community” by the Florida Bicycle Association. A volunteer organization called TEAM Punta Gorda offers a complimentary Yellow Bike Loaner Program. All that is required to enjoy a bicycle for an hour or a day is a credit card, driver’s license and signature of waiver. Bicycles are offered on a space-available basis at various downtown locations.
For those who want to get onto the beaten path, Acme Bicycle offers two-hour guided tours through the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area and the tour includes the mountain bicycle and helmet. You can also explore the Southwest Florida Wilderness with a Buggy Excursion through the Swamp by Babcock Wilderness Adventures. Ninety-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 during the tour.
For a different kind of wildlife adventure, Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary provides a healthy living and recovery environment for abandoned and abused exotic wildlife – think lions, tigers and bears, 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. To see how mankind can help or hurt our most vulnerable populations, visit the Peace River Wildlife Center, an active wildlife rehabilitation center and park. Here you will see the tender care administered to orphaned, displaced, and injured native wildlife. The center admits about 2,000 “patients” annually and most are released to their natural habitats once healed. Guided tours are offered regularly through the day, and a self-guided tour brochure is available. Among the indigenous animals, reptiles and birds, one highlight is a white screech owl named “Luna.” This little guy has a form of albinism. Peace River Wildlife Center is open daily, admission is free.
For a list of local activities and annual Special and Cultural Events visit: www.charlotteharbortravel.com/events/
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, the area offers a pristine unspoiled beauty. In 2014 Port Charlotte has been named the top U.S. Best Value Destination by trivago, the world’s largest online hotel search site, and the Charlotte Sports Park, spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, was voted “Best Spring Training Facility” by readers of USA TODAY. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named one of 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.” Englewood was named second of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by TripAdvisor.com. The area is served by five airports: The Punta Gorda Airport (PDG) with private and charter air service, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Southwest Florida International Airport, Ft. Myers, (RSW), St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and Tampa International Airport (TPA).
For more information on visiting Charlotte Harbor visit www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com or call1-800-652-6090.