Dolphins riding the wake of a boat

Why You Should Choose to Visit Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, a Reminder in Six Parts

As travel destinations begin to open up, we’d like to remind you why you should plan to come—or come back—to Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, once you’re comfortable traveling.

Part 2: The Wild Life

Wildlife Roseate Spoon Bill

Just as the environment and the wildlife it supports are one, so too is our appreciation of our natural areas and the critters who live there. Catching a glimpse of a manatee, an alligator, a sea turtle, a dolphin or three, or a bobcat or Florida panther (if you’re very lucky) can be exciting, and the sheer variety of birds in the area is endlessly entertaining. It's also very easy to socially distance here!

While several of our wildlife attractions are currently closed, we mention them because although you may not be ready or able to travel just yet, the information may aid in your planning. 

To observe our wildlife safely, for both you and them, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach offers a number of nature tours and encounters. Visit our Attractions page to find your next adventure.

A great way to get out and experience nature is a Babcock Ranch Eco Tour. This is a fun, informative, and value-added (read: lunch at The Gator Shack then shopping in the gift shop) tour through pristine nature areas rife with wildlife and historic cracker cattle. Note: The Gator Shack is currently only open to those who've booked Eco Tour reservations.

Just down the road from the Eco Tour is our version of Oz: Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary. This astonishing place is home to rescued lions, tigers, bears, orangutans, and many other wild animals. Note: The Sanctuary is currently closed to the public, as exotic cats in particular are very susceptible to COVID-19. Follow them on Facebook for updates. This is a clean, friendly place, and it's amazing to get so close to truly "wild" animals and to learn their stories. It will be well worth a trip once they've reopened.

Close up of white horse at South West Florida Horse RescueOn the domestic side, Southwest Florida Horse Rescue cares for many amazing horses they’ve rescued and rehabilitated and Little Bear Sanctuary nurtures tons (literally!) of pigs, goats, chickens, cows, donkeys, and more. (Little Bear Sanctuary recently earned the title “GoFundMe Hero” for August  and was featured on Today.com!) 

Both SWFL Horse Rescue and Little Bear have special events from time to time and offer by-appointment visits. Both are located in Punta Gorda. Note: SWFL Horse Rescue has suspended visits for the time being. Check this page of their website for updates. Even if you can’t come in person, it’s worth following each of their Facebook pages for videos, heartwarming stories, and fun stuff. Follow the horses here, and the farm animals here.

If birds are more your thing, you'll be happy to know there are seven sections of the Great Florida Birding Trail within Charlotte County. We're definitely a birder's paradise!

Our local Peace River Audubon Society conducts walks, bird counts, and offers lectures; find out what they're up to on their website.

Visit our Birding page for more, and take advantage of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's great tracker that shows recent sightings by watchers using the eBird system.

Of a feather, as it were, is Peace River Wildlife Center (PRWC) in Punta Gorda. While they rehabilitate and rescue all kinds of animals, they offer plenty of up-close bird-centric experiences. Note: PRWC remains closed to the public for the time being. Check their website for updates. Once they've reopened, think about visiting at around 2:30 pm; you may catch them feeding the pelicans. They're also a great organization to follow on Facebook.

This area is also home to many other conservation-focused groups—some offering tours, guided walks, special events, and more—who work to preserve and protect our spectacular natural areas.

To instill that same stewardship in kids, The EYE on Nature Youth Explorers Club is designed to help families discover and appreciate natural attractions in the Englewood area. This special program was developed by the Englewood Florida Chamber Tourism Assembly and Englewood Community Services Inc. with support from the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) and Visit Sarasota County. You can find more information here, and you can purchase a Pak right here.

This area is special, and we’re grateful for the many individuals and organizations who work Photo of Butterfly at Wildflower Butterfly Habitathard to make sure that the bounty we’re blessed with is safeguarded for all to enjoy. We treasure our natural areas, and we invite you to enjoy them too. Find conservation groups and more on our Nature and Parks page.

If, after encountering all these wonderful animals and hearing their stories, you’re thinking of doing some “voluntourism” in the future, ask a representative of your favorite organization for more information.

We'll say it again: we've missed you and look forward to seeing you again!