I love to visit somewhere that I've never been to before. As a first time visitor to the Charlotte Harbor region I found a lot different types of adventure options to choose from.
Punta Gorda: Take your tastebuds on a culinary adventure
One of my favorite ways to experience a city is by discovering their local food. Punta Gorda did not disappoint! We began our visit with brunch at Leroy's Southern Kitchen and Bar where I enjoyed a dish that I would not normally try. Their cajun biscuits and gravy created with crawfish gravy were fantastic with a great mix of flavor and heat.
We also took a walking culinary tour downtown with Southwest Florida Walking Tours where we learned about the history of the area, saw a few murals, and tasted incredible food from local restaurants while talking to the owners or chefs while we ate. This tour definitely opened my eyes to restaurants that I will want to visit again that would have never noticed without the tour.
I would also suggest finding the local favorites that are off the beaten path like Peace River Seafood.
You know the blue crab is good when people who are from Maryland drive hours to eat here. The walls are also lined with dollar bills EVERYWHERE. The tradition started with phrase ..... "If I had a dollar for every customer who told me they were from Maryland".....and the walls tell that business has been good! This boat to table restaurant doesn't have it to serve, if they didn't catch it. Now that is fresh!
All you can eat crab is an adventure you need to experience! If you don't like to work as hard for your crabmeat, I suggest ordering the all you can eat garlic knots which help you get to the meat quicker.
Try new Spirits
Enjoy a free rum tasting and learn more about the rum making process on a tour at Alligator Bay Distillers. Their "Dark" Rum was my personal favorite. Another local option with a great atmosphere is Fat Point Brewery. They have a great outdoor seating area along with an open concept inside the brewery with views of the beer vats. Beer is not my personal preference, but I still decided to be adventurous and try a few samples. My husband discovered that he LOVED their Ryeght Angle IPA and found great conversation with the bartender about all things sports related for the win.
Take advantage of the Free Bike Share
This absolutely blew my mind because Punta Gorda is the first city that I've visited with a FREE bicycle loaner program. You can check out a bike at one of 6 locations, sign a waiver, allow them to copy your ID and a credit card, and then return the bicycles to the pickup location 30 minutes before closing or sunset.
You can find art several different ways in Punta Gorda. Visit a gallery, take a tour of the murals that are on buildings throughout downtown with an official tour, check out the interactive feature on each mural on your own using your mobile phone, or search for all of the creative bicycles that are decorated throughout the city in front of businesses. If you find a mural with a bicycle in front of it you get double points.
Catch a great story on a Charter Fishing Trip
You may or may not catch the "Big One" while on a charter with King Fisher Fleet Charter Fishing but you will have a great time trying. You can bait your hook or allow your captain to do it depending on your comfort level. You will likely also see some other incredible sea life during your fishing trip which also makes for a great story. I'll never forget the moment that we watched a family of dolphins riding the wake of our boat. Those baby dolphins made my day and were my favorite part of our fishing adventure!
I would describe Englewood as one of Florida's best kept secrets. It's not your typical tourist destination because you don't see a lot of attractions and tourists shops saturated in the area. The atmosphere in this community is very laid back. The crowds are lighter which allows you to just enjoy nature and the local restaurants nearby with great seafood.
Take a SUP Paddleboard and Snorkel Tour
I'm all about stepping outside of my comfort zone which is why this adventure was both exciting for me and also made me a little nervous. I've tried SUP before, but not in water located near the ocean. The beauty of taking a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) tour with Hooked on SUP is that you can do whatever you are comfortable with. My husband found certain positions on the board to be more comfortable than others due to an old football injury, but the impressive part was that he tried it for the 1st time and discovered what worked for him. He didn't hesitate at all when it was time to snorkel, but this Midwest girl took a little longer to ease into the water. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is why it was important for me to do it. My fears did not come to pass and I can now proudly say that I snorkeled in an area called "Rag Alley" which definitely made it sound more a little more edgy.
Explore Stump Pass Beach State Park
This State Park is so peaceful and offers a unique landscape with trails and lots of tree stumps along the shoreline. You might notice several areas marked off on the beach that are designed to protect the sea turtle nests. If you get the opportunity to watch one hatch or return to the ocean, depending on the time of year that you visit, you will have the memory of a lifetime. There are many types of birds in the state park and you also might see a few starfish, a manatee, dolphin, or a really big fish. Another perk of a SUP tour is that your guide know where and what to look for in and around the water.
Find the perfect beach souvenir
There are so many beautiful shells along the beach in Englewood. We were also told that you can find shark's teeth. You can easily make an adventure out of finding the most unique seashell to take home with you to remember your wonderful visit.
Learn from the locals
I really enjoy talking to locals when I visit a destination. During a conversation with a local, you might find out about a gem that you might have overlooked otherwise. You will also get a greater understanding about their community and why they are passionate about their business or hobby.
Don't forget to stop to enjoy Golden hour
I recommend waking up early to watch the sunrise at least once during your visit and make sure that you also make a point to watch each sunset. They are very unique and magical every. single. time.
I've found that the best way to seek adventure at a destination is to stay curious and be open to trying new things. Punta Gorda and Englewood definitely have you covered.