Nature-lovers and other romantics who want to escape the crowds will fall in love with this secluded coastal hideaway halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast. Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers the perfect balance of charming coastal communities and undeveloped vistas where 84 percent of the shoreline is protected preserve and Nature reigns supreme. Here are five ways to celebrate romance in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, from a Florida beach getaway to spectacular sunsets and candlelight dining. Sail Away Together Named to SAIL magazine’s "10 Greatest Places to Sail in the U.S.," the area offers regattas, sailing charters and schools. Spend the day sailing on Charlotte Harbor and discover a new romantic pastime together. Yachting Vacations offers sailing classes, including how to handle a 35' yacht. Dolphins and seabirds often come along for the ride. Discover Your Own Beach At Don Pedro Island State Park, discover a plethora of shells along a mile-long stretch of almost-deserted sandy beach on this beautiful barrier island. Meander among a series of hiking trails and look for endangered species such as, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, and American oystercatchers as well as native plants. Stage a romantic picnic for two in the covered pavilion. Accessible only by boat; contact www.grandetours.com, or go by private watercraft. Kindle Romance Via Kayak Some of Florida's most scenic waterways are located in this eco-centered paradise, with opportunities to spot an amazing variety of birds and often, manatee or dolphin. O-Sea-D Aquatic Adventures offers guided kayak trips through mangrove tunnels, ending with a visit to the Peace River Wildlife Center, a rehabilitation sanctuary. The Center receives a donation of 20 percent of the price. Grande Tours and It's Time Kayak & Canoe also offer kayaking excursions ideal for a romantic day. Couples looking to add a splash to an intimate wedding or a vow renewal can now paddle off to beachy bliss with a new "Kayak Weddings" package offered by Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours. Find Some Art for Your Heart Wander historic Punta Gorda's brick-laid streets lined with majestic palms. One-of-a-kind boutiques and classic "key west" style Florida homes add to the charm in this town dotted with art galleries. The Visual Arts Center features an extensive gallery and gift shop. The Sea Grape Artists Gallery , a 25 member co-operative, offers original award-winning artwork in every medium, including fiber art, basketry, glass, jewelry, and more. Artisans’ Atelier in Herald Court Center is a new gallery where artists create, display and sell their works in cubicles arranged for folks to visit and find something special. In Englewood, the galleries are clustered around Dearborn Street and romantic Olde Englewood Village. Dine by Candlelight For waterfront dining, Portofino's on the Peace River in Port Charlotte offers scrumptious seafood and Italian fare. Enjoy views from the deck or two inside dining rooms. For casual dining, head to Englewood and try either Gulf View Grill , which has the added benefit of romantic waterfront sunsets, or Farlow’s on the Water, where Caribbean and Southern cuisine delightfully coexist on the menu. Chef Jeanie Roland of Punta Gorda's The Perfect Caper, has been nominated four times for a prestigious James Beard Foundation "Best Chef in the South" award, and earned two Golden Spoon awards from Florida Trend magazine. Palate-pleasing dishes fusing European flavor with Asian accents are on the menu. The Captain’s Table at Fishermen’s Village also ensures a romantic experience, with its waterfront views of Charlotte Harbor, low lighting and delicious steak and seafood options. Stroll through the Fishermen’s Village boutiques, find a one-of-a-kind keepsake, and take a sunset cruise. Romantic Accommodations and Packages From luxurious retreats to beachfront resorts, villas and familiar chain hotels, the area offers accommodations for every taste and budget. The website, www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com contains a complete listing of accommodations, activities, and restaurants. Below are just a few of the special romance packages available: On a barrier island hideaway accessible only by ferry is Palm Island Resort, where time stands still and crowds give way to solitude. Pristine beaches await, offering spectacular shelling and peaceful relaxation. Valentine’s Weekend Packages (February 11-13, 2011) start at $835 in well-appointed villas. Highlights include free golf cart rental for getting around the beautifully-landscaped property, free car ferry and water taxi to/from the mainland, complimentary telephone, a picnic lunch on the beach and Saturday dinner at Rum Bay Restaurant with a special menu, and more. Other packages include a Couple’s Winter Cast Away Three-Day Package with similar amenities and extras, including tennis, valid from January through March 3, 2011 starting at $425 per couple. All packages and specials are subject to availability at time of booking; prices do not include applicable taxes or service gratuities. Please visit www.palmisland.com for complete details before booking. The Holiday Inn Express Port Charlotte has a one-night romance package with a King Lakeview Room, champagne with complimentary flutes, chocolates and flowers, a $50 gift card for dinner at Visani’s, voted Most Romantic Restaurant in Port Charlotte and home to the Comedy Zone with complimentary roundtrip transportation, a deluxe continental breakfast that includes hot choices. Rates begin at $139 in January and $149 in February, 2011; available Tuesday - Saturday only and must be booked at least three days in advance, based on availability. Contact the hotel directly at 941-764-0056 or book online under “packages” at www.holidayinnexpress.com. Additional nights may be added at a discounted rate; contact the hotel directly. The Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside is featuring a Beer Lovers Deal. The "Best Brews" package includes a full American breakfast for two, 50% off the price of the Best Brews Sampler, free high speed Internet and free bottled water. Beginning February 2011 rates start at $102 a night for two people, available on weekends only. To view all details and restrictions, book online at www.fourpointspuntagorda.com, or call 866-716-8105 and ask for rate plan BREWSPKG. Package is available throughout 2011. For details on these packages and others, visit this Vacation Packages Page on CharlotteHarborTravel.com.
Need a Romantic Escape in Florida? Think Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Thursday, January 27, 2011 4:00 AM by Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach