Our beautiful beaches are a huge draw, but there are also many activities to experience and sights to see away from the sand and surf. Explore below for some inspiration on how to spend your non-beach time in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach:
Experience Where Old Florida Meets Tomorrow
Experience real Florida with the Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours 90-minute buggy tour through a working cattle ranch and Telegraph Swamp. Wildlife sightings vary and can include white-tailed deer, Osceola turkeys, wild boar, and of course, alligators. There’s also a good chance you’ll meet some of the resident cracker cattle.
Down the road is America’s first solar-powered town, Babcock Ranch. If you take the buggy tour at Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours, you will pass a field with the town’s 343,000 solar panels. Babcock Ranch has 5 miles of hiking and biking, kayak rentals, and fresh water fishing in Lake Babcock.
Visit the Largest Reptile Zoo in Florida
IguanaLand in Punta Gorda has over 200 reptiles on exhibit! From iguanas and chameleons to tortoises, turtles, monitor lizards, and more, there's a fascinating creature around every corner. They offer a variety of experiences: explore on your own, try the Animal Encounter to get up close and personal with the animals and maybe even handle and feed a couple, or go for the VIP for an amazing behind-the-scenes tour.
For excitement and views like no other, think about jumping, as they say, "out of a perfectly good airplane" with Skydive Southwest Florida. Safety comes first and all jumps are tandem with experienced professional skydivers. There's also a viewing area for family and friends.
Learn About the Past
The Military Heritage Museum has a mission to “promote an understanding and respect for the rich military heritage of the United States and the sacrifices made by our country’s veterans, living and dead, emphasizing that freedom is not free.” Thousands of military artifacts dating back to the Spanish-American War and continuing up to current conflicts are on display, along with thousands of infographics and audiovisuals, but that's not all. There are also flight and ship simulators and virtual reality experiences and live performances. The museum is made possible by the more than 75 volunteers—many of whom are veterans—who give their time.
Experience Wildlife Up Close and Personal
The Peace River Wildlife Center in Ponce de Leon Park provides tender care to native Florida wildlife that have either been orphaned or injured. Residents on display cannot be returned to the wild and have a comfortable home at the center educating the public about native wildlife. Residents include gopher tortoise, marsh rabbit, and a variety of birds like bald eagles, black vultures, ibis, and more, plus ambassadors Luna, a rare leucisitc eastern screech owl, and Bella, a great horned owl. Visit at 2:30 pm to see the pelicans being fed, it’s quite the sight!
The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary is open for private guided tours that will get you up close (from at least 6 feet away, that is) and personal with lions and tigers and other big cats, bears, primates, wolves, and many more exotic animals. Octagon is a "retirement community/nursing home" for animals who have been rescued or relinquished.
Savor the Flavors
With well over 100 independent restaurants—and counting!— in there area, there is literally something for everyone. Whether you're looking for a hearty breakfast, a light lunch, a gourmet dinner, or anything in between, from pub bites to fresh seafood to artful sushi or traditional recipes, you'll find plenty of great restaurants to enjoy.
Experience Where Art Meets Mother Nature
A 50 million-year-old stone fossil of a palm frond taken from a mountain top in Wyoming serves as the inspiration for the logo and signature sculpture of Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens. More than a dozen large-scale sculptures adorn the landscape of the 27-acre property along with flowering trees that bloom throughout the year and countless amazing botanicals. Don't miss the butterfly pavilion and be sure to feed the Koi.
Live the Dream
Bert’s Black Widow Harley-Davidson® is one of the top HD dealerships in the country. In addition to sales of new and used Harley-Davidson motorcycles, apparel, parts, and accessories, free beer is served daily in their expansive showroom and there's something going on most every weekend.
Once you've worked up an appetite at Bert's, take a few steps across the parking lot to The Twisted Fork. Enjoy the truly original décor, great food, and live music on Bert's Back Porch.
Ride Green, Ride Free, Ride Like the Wind!
Punta Gorda features the first Florida free bike loan program. The city has been recognized as a “Florida Bike-Friendly Community” by the Florida Bicycle Association as a result of their volunteer organization called TEAM Punta Gorda offering a complimentary Bike Loaner Program. All that is required to enjoy a bicycle for an hour or a day is a credit card, driver’s license (copies made for collateral) and signature of waiver. Bicycles are offered on a space-available basis at various downtown locations: Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Bayfront Health’s Wellness Center, Fishermen’s Village Marina and Four Points by Sheraton.
Since Punta Gorda is a bicycle-friendly community, the Punta Gorda Pathways, which is an 18-mile loop trail connecting pedestrian and bike paths around the city, was established to allow the city’s bicyclists a more convenient way to get around. Bicycle routes are marked and range in length from 17 to 31 miles.
Take it Inside, Then Break Out
Are you good at solving puzzles? If so, an escape room experience should be in your future. This family-friendly activity is a creative indoor adventure where a group of people work together to solve a mystery in less than an hour. Charlotte County has two escape rooms, Escape Rooms Unlocked (in Punta Gorda) and Escape Port Charlotte.
Shop and Cruise the Harbor
Whether you're buying a souvenir or treat for yourself or a gift for someone special, the unique gift shops and boutiques at Fishermen's Village will provide plenty of inspiration. After all that work, enjoy lunch at one of their numerous waterfront restaurants and take a boat tour with King Fisher Fleet. Don't forget to save room for something sweet at one of the treat shops.
Browse Galleries and Chat with Artists
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is home to hundreds of talented artists and any day is a great day to get into some of the galleries to browse creative artwork and speak with the artists. Some galleries include:
- The Hatch Gallery in Port Charlotte
- The Visual Arts Center of Punta Gorda
- Sea Grape Gallery in Punta Gorda
- Artisan Atelier in Punta Gorda
Express Your Shelly Self
Sheryl’s Shell Shop in Englewood is a place to go and find all things "shell," including sea-themed décor. Also, if you picked up a special seashell or shark tooth from the beach, you can create a piece of resin art with it!
This is a short list of things to do away from the beach in Charlotte County. Explore the rest of our site for lots more to do!