To Take You Off Florida's Beaten Path
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast is an off-the-beaten track Florida getaway located on the Southwest Gulf coast halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers. This pristine area combines miles of protected wildlife preserves with a collection of scenic fishing villages and artsy Florida communities, from Englewood to Port Charlotte to Placida to Punta Gorda, clustered around Charlotte Harbor. A member of the Society for Ethical Eco-Tourism, the area’s sustainable low-rise development includes new, luxury and family-affordable accommodations and a commitment to preserve its natural beauty. The area offers dozens of outdoor and indoor activities to wean the kids off television or digital gaming activities that generations can enjoy together. When you’re ready to return to civilization, a host of dining, shopping, and cultural experiences await.
World’s First Solar-Powered Town Officially Open in Charlotte County, Fla.
Babcock Ranch, the world’s first solar-powered town located in southeast Charlotte County, just northeast of Fort Myers on Babcock Ranch Road/State Road 31, commemorated the town’s official grand opening on March 10, 2018, with a celebration that featured tours of 20 furnished model homes and FPL’s Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, where a newly constructed observation platform provides sweeping views of the 440-acre solar field.
Babcock Ranch was created by Kitson & Partners with respect for the natural environment and the philosophy that smart growth and sustainability work hand in hand. Half of the town’s 18,000-acre footprint is set aside as greenways, parks and expansive lakes, providing recreation and scenic backdrops for Babcock Ranch’s homes and the Founder’s Square downtown district.
Babcock Ranch promotes healthy living through a walkable community plan, 50 miles of planned biking and hiking trails, interconnected lakes for paddling enthusiasts, a robust calendar of exercise classes, and the Healthy Life Center operated by Lee Health.
New Outfitter Makes Paddling Accessible to Almost Everyone
Selkie Adaptive Paddle offers amazing guided adaptive adventures to people of all abilities, and for their friends and families to enjoy the experience with them. There are 54 million disabled Americans, over 3 million in Florida. This population includes a wide range of disabilities; physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. This may be a Veteran, a person with disabilities from birth, a person going through challenges from the normal aging process, or someone who has had a traumatic injury. They launch from Buck Creek Preserve to explore waters of Englewood, and Placida by kayak and paddleboard. Adventures may include creature finding, fishing, birding, and shelling expeditions. Exploring by paddleboard and kayak, while learning about our marine life, coastal ecosystems, and all the creatures we encounter in this beautiful area we call home. The outfitter launched in May 2018.
*OPENED IN FALL 2017* Art AND Nature? What a Beautiful Combo!
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 the new Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, which opened Oct. 20, 2017. More than a dozen large-scale sculptures adorn the landscape of the 27-acre property. Flowering trees bloom throughout the year and more than 15,000 sq. ft of boardwalks and docks are planned. Sculptures have been installed and the master plans for the Gardens were developed in 2010. The property is developed and primarily financed by the Roger E. and Linda A. Tetrault Foundation, a 501 c. (3) private foundation. This will be one of the largest endowments for a botanical garden in the state of Florida.
Ride Green, Ride Free, Ride Like the Wind to Discover the Real Charlotte Harbor
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 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 (copies made for collateral) and signature of waiver. Bicycles are offered on a space-available basis at various downtown locations such as Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Bayfront Health’s Wellness Center, Fishermen’s Village Marina and Punta Gorda Isles Yacht Club.
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. Four bicycle routs were also established and marked and range in length from 17 miles to a 31-mile ride.
Trace the City’s Roots through a Magnificent Collection of Hand-Painted Murals
An artistic way to learn the roots of Punta Gorda is through its 30 (and counting) beautifully painted murals that are scattered around the city on its historical buildings. The Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society (PGHMS) is a non-profit, 501c(3) organization founded in 1994 whose objectives are to revitalize, preserve and economically enhance the community through the painting of murals that depict the history of the area. Renderings of all the murals are on display at the Charlotte Harbor Events & Conference Center, The Punta Gorda City Hall and the Charlotte Community Foundation. Each mural tells its own unique story of the authentic city.
Undiscovered Beaches for Sunsets, Sports, Solitude and Shelling
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach has miles of uncrowded beaches for every interest. Romantics can watch the sun slip into the Gulf at Englewood Beach on Manasota Key or walk hand-in-hand along the shore. Many nearby restaurants offer nightlife. Adjoining Chadwick Park offers volleyball and basketball courts and plenty of fishing. At Port Charlotte Beach Park, families and athletes love the heated swimming pool, basketball, tennis, beach volleyball, bocce, horseshoe courts and playground. Picnic shelters, a fishing pier and boating access ramps add to the appeal. Explorer’s beach: Stump Pass Beach State Park, with wide open coastlines and nature trails for viewing wildlife and native plants, is ideal for shelling and gathering fossilized shark’s teeth. Most secluded: Don Pedro Island State Park, which can only be reached by private boat. There are plenty of shells and few people to compete for them! Look for manatees, bald eagles, and gopher tortoises. Far removed from civilization, yet amenities include restrooms, outdoor showers, picnic pavilions and barbecue grills.
From Blue Crab Picking to Dining Like James Beard, The Flavors of Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach
The dining scene in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is an eclectic mix of seafood shacks, sidewalk cafes, waterfront eateries, fine dining, and sweet spots. Primary dining districts include downtown Punta Gorda (which has more than 50 independently owned restaurants), Fishermen’s Village and Englewood’s Dearborn Street. Familiar corporate-owned restaurants are bountiful, too.
Paddle Through Paradise - Blueway Trails
Part of the Florida Greenways and Trails System, 200 miles of Blueway Trails are mapped for paddlers whether they’re in a kayak, canoe or standup paddleboard, with 53 trails rated for access, difficulty and scenic value. Veteran aficionados say these trails are some of the most beautiful in the U.S. Nearly 84 percent of the 830 miles of shoreline is protected from development, providing shelter and habitat for an amazing variety of species. With a guide, one might see hundreds of birds flying home to roost, wild boar, otters, Manta rays and horseshoe crabs. Experienced sea kayakers can enjoy challenges out on the Gulf. Learn kayak fishing, where one can sneak up on the prey. Several outfitters/guides offer wilderness trips, photographic forays and tailored tours for beginner to expert, perhaps accompanied by manatees or dolphins. For an unique adventure, rent a clear kayak with Glass Bottom Rentals and view sea life from the comfort of your boat.
Catch some Rays at Charlotte Sports Park
The Charlotte Sports Park facility was ranked #1 Best Spring Training Facility in the U.S. by USA Today/10best.com in 2014 for its state-of-the-art renovations. The facility contains over 5,000 fixed seats and additional berm seating along the first and third baselines. Each and every seat has a fantastic view offering up-close and personal views of your favorite players. Spring Training home to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Charlotte Sports Park is the ideal training location, with March temperatures in the upper-70’s.
Taste the Crafts
With the rising popularity in craft drinks, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is keeping up with the trend with its craft brewery tap room and craft distiller. Fat Point Brewery has more than four brews that are hand-crafted locally every day. You can visit their taproom to test batches of beers that you won’t find anywhere else. Peace River Beer Company is the newest brewery and is located in Punta Gorda. Owned and operated by the Voss brothers, Alligator Bay Distillers crafts rum from 100 percent Florida molasses. Be sure to schedule a free tasting tour on their website!
Florida’s First Equal Opportunity Employer and African-American Heritage
George Brown, an African-American shipbuilder and landowner, was one of Punta Gorda’s founding fathers and holds the distinction of being Florida’s “first equal opportunity employer.” He hired both blacks and whites, which, among other precedents, imbued Punta Gorda with an unusual multiracial tenor. The Blanchard House Museum of African-American History & Culture documents that and much more. Founded by Bernice Andrews Russell, a prominent humanitarian who believed in preserving African-American culture and history, the house was built in 1925 as the home of Joseph Blanchard, a sea captain and fisherman, and his mail-order-bride, Minnie.
Charlotte Harbor attracts plenty of catch-and-release tournaments, from the Flatsmasters Fishing Tournaments to the World's Richest Tarpon Tournament. Often called the “Tarpon Capital of the World,” the wealthy discovered Charlotte Harbor in the late 1800s; notable anglers include financier J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Bush family and most recently, Tampa Bay Rays players. Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands teems with 256 species including, Snook, Redfish, Yellowtail, Cobia, Snapper, Shark, Grouper, Barracuda, Mackerel and Tarpon. More than 20 capable guides know the fishing sweet spots.
Adventure Beyond the Beach
Here visitors can check off many activities on their “must-do” list. Skydiving at 120 mph is speedy and surreal. The SW Florida Skydive Club offers complete instruction up to and beyond certification. 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. Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is the hottest new human-powered water activity, a cross between surfboarding and kayaking, offering a great workout and a lot of fun. Rentals and tours are available through Hooked on SUP at Stump Pass Beach State Park and Don Pedro Island State Park. Named among the “best places in America to live and play golf” by Golf Digest, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach offers year-round play on more than 20 golf courses. Spectacular landscapes provide the backdrop on courses that include two ranked 4½ stars by the magazine. Rick Treworgy's Muscle Car City displays over a hundred autos from the 1920s, focusing on the “muscle cars” of the 60s and 70s Pontiac GTOs, Corvettes, Oldsmobile Cutlass 442s, Chevelles, Camaros and more.
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach has seven sites listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail, part of the Florida Gulf Coast portion of the North American Migratory Flyway. Fall through spring, the population jumps to more than 190 species as swallows, wading birds, warblers and other neo-tropical migrants arrive. Among the treasured species: White and Glossy Ibis; Snowy, Great and Reddish Egrets; Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Scrub Jays and more. Thousands of distinctive White Pelicans, the area’s original “snowbirds,” return October/November to add to the photo opportunities.
That’s just the beginning of all that Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach: The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast has to offer. Visit our online library for images or call us for additional photos and ideas tailored to your interests.
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau