Punta GordaLocated along the Charlotte Harbor shoreline, Punta Gorda has been called a “Sportsmans Paradise” and is home to some of the most beautiful kayak paddling trails in Southwest Florida. Read on for tips from our local experts on where to stay and play in Punta Gorda.
What sets Punta Gorda apart from other Florida vacation spots?
Punta Gorda, FL, rests at the crossroads of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor north of the Fort Myers area. Incorporated in 1887, the historic downtown is pedestrian and bicyclist friendly with a series of connected pathways that run parallel to the Peace River. The city has modern comforts but offers a small-town atmosphere. Over the years, Punta Gorda has earned accolades because of its outdoor amenities including “Best Healthy Place to Retire” by Money magazine and “One of the Best Yachting Towns” by Yachting Magazine.Find waterfront hotels, restaurants and parks in Punta Gorda. Royal palms line the streets while restored period homes sit on brick streets reminiscent of old-Florida. For a city with a population of about 20,000, there are more than 50 independently-owned restaurants ranging from an English-style pub to a James Beard Foundation nominated restaurant. Of course, plenty of eateries serve fresh Florida seafood.
What are the best beaches near Punta Gorda, Florida?
When you vacation to Florida, we realize finding the best beach is important and although Punta Gorda has a small man made beach at Ponce de Leon Park, there are several beaches to visit. Each beach in and around Punta Gorda has its personality with the closest being the Port Charlotte Bach Park which is on Charlotte Harbor. This white-sand beach is popular with families and athletes because it has picnic shelters, ramps for boating and a fishing pier. It also offers beach volleyball, horseshoe courts, a playground and a heated swimming pool.
Elsewhere, there are 28 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches on four barrier islands with two of the beaches located in Florida State Parks. Manasota Key is home to Stump Pass Beach State Park and Englewood Beach which terrific for sunning, hunting for seashells and fossilized shark’s teeth, and walking. Each morning, beach yoga is offered on Englewood Beach and every Sunday night about an hour before sunset, a drum circle forms. The public is invited to participate as an observer, dancer or musician. Don Pedro Island State Park is located on the barrier island of Don Pedro Island and only access by boat, whether it’s a boat tour, passenger ferry, private boat or kayak. Enjoy a pavilion with restrooms and shower which are appreciated after a day at the beach. Hike the nature trail, collect seashells and fossilized shark’s teeth or enjoy the sun. There is a $.75/hour fee to park at Englewood Beach.
Nearby is Gasparilla Island with more than a dozen public beach access points making accessing a Boca Grande beach easy. Sandbar is a popular Boca Grande beach and is located on the island’s southern end next to the Sandbar Restaurant. Step into the soft, white sand at Gasparilla Island State Park which has five parking areas. The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse in the state park is the island’s signature architectural structure. The Florida State Park system charges a nominal admission fee.
What is the history of Punta Gorda, Florida?
Punta Gorda’s history dates back to around 10,000 BC when the nomadic Paleo-Indians inhabited the area. The Calusa, the “shell people,” then inhabited Southwest Florida with a population of more than 50,000 until the Spanish landed in the 1500s. They and other Europeans brought diseases such as measles and smallpox which were fatal to the Calusa population. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon entered Charlotte Harbor twice, the first time in 1513 and second in 1521 when he attempted to colonize the area. He and his men fought with the Calusa and he was felled with an arrow. He sailed to Cuba where he died from his wound later that year. The Seminole Indians eventually inhabited the Charlotte Harbor area and in 1845, Florida became a state.
The town of Trabue was platted in the 1880s with waterfront parcels designated as parks, which accounts for Punta Gorda’s waterfront parks. A few years later, the Florida Southern Railroad carried the area’s first tourists and land developers. In 1887, the city was incorporated and the city’s first mayor, W.H. Simmons, changed the city’s name to Punta Gorda. Economically, the city depended on commercial fishing, agriculture trade with its deep water shipping port and winter tourists who stayed in a grand hotel on the Peace River. One man drawn to the area, an African-American shipbuilder and landowner named George Brown, became one of Punta Gorda’s founding fathers along with three other black settlers – something unheard of back in that time.
In the 1950s, subdivisions were developed which attracted northern retirees seeking sunshine, fishing and boating and Punta Gorda was called “The Sportsman’s Paradise.” Over the decades, Punta Gorda expanded but continued to maintain its small town charm. In 2004, Punta Gorda was hit hard by Hurricane Charley but it quickly recovered and spurred a renaissance with new hotels, restaurants and attractions, all the while preserving the city’s historical attributes.
What are things to do in Punta Gorda, Florida?
Bicycling – Punta Gorda, Florida, is one of the country’s most bicycle-friendly cities. There are several bicycle paths throughout the city and if you don’t have your own, pick up a free yellow loaner bike. There are several pickup locations throughout the city and these are compliments of the volunteer organization named TEAM Punta Gorda.
Boating – Charlotte Harbor has 830 miles of shoreline, two dozen area marinas and ample boat ramps making getting on the water easy. Access is available to the Gulf of Mexico, Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River. Charlotte Harbor has been named one of the top sailing destinations by SAIL magazine and Yachting Magazine named Punta Gorda one of the best 50 yachting towns in the U.S. Boats are available for rent from several marinas in the event you don’t have your own. Or, hop on a scheduled boat tour to a remote island or catch a golden sunset.
Canoeing, Kayaking and Standup Paddle Boarding – The Punta Gorda area has about 200 miles of Blueway Waterway trails designed for paddle sports. In Punta Gorda, Shell Creek has been called one of Southwest Florida’s prettiest kayak trails. It’s accessible from Hathaway Park and the one-way trail meanders along oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. If you don’t have your own canoe, kayak and standup paddle board, there are multiple vendors in Punta Gorda who rent them and offer guided tours.
Golf – Punta Gorda is conveniently located near more than 20 golf courses within a 45-minute drive. These courses range from executive to championship level. Two local courses have been ranked 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest and three are Audubon certified. Many courses have golf clubs available for rent if you don’t bring your own.
Fishing – Once called “The Sportsman’s Paradise,” fishing is one of the top activities visitors do when visiting Punta Gorda. Since the city is located on the Peace River and Charrlotte Harbor, it’s easy to find a fishing spot whether it’s from a fishing pier, heading out with a guide, or taking your own boat out. Charlotte Harbor is recognized for world-class fishing and serves as an important breeding ground for several fish including cobia, grouper, redfish, snook and tarpon. The harbor is brackish water formed by the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico and freshwater from the Caloosahatchee, Myakka and Peace Rivers. Shore and pier fishing are popular as well as inshore and deep sea fishing, and fishing from either a motorized boat or kayak. Numerous experienced fishing guides are available for hire. In addition to saltwater, freshwater fishing for panfish as largemouth bass and bluegill is popular from Webb Lake at the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area along with and local ponds and canals in Punta Gorda.
Shopping – You may want to pack an empty suitcase when vacationing in Punta Gorda because there are dozens of unique boutiques and galleries to find one-of-a-kind art, jewelry and souvenirs. Fishermen’s Village is a popular place to visit and shop as well as Punta Gorda’s historic downtown area. Many visitors find great deals when shopping the local thrift shops, too.
What tips for vacation rentals should we consider in Punta Gorda, Florida?
When it comes to Punta Gorda vacation rentals, there are hundreds available throughout the year with some privately owned with others managed by local or national companies. Choosing a vacation rental is an important part of your stay in Punta Gorda and the right one for you is dependent on your budget and personal preference when it comes to location. We strongly recommend you spend time researching properties, read reviews on peer review sites and contact the owners.
There are many vacation rental scams especially on the Internet and under no circumstance should you wire transfer money for the rental, especially to someone overseas. Protect your vacation investment by arming yourself with the right information by asking the right questions. Do not be afraid to walk away from a deal that seems too good to be true, because it probably is.
Is Punta Gorda, Florida a good spring break destination?
Punta Gorda and Charlotte County makes a terrific spring break destination for those looking for a leisurely-paced warm getaway. Punta Gorda sees more families and couples rather than college students enjoying Spring Break. Traffic is typically heavier during this time of year and beach parking is at a premium so plan accordingly.
Is Punta Gorda, Florida safe?
Personal safety is an important factor when selecting a Florida vacation destination or new place to live. Bluntly, you want to know, how bad is the crime in Punta Gorda? We advise you to conduct your own research about crime levels in order to decide if Punta Gorda is safe.
The real estate Movoto listed Punta Gorda as one of the top 10 safest places in Florida You can also use the Crime Filter of Trulia which pulls from two reliable databases. You can also check the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and City of Punta Gorda Police Department.
If after visiting Punta Gorda, Florida, and you decide to relocate, before deciding on a property, visit it at different times of the day to get a feel for the neighborhood. Do you see neighbors socializing? Are there families? Is there trash or abandoned cars? An area with a lot of activity and neighbors socializing suggests it is a safe one.
What are the best points of interest in Punta Gorda?
According to the local Chamber of Commerce and tourism office, here are the best places to visit while you vacation in Punta Gorda:
Baseball Spring Training – Florida is home to the Grapefruit League, the winter grounds for baseball spring training. In nearby Port Charlotte, the Tampa Bay Rays call the Charlotte Sports park home during spring training and play against teams as the Boston Red Socks and New York Yankees. Games are typically held during March and the Charlotte Sports Park’s 365 degree boardwalk offers baseball fans the opportunity to get up close to their favorite players.
Fishermen’s Village – Located where the Peace River meets Charlotte Harbor, visiting Fishermen’s Village is one of the most popular things to do in Charlotte County. This unique waterfront mall, marina and resort is located in historic Punta Gorda on the Peace River at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. The complex recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and features vacation villa rentals, restaurants, boutique shopping, fishing charters and boat rentals, kayak and standup paddle board rentals and lessons, eco-boat tours, harbor tours, sunset cruises, surrey bike rentals, free Yellow Bicycle Loaner Program and marina. Free concerts and entertainment are offered throughout the year.
Fitness Zone – Looking to hitting the gym but really don’t want to during your visit to Punta Gorda? Head to the Fitness Zone in Linear Park near Fishermen’s Village. You’ll find three outdoor gyms with various pieces of fitness equipment for use by people 14 years old or older. Use of the equipment is free.
King Fisher Fleet – Hop aboard a boat for a cruise of Charlotte Harbor or excursion to a remote island. Or, hire a fishing guide to fish the world-class water of Charlotte Harbor. Inshore and offshore fishing trips are offered. King Fisher Fleet has been offering boat tours and fishing charters for more than 30 years and is based at Fishermen’s Village.
Historic Murals – One of the first things you will notice about downtown Punta Gorda is the collection of large-scale murals on the sides of buildings. It’s the mission of the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society to preserve and tell the city’s story by telling it through the collection of murals. There are nearly 30 colorful murals sharing the history beginning with the Spanish through today. The best way to enjoy them is by hopping on one of the free yellow loaner bicycles.
Military Heritage Museum – View military artifacts dating back to the Spanish-American War to today at the Military Heritage Museum located in Fisherman’s Village. Tour the museum with one of the volunteers and you will probably learn something that was not in your school history books. The museum is dedicated to telling and preserving the history of the U.S.’s role in various military wars and conflicts. Admission is free but donations are welcome.
Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City – Some people collect Matchbox cars while others collect cars. You’ll find the latter at Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City which is an impressive collection of about 200 pristine General Motors cars.
Peace River Wildlife Center – See the tender care of native Florida wildlife that has either been injured, orphaned or abandoned. Birds are the primary residents of the Peace River Wildlife Center with the 2:30 p.m. daily pelican feeding being one of the highlights. Admission is free but donations are welcomed.
What are the best hotels in Punta Gorda?
Punta Gorda offers a nice selection of hotels and motels. For those looking at an extended stay and to live like a Punta Gorda local, a condo or vacation home is the perfect fit. For those who drive in with their accommodations, scenic RV parks are available.
How is the weather in Punta Gorda?
Many weather apps and websites are available to give you the current Southwest Florida weather along with 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15-day forecasts. For Punta Gorda temperature averages, visit the U.S. Climate Data website.
Punta Gorda has a subtropical climate making mild winters from January to March. The rainy season in Punta Gorda is June – September and on average, these months receive 6 – 9” of rain. The “off months” will range between 2 – 4” per month. The seasons make a difference when planning a vacation. The rainy season also has the highest temperatures with highs averaging 90+ and the lows in the mid-70s.