Things to Do, Places to Go

In Charlotte County, many types of recreation are available. Depending on your preferences and the time of year, you can enjoy either the "moving around" kind of recreation or the "sitting down" kind. "Moving around" seems to be more popular during the winter months, when the balmy weather and clear skies lure residents outdoors. "Sitting down" has its merits during the hot summer months. At the top of everyone's list year round are Charlotte County's parks and beaches.
>>Quick link: Charlotte County Beaches

  • If walking is your recreational goal, consider the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center. The 3,000-acre Alligator Creek Preserve site on Alligator Creek is located one mile off Highway 41 on Burnt Store Road in Punta Gorda. Here, several miles of nature trails offer a self-guided tour through the area with bird blinds, wildlife observation spots, and a lovely elevated Visitor Center building. Started by educators as an elementary school site, this education non-profit free-use area is now open to the public and has a museum and trail maps for your use. Pets are permitted on leashes, and supposedly, the gators don't mind. "Tastes like chicken!" they say. The Center also operates an 88-acre public use site on S.R. 775, across from Lemon Bay High School in Englewood. This area, called Cedar Point, features more places to hike and explore. A nature preserve and environmental center make it easy to discover the natural wildlife of Southwest Florida. There is also fishing, kayaking and a playground available for use.
  • Cayo Costa State Park occupies most of an island on the southern side of the Boca Grande Pass at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. The island is part of a chain of barrier islands that shelter Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Accessible only by boat (including passenger ferry services), Cayo Costa is a favorte day-trip outing of local residents, with miles of pristine beaches, pine forests, mangrove swamps, oak palm hammocks, and stunning bird life. The park offers picnicking, fishing, boating, primitive camping, and rental cabins. The shelling here is among the best in Florida.
  • The Don Pedro Island State Park, a barrier island accessible only boat, is a refuge for nesting sea turtles. The park offers docks for day use only, fishing, nature trails, picnicking, swimming, wildlife viewing, and some of the best shelling on Florida's Gulf Coast. Facilities include a pavilion, picnic tables, grills, outdoor showers and restrooms. Stump Pass Beach State Park, located at the southern end of Manasota Key, also offers docks for day use , fishing, nature trails, picnicking, swimming, wildlife viewing, and some of the best shelling on Florida's Gulf Coast. Outdoor showers and restrooms are available.
  • Englewood Beach is located along S.R. 775 near the Charlotte County and Sarasota County line. Here a wide expanse of beachfront is combined with recreation areas, a boardwalk, picnic tables, a concession area, and lots of paved parking. Across the street are several restaurants, shops and clubs. Several charter boat and fishing operations are based in the Englewood area.
  • According to legend, the infamous pirate Jose Gaspar and his men settled on Gasparilla Island in the 1700s, using the island as a base camp between pirating forays. Today, the Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, with beautiful pristine beaches, crystal clear Gulf water, fishing like you've never seen before, and the renovated wooden lighthouse on the southern end of the island at the mouth of Boca Grande Pass. Picnic areas offer sheltered picnic tables with scenic views of the water, and swimming and fishing are enjoyed year-round.
  • Florida's largest state park is the Myakka River State Park, with more than 45 square miles of woodlands, wetlands and prairie to explore. The abundant wildlife and scenic beauty are enthralling not only on your first visit to the park, but also on your fiftieth. Airboat tours, tram ride, ranger-led walks, as well as self-guided walking tours, offer visitors several ways to enjoy the peaceful beauty of this outstanding scenic area. Birdwatchers especially enjoy the diversity of birdlife here, which includes herons, ibis, eagles, ospreys, and many others. Five log cabins with air conditioners, refrigerators and hot running water, offer visitors a place to "camp" here without "roughing it" too extensively.
  • South of Englewood Beach is Port Charlotte Beach State Park, which features a long stretch of sandy shoreline where strolling along the Gulf coast is a favorite pastime. This area is accessible by boat or jet ski, or by walking south from the Englewood Beach parking lot. Sunning and shelling are popular here.
  • If you want to get wet but don't want to drive the 30 minutes from Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda to Englewood, two beaches welcome you on the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor. Port Charlotte Beach is a public use complex at the end of Harbor Boulevard in Port Charlotte. Here, from a sandy beach, you can swim for free in the clean waters of Charlotte Harbor or, for a fee, you can take a dip in the fresh water heated swimming pool. Tennis, volleyball, basketball, horseshoes, a boat ramp and a fishing pier round out your options.
  • The Pine Island National Wildlife Refuge,is located on the southwest coast of Florida, north of Sanibel Island in the Pine Island Sound. It is administered as part of the J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR. The refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt through Executive Order 939 in 1908 to protect the thousands of herons, egrets, and pelicans that were being hunted to support the plume trade in the early 1900's. The 500-acre refuge has been expanded to over 17 islands and consists of densely forested red and black mangroves with little uplands habitat. Indian shell mounds located on Benedict Island show evidence of Calusa Indians once inhabiting the area at the time of European exploration. Several of the islands, including Hemp Island and Bird Key, are important nesting and roosting areas for colonial birds, particularly the Brown pelican. Raccoons are the primary mammal found on the islands and dolphins and manatees can be seen in the surrounding waters.
  • At the end of Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda is Ponce de Leon Park, where Rotary Beach, right of the harbor channel, provides an opportunity for sunning and swimming. The park is more of an attraction than the small beach, with numerous historic markers, picnic tables, a boat ramp, a nature trail, picnic shelters and grills, and a playground. Also in Ponce de Leon Park is the Peace River Wildlife Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, care and preservation of the area's wildlife. Kids love to walk through the center and see the progress being made with animals that have been orphaned, displaced, or injured and brought here for care. More than 70 residents, including eagles, pelicans, herons, hawks, owls and egrets are usually on hand.
  • The Port Charlotte Cultural Center, located at 2280 Aaron Street, is a focal point of Charlotte County adult educational, cultural, recreational, and social activities. The facility includes a 418-seat theater, the Port Charlotte Public Library, a lounge, classrooms, and the offices of the County Veterans Service. The theater offers a rich schedule of concerts, plays, musicals and lectures. The Cultural Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of residents and visitors, both young and old, with its nationally recognized programs in education, recreation, fitness and social activities.
  • In Punta Gorda, the Visual Arts Center is a non-profit organization that promotes greater knowledge, skills and appreciation of the visual arts through classes, programs, workshops and exhibits for adults, high school students and children. The center includes two galleries, a photography lab, office area, classrooms, gift shop and library. Abundant lighting, extended cathedral ceilings and over 225 feet of exhibition space make the arts center an ideal location for year-round exhibits.
  • For the shoppers among us, Fishermen's Village is a unique waterfront destination of 33 gift, clothing and specialty shops, several restaurants, a marina and fully furnished luxury villas. Attractions at the Village include fishing trips, sightseeing cruise boats, live entertainment, special events, and gorgeous sunsets over the waters of Charlotte Harbor.
  • Experience the thrill of watching panther, bison, deer, turkey, alligators and more in their natural habitat at Babcock Ranch. Swamp buggy tours are available high above the dark waters of the 8,000-acre Telegraph Cypress Swamp. This 90,000-acre ranch in eastern Charlotte County offers visitors the chance to see the real Florida, unspoiled and untouched. Experienced naturalists guide you through this 90-minute eco-tour adventure. For those interested in conservation, wildlife and agriculture, the Babcock Ranch is a "must see."
  • The A.C. Freeman House in Punta Gorda is a beautifully restored Victorian Home Museum that is open for tours and special events.
  • Classic Air Ventures in Punta Gorda offers aerial sightseeing in a 1940s era open cockpit plane.
  • The Florida Military Heritage Museum in Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda offers a look at the area's military history.
  • The Charlotte County Speedway, a 3/8 mile asphalt track, features Saturday night racing throughout most of the year.
  • For the sportsman, Charlotte County is a mecca for fishing, boating and sailing. There are 16 tennis facilities, 21 area golf courses, and the best tarpon fishing in the world. The Charlotte County Parks and Recreation Department operates 31 parks and a heated pool, organizes adult baseball, basketball, football and hockey leagues, and offers dance instruciton, SCUBA, fishing, aerobics and dog obedience classes.
  • Boat Ramps
  • Another list of Boat Ramps
  • Charlotte County Blueway Trail - Kayaking and canoeing trail
  • Fishing Piers
  • Park Facilities
  • Playgrounds
  • Southern Festivals - Festivals around Florida: Seafood festivals, art festivals, pioneer day festivals, music festivals, even reptile shows

  • When you're ready to buy real estate in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, or any of the surrounding Charlotte County and southwest Florida area, contact HomeTeamChris at 941-628-2602 or chris@hometeamchris.com
Chris McMillan: chris@hometeamchris.com
Re/Max Anchor
150 Laishley Ct Suite #114
Punta Gorda, Florida 33950
Cell: 941-628-2602
Toll-Free: 866-820-3009
Fax: 941-205-2012
Office: 941-205-2004