Article published 7/8/23 in the Charlotte Sun.
You’ve landed in Punta Gorda. Now what is there to do?
Punta Gorda No. 4 destination for Allegiant
By NANCY J. SEMON STAFF WRITER
Allegiant Travel Co. recently announced that Punta Gorda is one of its airline’s top five travel destinations, coming in at No. 4. Of the 600 routes the airline serves, many travelers come to Punta Gorda Airport and either stay locally or explore areas beyond.
“Currently, 43 routes are on sale to PGD,” Allegiant spokesperson Andrew Porrello said. Allegiant serves 124 cities. Allegiant’s Sunseeker Resort in Port Charlotte is slated to open in October, which the airline anticipates will boost demand for flights into Punta Gorda. Once landed, first-time visitors might wonder where they should dine, play golf, go boating, fishing, paddle-boarding, sailing, or take the kids.
That’s where the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitors and Convention Bureau comes in. Lois Croft, of the bureau, recently shared things anyone can do from dawn to dusk. The obvious are water-related activities such as boating, fishing, paddle-boarding, snorkeling and a day at the beach. “Nauti Aquatic Adventures can take a family out for four hours or more to see dolphins jumping in the wake,” she said. On its website, Nauti Aquatic Adventures offers children an encounter with a mermaid. One must reserve the experience in advance; the boat leaves from Pine Island in Bokeelia.
There is a plethora of activities for families with children, Croft said. Among them are Babcock’s Eco Tours, where you can ride a swamp buggy, explore a working cowboy ranch and marshes with alligators, stop and feed Florida cattle, and even pet a baby alligator. Another popular family attraction is Iguanaland on Bermont Road in Punta Gorda, Croft said. It has “very rare and unique reptiles,” she said. Wildlife enthusiasts might want to visit the Peace River Wildlife Center in Punta Gorda, currently housed at Ponce de Leon Park at the end of West Marion Avenue. For those interested in military history with children who love to play video and virtual reality games, the Military Heritage Museum on West Marion Avenue has something for every member of the family.
Englewood and Stump Pass beaches, and the barrier islands of Palm/Knight Island and Little Gasparilla, are popular places for sunbathing, swimming and shell collecting. Many find fossilized sharks teeth at those beaches. The entire family can bike around Punta Gorda; free bikes are available at several locations around the city, Croft said.
Another attraction not far from the Military Heritage Museum is Fishermen’s Village, home of the King Fisher Fleet. In addition to shops and restaurants at what the locals call “Fishville,” King Fisher offers half-day and full-day excursions up the Peace River and down the Harbor to Cayo Costa State Park and Cabbage Key. For those wanting to dine locally, Punta Gorda has 50 non-chain restaurants offering a variety of foods from seafood to steak, Asian, Italian, German, and other ethnic food delights.
Across the bridge in Port Charlotte are many chain restaurants and mom-and-pop ones, including Indian, Asian and Italian cuisine. But sometimes mom and dad need to get away and enjoy adult nightlife. The Visani Italian Steakhouse and Comedy Theater offers both comedy and musical acts. You can have dinner before the show, or buy a ticket for the show only. The Library Comedy Club at Four Points Sheraton in Punta Gorda, usually has a Friday night comedy show hosted by local celebrity Gordon Meyers. While at Four Points you can walk down to TT’s Tiki Bar which features outdoor entertainment under tiki huts, food, and drinks. Since Punta Gorda is on a river and harbor and not the Gulf of Mexico, savvy entrepreneurs have remedied that.
In addition to TT’s Tiki Hut, Fishermen’s Village also has created its Sunset Beach Club Tiki Bar on Dry Beach. Across the bridge in Port Charlotte is a beach complex on the river, a sandy beach, and boat launch area. For those wanting adult beverages only, the area has many offerings. There are Irish pubs (Celtic Ray and Paddy’s Wagon) in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, respectively, and the Ice House (English) Pub in Punta Gorda.
The Englewood area and Boca Grande have a number of restaurants and wine bars. On the way to Englewood Beach, you’ll pass Farlow’s on the Water, a favorite of locals which features “tropical dining.” Its menu features fresh catches of the day and steaks. A drive along Beach Road reveals a wine bar and boat rental on the right, and along Manasota Key to the left and right, are both casual and upscale dining experiences.
A number of restaurants offer water and sunset views. The rooftop at The Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda has live entertainment and a tapas bar, with an upscale restaurant downstairs. But up on the roof, people of all ages can be seen dancing to the music. Next door at Dean’s South of the Border, live music also goes on most nights on the patio area outdoors where many sit at the large bar.
Harpoon Harry’s, a destination of its own since 1993 in Punta Gorda at Fishermen’s Village, has live music on the water (and dancing), as does Hurricane Charley’s restaurant (check out their sushi) on Retta Esplanade at the foot of the U.S. 41 southbound bridge. You can charter a yacht or smaller boat, hire a fishing guide, or you can even have your wedding and honeymoon here, Croft said.
The Clerk of the Court in Charlotte County offers a wedding package, and arrangements can be made and found by going to the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitors and Convention Bureau at www.pureflorida.com.