Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Located halfway between Sarasota and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, activities on the naturally beautiful and environmentally pristine area range from canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, sailing, fishing and boating to strolls on the beach, shelling, exploring historic communities, shopping and dining.
Port Charlotte can be found in central Charlotte County, where beaches, river passages and preserves create a natural retreat. Here, visitors will find all manner of water recreation, from kayaking and fishing to diving and sailing.
For those after more sheltered pursuits, the permanent exhibits at the Charlotte County Historical Center explore the full spectrum of Charlotte County history, from prehistoric times to the post-WWII development boom.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1932 by Spanish conductor and composer Guillermo de Roxlo, has grown into one of the premier musical institutions in the Southeast, giving 115 performances each season and reaching an annual attendance of over 250,000 listeners.
Charlotte County retains its peaceful nature and small town charm. Charlotte Harbor, Florida’s second-largest open water estuary, is filled with peaceful coves and bays, providing endless opportunities to tackle a tarpon, captain a kayak or commandeer a canoe. This tranquil coastal community boasts over 830 miles of shoreline including river passages, mangrove-edged aquatic preserve and sandy beaches. The Peace River is ideal for canoeing and kayaking, with dense mangrove tunnels and wildlife. Along the shores paddlers can spot deer, wild hogs and extensive bird life. Anglers come from around the world to experience fishing for tarpon, redfish and snook in the estuary; and grouper, snapper and king mackerel in the Gulf. Fishing is spectacular throughout the year.
Golfers have many courses from which to choose, all with unique design features of natural settings and wildlife along with challenging play. Courses range from executive to championship each with scenic vistas and spectacular landscapes.
El Jobean Fishing Pier
El Jobean Fishing Pier is the place to go if you want to catch a beautiful schoolhouse snapper or catfish. Fishing equipment can be rented for the day from any shop along the coast. Even if you don’t like fishing, this tourist attraction near Port Charlotte is a great place to relax and watch fishing boats sail by.
Tippecanoe Environmental Park
Tippecanoe Environmental Park in Port Charlotte has 380 acres of uplands and wetlands along the rim of Tippecanoe Bay that can be explored on an extensive network of hiking trails. It was built in 1995 along the edge of Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, which protects the coastal estuary directly south of this large Charlotte County Park.
With 7 miles of trails and a variety of loop options, you can easily complete a 4-mile hike without repeating any of the routes. We chose a shorter route due to weather conditions that day to get to “Mount Tippecanoe” after seeing it on the map. That’s what we’ll go over in more detail below.
Charlotte Sports Park
Charlotte Sports Park is a cutting-edge facility with a baseball boardwalk circling the outfield, a family-friendly kids play area, upgraded concession stands, and a first-rate team store. The Rays set a franchise record for single-season home attendance during their inaugural spring training season in Charlotte County in 2009. The attendance record for the largest single game crowd at Charlotte Sports Park was broken during the 2018 Spring season.
Audubon-Pennington Nature Park
Audubon-Pennington Nature Park is the place to go on your next trip to Port Charlotte if you want to reconnect with nature. This nature preserve is home to three distinct vegetation communities: cyprus swamp, oak hammock, and pine flatwoods. If you’re looking for rare endemic bird species, the endangered little blue heron, Cooper’s hawk, and Louisiana tricolored heron are all frequently sighted at this park.
Punta Gorda, where Ponce de Leon first landed in 1513, was founded in 1887 and sits in a protected coastal area where Peace River meets Charlotte Harbor.
In historic Punta Gorda, visitors can stroll the downtown streets brightened by period street lights, alfresco sculptures and colorful murals depicting the area’s history while shopping for specialty gifts and dining at trendy new restaurants.
In fact, the city is famous for the amazing Victorian mansions along Retta Esplanade, evidence of Punta Gorda’s former role as rail terminus and port.
Fishermen’s Village, also on the Retta Esplanade, features 33 shops and boutiques, seven restaurants, vacation villa rentals, fishing charters, harbor cruises, boat and jet ski rentals, live entertainment.
And golf is a favorite attraction in Punta Gorda as well. In fact, three under par gives Punta Gorda a position of top prominence as a result of a Golf Digest “Best in America” August article ranking this Metropolitan Statistical Area as 3rd for quality of life and golf.
The Gulf Island beaches in Charlotte County are some of the least crowded and most beautiful in the state.