Cruisers who know the waters of southwestern
Punta Gorda is located about 20 miles north of
All the amenities a boater — either local or transient — needs are here: boat slips, long-term storage, full-service boatyards, towing, tackle shops, chandleries, a wide range of eateries and public transportation.
Surrounding the community at the northern head of
Before Hurricane Charley, there was one sizable, full service marina (Fishermen’s
Fishermen’s Village marina is accessible to all vessels and is part of a recreated fishing village with a shopping and entertainment complex similar to a festival marketplace. The complex features several waterfront restaurants as well as 38 shops and boutiques. There is nightly entertainment as well as time-share apartments available for weekly rent on the upper level.
The current mooring field is upstream of the
Laishley Park Municipal Marina opened last year just east of the Route 41 twin bridges and has 85 slips. Another hotel/marina development, the Sheraton Harbor Inn Resort & Yacht, promises additional slips and should be open in fall 2009. Several smaller downtown marinas include Punta Gorda Marina, Gator Creek Marina and the Riviera Marina.
The well-known Burnt Store Marina, reportedly the largest marina on the state’s western coast with 525 wet slips and nearly 300 dry storage spaces, is about 10 miles from downtown.
Take to the streets
Within a short walk of any of the downtown marinas are more than a dozen restaurants offering Mexican, seafood, steaks, Asian, an Irish pub and more. Price levels range from gourmet chic to a hot dog cart in the park that parallels most of the city’s waterfront. The recently finished Riverwalk offers 2-1/2 miles of easy strolling past panoramic views of
In easy walking distance are West Marine and a hardware store a block from the downtown marinas. Within less than a mile, there is also BoatU.S. In addition, Atlantis Marine has a rolling repair van. Both TowBoatU.S. and Sea Tow service the area.
Groceries, a dry cleaner, a Laundromat, ice cream shops, and even a chocolate factory are all available downtown along with several art galleries. A free trolley provides transportation around town during select events. A weekly farmers’ market functions in season. Beginning next spring, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will play their Grapefruit League exhibition season in the Charlotte County Sports Complex and the Charlotte Redfish currently play an extended season in the same park, just 15 minutes from downtown by car.
Visitors can stroll the brick-paved streets and admire restored homes from the 1920s and earlier. Locals know it’s extremely rare to find “old
The city has a full calendar of events throughout the year including the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup tournament, the annual Block Party and Conquistadors Landing festivals, the Christmas boat parade and many others
(www.charlotteharbortravel.com/events). Money magazine recently named Punta Gorda as “one of the best places to live in the South.”
By way of water
Punta Gorda is situated at the head of
Upriver a few miles is the Nav-A-Gator, an outpost-style restaurant and bar featuring great food and entertainment. They also have dockage and offer river cruises for those who prefer to take a busman’s holiday and drive in by car.
Fishing in the area is abundant. Saltwater fishing includes both deep-sea and backwater varieties. Within 15 miles is famed
Cruising grounds within easy reach include Peace River,
The ICW also connects with the Okeechobee Waterway, giving access from the East Coast. However, because of dry conditions,
Special cruising destination gems include Cayo Costa, an unspoiled tropical island with 7 miles of beach and docking. A near-perfect harbor called Pelican Bay just off Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key of “Cheeseburger in Paradise” fame, the funky Matlacha, ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island, Useppa Island just across the ICW channel from Cabbage Key and many others are within 20 miles of downtown Punta Gorda, accessible over sheltered waters, and warm even in January and February.
Should a visitor be without a boat, Southwest Florida Yachts in
For crew changes, the
With so much to offer, and more facilities coming in the works, Punta Gorda should be an enticing destination for boaters who make it to South Florida’s
Bob and Sue Cormier cruise the