Located towards the south of Florida on the West Coast, Punta Gorda is around 133 miles from Orlando and 181 miles from Miami.
It is easily accessible by U.S Routes 41 and 17, which both run through the city. Visitors can also use exit 164 off Interstate 75 that leads onto route 17.
With a population of only around 16,000, Punta Gorda is a very small city that resembles a medium-sized town.
But that doesn’t stop it being jam-packed with a huge variety of activities for all the family.
Here are 15 things to do in Punta Gorda.
1. Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center
If you’re interested in nature and the environment, this is the place to come. A fun place for the whole family, there are nature trails, guided hikes by local experts, and some great interactive educational experiences. There are also photography exhibits featuring some of the local wildlife, and regular lectures by historians and scientists.
Upcoming events include a kayaking trip at Cedar Point and a voluntary water quality monitoring project.
2. Peace River Wildlife Center
The Peace River Wildlife Center is found next to Charlotte Harbor. Primarily an educational center, this is the place to come if you want to know more about the impact humans are having on the local wildlife, and how we can do more to protect the amazing animals of Florida.
Founded in 1982 by a local wildlife expert, Dr. Jerry Gingerich, the center initially started out of his own home. Local wildlife that he found or that others reported to him was taken to his veterinary office for treatment.
Injured animals are taken in by the center and are either treated and released back into the wild, or stay on at the center, where they receive expert care. As a visitor, you can see all the wildlife currently in their care, and hear about the vital work that goes into looking after them.
3. Harbor Walk
When you’re on Harbor Walk, you know you’re in Florida. It is an elegant sidewalk overlooking the water, lined with palm trees. Look one way, and you can see built-up hotel resorts; a glance in the other direction reveals that iconic Florida sun, blue sky, and greenery.
At two and a half miles long, there is a lot to take in as you stroll along. But it’s not just about wandering with incredible views; be sure to stop in at one of the many restaurants on the river and admire the thick, luscious mangroves while you eat.
4. Punta Gorda Nature Park
If you head down to Punta Gorda Isles, you will find yourself in the tranquil and spectacular Punta Gorda Nature Park. Covering 21 acres, there is a huge amount to see here before the day is done.
Take a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this spectacular nature park on some of the picnic tables.
You can also go fishing here, and there is an abundance of nature trails that are clearly signposted, complete with educational display boards explaining some of the plants and wildlife you might spot on your trails.
5. Sea Grape Artists Gallery
If you’re looking for a bit of culture on your trip, as well a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and get back to nature, the Sea Grape Artists Gallery is the place to be. Founded over 30 years ago, it has a reputation for being the premier place to come for fine art.
As well as enjoying great art, the Artists Gallery is also a valuable community for art lovers. The gallery supports local artists by offering scholarships and commissions and also arranges regular events. Meet other people interested in art on the Thursday Wine Walks, and be sure to check out their artist of the month to see some fresh new talent.
6. Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens
This spectacular botanical garden is the backdrop to a host of beautiful sculptures, including Steel Palm by artist Jacob Kulin from Boston. The Steel Palm represents the ancient Steel Palm fossil, which was found in the grounds and serves as the logo to the gardens.
Other sculptures on display include the metal Tree Trellises, which are 20 feet tall and reminiscent of the style of the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore.
7. Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park
This environmental park is much more exposed to the elements than some of the other places in Punta Gorda, as it mainly consists of wetlands and plains. There are trails around the edges of the park that you can follow.
This is mostly a park for birds, so it is a must-visit if you are a bird watcher. Some of the species you can find here include little blue heron, sandhill cranes, wood stork, belted kingfishers, and white ibis.
8. A.C Freeman House
If you’re looking for some history, be sure to pay a visit to A.C Freeman House. Named after 19th-century business magnate and one-time mayor Augustus Freeman, who once owned the house, it is noted for its Queen Anne style of architecture that is quite rare in Florida. There are elaborate columns, and the National Register of Historic Houses describes it as having ‘elaborate interior finishes.’
The house itself was moved from its original location in 1985. Today, it is both a museum and a working house, as it is home to the offices of the local Chamber of Commerce
9. Escape Rooms Unlocked – Punta Gorda
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by culture and nature, or you have younger children or teenagers, then be sure to take a trip to the local Escape Rooms in Punta Gorda.
You have 60 minutes for your friends or family to solve as many puzzles as you can to ensure you escape the room in time. There are seven different ‘adventures’ to choose from, including ‘The Great Movie Disaster,’ ‘Heist at the Grand Hotel,’ and ‘The Hideout’ – involving the great American outlaw, Billy Kidd.
10. Linear Park
Walk along the former coastline railroad, built in 1886. Today, it has been redeveloped into a one-mile-long walk along the harbor and a canal that runs through the park.
There are three fitness zones here, perfect for doing some weights on the equipment – there are 17 different machines in total – or for a sunrise yoga session with the locals.
The park is also important because it serves as a connection to other famous landmarks in town, including The Fisherman’s Village, the Visual Arts Center, and Harbor Walk.
11. Bayshore Live Oak Park
If hiring a canoe or a kayak and going on an adventure is your thing, then be sure to head down to Bayshore Live Oak Park. There are plenty of spots for picnics and a playground for young children.
Usually relatively quiet, this is also the perfect place to come if you are an artist in need of inspiration or a quiet walk away from it all.
12. Hector House Plaza
For history lovers, no trip to Punta Gorda is complete without a visit to the Hector House Plaza, because this is the place where the city was officially incorporated. A plaque commemorates this special event.
While the original house where the documents were signed has now been demolished, the site has been landscaped as a garden complete with its own giant chessboard. This is a reference to Issac Trabue, a local official who was excluded from the founding of the city. He founded an annual chess tournament, so the chessboard is a way of rehabilitating him back into the narrative of the city’s foundation.
13. Blanchard House Museum
If you’re on the historical trail, then this is another must stop, where you will get a different perspective on the history of Punta Gorda. The Blanchard House Museum is dedicated to the history of the African American community.
It is located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Some of the exhibits included in the museum celebrate the very earliest black history in Florida and describe what it was like to work in Punta Gorda as an African American.
14. South County Regional Park
If you fancy going for a swim but are not tempted by the turquoise waters of the Floridian coastlines – or you just want to get fit and do some laps in the pool – be sure to check out South County Regional Park.
It has a 25-yard competition pool with eight lanes that is even heated. There are dive boards, and also a separate area for splashing and playing that is shallow, so you can let your kids enjoy this while you get active in the main pool.
15. Gilchrist Park
The perfect place to watch the sunset, this park has a tennis court and a basketball court if you’re into sport and are looking for a place to play.
It is part of the Harbor Walk, which means you could combine both Gilchrist Park and a walk around the Harbor Walk in one day.