A day out in Punta Gorda - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Punta Gorda is a city of 15,000 residents located on the banks of the Peace River and the Gulf of Mexico in South West Florida. It has also been described by the current mayor as, the “heart-beat” of Charlotte County.
Driving into Punta Gorda, from the North, means that you enter the city over the bridge which spans Charlotte harbour. Beneath you, sailboats large and small cut patterns through the water like a skater on ice, as joggers and picnickers dot the park on the other side.
The city was originally founded in 1887, on the idea that all the waterfront land would be public parks. That changed, however, when homeowners eventually outvoted the man running the city and started a new destiny for the town by the harbour.
The name Punta Gorda, which means "fat point" when translated from Spanish, was given to the city because a broad part of the land in Punta Gorda juts into Charlotte Harbor.
The city is bounded by the harbour on one side, and by rural land on the other. That rural land is home to large areas of citrus trees, cattle and swamp, with small ranches that produce meat and fruits.
The city of Punta Gorda attracts a rich mix of cultures and age groups, as families, retirees and winter residents share neighborhoods.
In August 2004, the Punta Gorda area was severely damaged by Hurricane Charley, as it made land fall, before sweeping across Central Florida and out into the Atlantic Coast. When we visited, in the summer of 2005, there were still some roofs covered in blue tarpaulins, a sure sign that roofs had been damaged during the severe weather of the previous year.
Our particular destination in Punta Gorda was Fishermen’s Village, a harbourside location for shopping, dining and fun. The village is a replica of a traditional fishing village constructed on a jetty where the Peace River enters Charlotte Harbour.
As we arrived in the car park (free), a kindly gentleman offered us a ride on his golf cart to the far end of the village to save our legs. We thanked him, but said that on this occasion, we were going to start at the nearest end of the village and gradually work our way to the rear of the village and Harpoon Harry’s.
To the right of the broad covered promenade are a number of courtesy docks, where sailors can moor up and explore the delights of the village, or visitors can take any number of exciting boat tours out into the Gulf of Mexico – who knows you may even see a dolphin or manatee.
Under construction at the village, on the first floor are a number of condominiums. These were nearing completion, when we visited, will have beautiful views out over the river, as well as access to a swimming pool and tennis courts.
The shops are quaint and individual, offering a wide range of merchandise not normally found in the more traditional malls. A favourite with my family was a shop named Salty Paws which sold some very unusual items for household pets and their owners. We particularly liked the Louis Vuitton “pooch carrier” bag – exactly what the fashion conscious small dog should be seen in. Pirates Ketch and Tropical Reflections are both art / gift shops and they carry some unique gifts that would be genuine reminders of your time in Florida.
Aside from the quaint shops, there is also Flaming Yogurt, an ice-cream parlour and further along the promenade a very interesting museum. The Military Heritage and Aviation Museum gives a fascinating insight into American history and is well worth the half an hour or so it takes, to walk around.
We ended our visit, to Fishermen’s Village, at the far end of the promenade at Harpoon Harry’s. A large lounge bar which also has casual dining. We chose to sit outside, on a wide deck that runs the full length of the rear of the building and. From here you have great views across the Peace River, the bridge that spans the Charlotte River and it is fascinating watching the many and varied boats that criss-cross the river.
A very good choice of bar type foods, in plentiful quantities served by friendly waitresses – what more can you ask for after a tiring day, shopping ?
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