A Sleepy Fishing Town Awakened by a Hurricane
Punta Gorda, Florida is located in southwest Florida on the south banks of the Peace River as it flows into Charlotte Harbor.
Punta Gorda Harborwalk has revitalized this sleepy fishing town into a great place to visit on a Florida day trip.
Spanning 2.7 miles from Laisley Park near Route 41 all the way west to Fishermens Village along the harbor. You can walk, run, bicycle, or just stroll leisurely to view the sights.
Things To Do at Harborwalk Punta Gorda
At the far east end of Harborwalk Punta Gorda, you will find fun places to eat, drink and enjoy the views. Here is a list from east to west of things to do in Punta Gorda along Harborwalk:
- Laishley’s Crab House at Laishley Park
- TT’s Tiki Bar behind the Sheraton Hotel
- Hurricane Charley’s Grill & Bar – Sushi
- Gilchrist Park – scenic views
- Tennis Courts
- Gilchrist Park Playground and Basketball courts
- Punta Gorda Boat Club
- Shreve Park
- Pittman Park
- Alice Nature Park
- Fishermen’s Village – shopping, eating, drinking, boat rentals, charters and much more.
More Things To Do in Punta Gorda
There is plenty to do in Punta Gorda including water sports, exploring the parks and shopping.
History Park in the middle of the city is a nine-acre effort to preserve some of the historic homes of the area. This walking park focuses on the beauty of nature in a historic setting.
A few blocks away from Fisherman’s Village is the Visual Arts Center. Local artists display their work and the vast gallery offers a wide array of opportunities to purchase all forms of art.
Still, even with all the new buildings, refurbished downtown, growth in all directions, watersports are the number one activity.
Punta Gorda is located at the northern end of Charlotte Harbor where the Peace River flows into the bay about 15 miles downstream. Just a couple miles from Punta Gorda and the numerous marinas is one of the best inshore fisheries in the state.
The Charlotte Harbor State Preserve has dozens of small islands, inlets and mangrove-protected shores. Snook, redfish and trout fishing is spectacular!
About 15 miles southwest of Punta Gorda is Boca Grande Pass. This deep-water pass is known worldwide for tarpon fishing in late spring and early summer. Few passes leading to the Gulf of Mexico offer up to 80 feet of depth offering fish a perfect feeding ground.
Charter boats are available in almost every marina around Punta Gorda. You fish, sightsee, sail or take a boat over to Cabbage Key for their well-known “cheeseburger in paradise” at The Cabbage Key Inn.
Directions to Punta Gorda
Just 30 miles south is Ft. Myers and Sarasota is about 50 miles north along the Gulf of Mexico. The location is a convenient Florida day trip due to the interstate system.
You primarily get to Punta Gorda from Route 41 (Tamiami Trail), I-75 and Route 17 from central Florida.
Punta Gorda Perfect Stop on Way to Points South
We first started visiting Punta Gorda in the 1980s. When Harpoon Harry’s, a waterfront restaurant built over the river, opened in the early 90’s, Punta Gorda became a regular stop as we headed for south Florida and the Florida Keys.
The sleepy little village was a pleasant reprise from the commercial development in other waterfront communities along Florida’s west coast.
Hurricane Brings New Life To Punta Gorda
Then, the unthinkable and unlikely! A category 4 hurricane waded through the town of Punta Gorda in a direct hit. Hurricane Charley in 2004 was the first major tropical system to hit Florida since 1992 and the first direct hit to southwest Florida since 1960.
This devastating storm had caused so much damage that estimates published at the time said 80% of the homes had major damage and many were totally destroyed.
We thought, at first, Punta Gorda and the Charlotte County area might never recover. We were thankfully wrong.
With new building regulations created, federal government assistance and many strong wills, Punta Gorda has a vitality and ongoing economic growth that may never have surfaced without the winds and water from Charley.
New hotels, a conference center, re-built and restored downtown buildings, new emphasis on historical preservation and a fresh new look have brought new residents and new thriving businesses.
On a recent fishing trip based out of Punta Gorda, we were amazed to see places like T.T.’s Tiki Bar, Hurricane Charley’s, Laishley Seafood and the whole Laishley Marina basin crowded with customers, even at the end of a pandemic.
Punta Gorda Worth Visiting for Day Trip
The city of Punta Gorda built the Harborwalk bordering the Laishley Marina, running underneath the Tamiami Trail (Rt.41) and continuing along the waterfront past the Conference Center and ending at Fisherman’s Village – a total of almost 2.7 miles. This impressive waterfront walkway has become the heart of the city and representative of its renaissance.
While fishing, sailing and boating combine to be the clear leisure activity, those sports also represent a significant economic impact for Punta Gorda.
Fishing charter captains take dozens of parties backcountry fishing in the harbor and tarpon fishing a few miles away in Boca Grande Pass. Marinas, boat vendors and maintenance support businesses flourish in a community with an active waterway.
Fishermen’s Village Still an Attraction in Punta Gorda Florida
For years, prior to all the rebuilding, Fishermen’s Village was the town’s main attraction for shopping, eating and entertainment. Today, the complex features over 30 shops, numerous new restaurants and an expanded marina.
Punta Gorda’s main attraction has modernized, grown, and continued to be a relevant center of attraction for tourists and residents. Fishermen’s Village is a must-see for the first-time traveler.
If you want to spend the night in Punta Gorda, the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton is clean and waterfront with TT’s Tiki Bar on the property.
Take a Florida day trip, weekend or quick lunch stop – we think you will like what has happened to Punta Gorda since Hurricane Charley!
Things to do in Punta Gorda plus the Harborwalk Punta Gorda maks this a great place in south Floth Florida.