If you’re like most people, you’re thinking about where you want to take your next vacation. Southwest Florida is a great choice! There is so much to do in this area. Even better, so many things available are for FREE! Yes, you heard that right! I can think of at least five free things to do in Punta Gorda right off the top of my head!
I live in Port Charlotte, which happens to be next to the small, historic, and often quite romantic quaint town of Punta Gorda. Here you will find hometown restaurants, locally owned shops, and a uniqueness that’s difficult to find elsewhere. Punta Gorda is located next to the Peace River, directly on the harbor, which feeds into to the Gulf of Mexico. This beautiful city is full of beautiful, historical homes, sculptures, and wall murals.
Punta Gorda has an abundance of beautiful parks! If you’re looking for free things to do in Punta Gorda, you have to put their parks on your list! Every few blocks you will find a park. Most of the parks in the city have been renovated within the past 5 years, which makes them all newer and more easily accessible. Gilchrist Park and Laishley Park are located right along the Peace River. Rent a free yellow bike and cruise along the river between from Gilchrist Park to Laishley Park on the Harborwalk. Along the way you will find fishing piers, playgrounds, splash pads, tennis courts, and gazebos. You will also see beautiful homes in the historic district and the famed Tiki Bar that is situated between the two parks. Definitely don’t miss a stroll along the Peace River to catch the beautiful sunset!
Downtown Punta Gorda is a gorgeous area full of local dining options and small, quaint shops. You can park in the free parking garage behind the old city hall and walk everywhere downtown. Some local favorite restaurant options are Hurricane Charley’s, Isobel’s and Annabel’s, Leroy’s Southern Kitchen, Dean’s South of the Border, and SO many more! There are so many great restaurants in Punta Gorda! Check out the boutiques, art museums, book store, and consignment shops downtown while you’re visiting. Don’t forget to swing by Laishley’s Crab House, near Laishley Park, which is directly on the harbor. Try some seafood there while watching the boats in the marina. Downtown Bait and Tackle, located next to the crab house, is a fisherman’s dream. They also offer canoe and kayak rentals.
Another interesting park to visit is Ponce de Leon Park. The park itself is next to the water and has a boat ramp. It’s also one of the areas that Ponce de Leon originally settled, so it has a rich history in the area. You can take a walk along the boardwalk to see lots of birds and natural wildlife in the area. Be sure to stop next door to the park to check out the Peace River Wildlife Sanctuary, where you will find interesting birds like pelicans, bald eagles, owls, and more! All the animals at the wildlife center are rescues and are well cared for in their new home. Admission to the wildlife center is free, but they do appreciate donations that go towards aiding their rescued animals.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Punta Gorda on the weekend, then you’re lucky enough to check out their amazing Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s market is an amazing free thing to do in Punta Gorda! The Farmer’s Market is located downtown next to the old city hall and is open on Saturday mornings. Admission is free and there is no fee for parking. The Farmer’s Market offers crafts, food, art, music, and much more. If you miss the Saturday Farmer’s Market downtown, then try the other Farmer’s Market that is located at History Park on Sunday morning! The markets tend to be busier and have more vendors during the fall and winter months when the snowbirds (northeners) are in the area.
One of my favorite things to do in Punta Gorda is go to Fisherman’s Village. I could write an article on this place alone because there’s just so much there! Fisherman’s Village is a large open air shopping center that’s painted beautiful, bright colors and is located right along the Peace River. It offers amazing restaurants, shopping, live music, and more.
Fisherman’s Village is a great place to wine and dine! Watch the boats come in while you’re eating at open air Harpoon Harry’s. Be sure to check out the Village Fish Market, The Captain’s Table, and Village Brewhouse, all located inside Fisherman’s Village. There is also an amazing and adorable candy store called Simply Sweet that has the largest selection of candy you’ve ever seen, along with fudge and ice cream! Fisherman’s Village is a MUST visit during the holidays. Check out their events before you come and don’t miss out!
Punta Gorda is such an fun, artsy town that still manages to have that small town, southern hospitality. There are so many free or low cost activities that can be done outdoors in Southwest Florida. Make sure you check out the beautiful parks and take advantage of the amazing weather that Florida offers! Hopefully you will visit Punta Gorda one day and maybe even make this little paradise gem your home!
Check out their official website here: The City of Punta Gorda, FL