Happy 2017! ‘Tis the time of year for my annual month-by-month listing of things you must try in the Punta Gorda & Englewood Beach, Florida area during the New Year. Of course, you can enjoy many of these activities throughout the year.
Jan. – Feel Like a Pioneer at Three Suns Ranch
Did you know Punta Gorda has a working bison ranch? On Saturdays during season, take a 90-minute covered wagon tour of Three Suns Ranch to learn about American bison, Florida cracker cattle and what it takes to run a working cattle ranch. You’ll get so close to the bison that you’ll smell their breath. Bring along a cooler because bison, beef and wild boar meat are sold in the gift shop and if you’ve never prepared bison or wild boar, the friendly staff will share their favorite preparation suggestions.
Feb. – Visit the Area’s Only BYOB Listening Room
Charlotte County’s neighbor North Port is home to a community radio station called WKDW 97.5 FM. It’s available on the air and streamed online at kdwradio.com.
Associated with the radio station is the Common Grounds Meeting Hall, Southwest Florida’s only BYOB listening room which hosts weekly poetry readings on Mondays, open mic night on Wednesdays and talented musicians other times of the week. Common Grounds is a casual, intimate setting allowing attendees to get up close with the musicians many who are nationally and even internationally recognized. Admission for the musical performances range from $10 to $30 and trust me, it’s worth every penny to listen to amazing talent. Irish bands frequent the hall this time of year so if that’s your thing – and it should be – check out the Common Grounds schedule. (Psst! I host a weekly travel show, Solo Travel Girl’s Adventures every Thursday at noon ET on WKDW, 97.5 FM. Listen online if you’re not local!)
March – Learn to Bike. With Attitude at Bert’s Black Widow Harley-Davidson
“Do one thing every day that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. A scary I’m doing is learning to ride a motorcycle by attending the Riding Academy at Bert’s Black Widow Harley-Davidson in Port Charlotte. Sure, for some of you it’s a piece of cake. For me, it’s one of the most terrifying things I’ve attempted in a long time. But ya know what? It’s pretty dang thrilling! In theory, the Riding Academy is a three-day process – a full day of classroom training plus two, 6-hour days of hands-on experience on bikes on the range. For me, well, as of this writing, it’s taking me a little longer to learn and that’s okay. If anyone wants to give me private lessons, I’d appreciate it!
April – Tour then Sip Locally-Produced Rum at Alligator Bay Distillers
In April 2016, Alligator Bay Distillers, Punta Gorda’s and Charlotte County’s first and only rum distiller, opened its doors to the public offering tours and tastings. Located a stone’s throw from Fat Point Brewing, the county’s only craft brewery, Alligator Bay Distillers is a fun experience for those interested in learning how cane-to-bottle rum is produced. Even if you visited in April or May of 2016, visit again and learn and taste the flavored rums being produced. Coconut and Gold are delish flavors!
May – Dine with a Bird’s-Eye-View at Perch 360
The Wyvern Hotel’s rooftop bar has a new name, look, flavor and it all results in a new deliciousness for Punta Gorda and Charlotte County. Appropriately called Perch 360, because when you’re perched like a bird admiring the Peace River and city below while sipping a signature craft cocktail called the Garden of Eden.
Chef Bob Moltzan has created a brilliant menu incorporating locally sourced ingredients when possible. They have names as artful as the flavor, such as the Purple Haze roasted beet salad and Devil on Horseback which is a combination of dates, blue cheese, bacon, orange segments, mint with a red wine reduction. Personally, my fave tapas dish is called Spicy Bites and are Buffalo cauliflower bites fried in a light tempura batter and served with a side of blue cheese. So good!
June – Ride a Wave
I cannot wait to navigate a personal powered catamaran along mangrove estuaries with this new attraction called Riding the Waves. Departing from Skip’s Placida Marina, two-hour guided eco-tours explore Stump Pass Beach State Park and include time for shelling on the beach. Of course, my favorite activities at Stump Pass Beach SP are hunting for fossilized shark teeth and finding a seashell with a hole in it, making a wish and hanging it on a dead tree. Three and a half-hour Twilight Tours are also offered to catch a golden sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
July – See Life Under a Railroad Trestle
If you’re not into paddleboarding but still into snorkeling, during the summer the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves offers snorkeling ecoventures that are beyond cool.Bboard a pontoon boat from Gasparilla Marina and head into Gasparilla Sound where you’ll jump in and look for sea critters that call the area home. What’s pretty nifty is hanging out by the old railroad trestle which was abandoned by the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway in 1981. It serves as a home to a boatload of marine life such as sponges, sea urchins, crabs and fish. During a trip last summer I got up close and personal with a sea cumber which was affectionately named Filbert.
Aug. – Dine in the World’s First Solar-Powered Town
Well, there’s no need to wait until August because Table & Tap, the first official restaurant of Babcock Ranch, is set to be open in time for Valentine’s Day 2017. Babcock Ranch is the world’s first solar-powered town and will be quite amazing! The lakeside Table & Tap will include an outdoor beer garden featuring about a dozen local craft brews and a menu featuring locally sourced meats, dairy and greens. The restaurant will seat 56 indoors and 30 outdoors.
Sept.- See Sea Life with Hooked on SUP
One of the big draws for Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is the water and one of the ways to enjoy it is to grab a paddle, hop on a standup paddleboard, strap on a mask and jump in the water for a snorkeling excursion to view the incredible sea life living in this area. Hooked on SUP offers SUP and snorkel excursions at Stump Pass Beach State Park and I describe them as magical underwater journeys. While on the SUP, keep an eye out for manatees and dolphins.
Oct. – Pay Respects
There are more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Wall Memorial of those who gave their lives during this war of the 1960s and 1970s. The original is in Washington, D.C., but Punta Gorda welcomed a half-scale replica in Nov. 2016 and it’s quite moving during the day and evening. It’s a source of reflection and healing. People leave mementoes for their loved ones who gave their lives during the war. Located in Punta Gorda next to Laishley Park, the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida is a MUST visit site and I had an interesting encounter on the day the Wall was dedicated.
Nov. – Walk Through Whimsical Serenity
Set to open in Fall 2017 is the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens in Punta Gorda featuring lush botanicals and world-class sculptures set along the serene Peace River. This gorgeous 27-acre gift is from Roger and Linda Tetrault and will include an art gallery. A 50-million-year-old palm frond fossil was the inspiration for the garden’s logo and signature sculpture called STEEL PALM. The sculptures are a mix of abstract and whimsical.
Dec. – Christmas Light Canal Cruises
Here in Florida we don’t have sleighs to dash through the snow but we have boats to coast the waterways. King Fisher Fleet out of Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda has been leading Christmas Light Canal Cruises for decades and it’s a true, festive treat. Hop aboard one of the hour-long tours offered from early December through Dec. 31. Another option to enjoy the Christmas canal lights is to join Smoke & Roses, a luxury catamaran that accommodates up to six people.
Have a suggestion on something else I should do in 2017? Drop me a line!
See what the things I recommended to do in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach for 2016.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit, my blog and my special needs dog.