Southwest Florida’s Quirkiest 4th of July Event is the Annual Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim

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Freedom Swim Co-Founder Michael P. Haymans Shouts Out Instructions Prior to the Swim, July 4, 2012

Freedom Swim Co-Founder Michael P. Haymans Shouts Out Instructions Prior to the Swim, July 4, 2012

C’mon, go ahead and celebrate independence this year during Southwest Florida’s quirkiest event, the 22nd Annual Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim across the Peace River. By far, this is my favorite Charlotte County event and ranks in my top five of fun Florida events. What started out 22 years ago as a few friends celebrating Independence Day by swimming across the Peace River has turned into annual outing for hundreds of thrill-seekers and everyday folks.

One of the Freedom Swim Founds, Mike Haymans, Gathers the Swimmers, July 4, 2011

One of the Freedom Swim Founds, Mike Haymans, Gathers the Swimmers, July 4, 2011

The Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim Is…

It’s not a race but a gloriously unorganized blobblefest where participants may swim with neon inflatable rafts, pastel foam noodles, or red, white and blue attire. Others go it in some kind of boat, such as a motorized cabin, kayak or standup paddleboard. It’s not uncommon to see foam coolers carrying cold “adult beverages” being dragged behind participants, too.

I’ve seen four-legged participants, too, either swimming or riding atop a paddleboard. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, black-tipped sharks have been pulled from that part of the Peace River!

Can You Picture Yourself Doing This? Here's the 21st Annual Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim Across the Peace River, Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda, July 4, 2012

Can You Picture Yourself Doing This? Here’s the 21st Annual Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim Across the Peace River, Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda, July 4, 2012

Here’s the Skinny…

Participants will either swim, paddle or float 1.5+ miles across the Peace River from Charlotte Harbor to Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. Other than exercising common sense (like swim with a buddy), there aren’t any rules. There is no registration fee and patriotic attire is encouraged. It’s 4th of July, after all!

The 2013 Freedom Swim is scheduled to begin at Noon and participants are encouraged to arrive in time for the 11:50 a.m. discussion with swimmers, led by co-founder Mike Haymans. (be sure to thank him for this fantabulous event!) Participants will swim from the public beach at the west side of the north end of the southbound U.S. 41 Bridge in Charlotte Harbor to Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda.

Reach the public beach either by walking the shoreline under the two bridges, or from the west side of the U. S. 41 right of way walk directly onto the beach without trespassing on the private property between the beach and the former Sea Horse Marina. There will be a trolley running between Fishermen’s Village and the public beach between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Vessels will be required to operate at idle speed in the Peace River Channel from the U.S. 41 Bridge to Marker Number 2 while swimmers are in the Channel. Visit www.FishVille.com for additional information.

Reaching the Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim Finish at Harpoon Harry's at Fishermen's Village, July 4, 2011

Reaching the Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim Finish at Harpoon Harry’s at Fishermen’s Village, July 4, 2011

Who’s In?

I’m not sure if I have it in me to swim, I’m getting over a month of sinus issues which included loss of hearing, but I’m considering renting a kayak from ‘It’s Time! Kayak & Canoe,’ which I did a couple of years ago.It was a great way to be in the middle without the fear of dying.(Swimming is not my strongest sport.)

Single kayak rentals are $30 and tandems are $45 and must be reserved in advance. They will be waiting for paddlers at the swimming starting point and can be left at Fishermen’s Village, which is nice. Boaters are responsible for transportation back to the launch site. What I did in 2011 was park at Fishermen’s Village then walk over to the launch/pick up site. Yeah, it was a bit of a hike but totally worth it. I think it took me about 45 minutes to an hour to do that walk. To reserve: visit www.itstimekayakandcanoe.com or call 941-255-3686 and ask for Mike or Audrey.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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