IFWTWA Media Trip

Punta Gorda / Englewood Beach

September 16-18, 2022

Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is a collection of 10 charming coastal communities and four barrier islands clustered around Charlotte Harbor, the state’s second-largest harbor. Located on Florida’s southwest coast, the area is one of Florida’s premier eco-tourism destinations, where locals like to say, “our best side is outside.” A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, the area’s 830 miles of shoreline include an estuary, miles of sandy beaches, and nearly 200 miles of the Charlotte Harbor Blueway (water) Trails. With 84 percent of the shoreline protected from development, the Charlotte Harbor area boasts numerous activities and festivals that encourage families, couples, groups, and individuals to relax and explore the beautiful setting.

As part of this two-day adventure to Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, writers may experience a variety of outdoor activites from boating, hiking, cycling, harbor tours, and shelling for fossilized sharks’ teeth. Bound by the south bank of the Tidal Peace River and the eastern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Charlotte Harbor’s natural shoreline is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding, as well as taking an eco-tour on a two-seater catamaran. Charlotte Harbor also is known for some of Florida’s most diverse salt-and freshwater fishing, claiming 250 species of fish.

Educational tours, sunset cruises, and dinner tours are popular activites, as are visiting local artist galleries and studios, and sculpture and pottery gardens. Dining experiences may include fresh “catch and cook” seafood, ethnic cuisine, award-winning restaurants, steak houses, seats-in-the-sand dining, pub fare, and cozy bistros, to name a few.

Selected writers would likely fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) near Fort Myers to begin media trip. Transportation after the press trip to St. Petersburg for the conference will be provided. Hotel and restaurant information will be confirmed later.

Visit Punta Gorda Englewood Beach
AC Freeman House in Punta Gorda

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1 - Welcome!

Arrive at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) near Fort Myers

3 p.m. – Check-in Four Points by Sheraton, Charlotte Harbor (to be confirmed)
33 Tamiami Trail 
Punta Gorda, FL 33950 
Tel. 941-637-6770 

Welcome Drink – TTs Tiki Bar & Casual Fare at the Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Harborside (Charlotte Harbor) 
33 Tamiami Trail 
Punta Gorda, FL 33950 

Enjoy the fresh, open air, with your toes in the sand along the beautiful Charlotte Harbor. Whether it is tropical drinks, beer, wine, or superb cuisine, we have something for you! We have the best location on the water in Charlotte Harbor. Great sunsets, cocktails, top notch cuisine, volleyball, Adirondack chairs to kick back and Punta Gorda’s BEST line up of live entertainment on the weekends.

Explore Punta Gorda

4:30 p.m. – Harbor walk or bike to Fishermen’s Village
1200 W Retta Esplanade 
Punta Gorda, FL 33950

Enjoy a leisurely walk along the beautiful Charlotte Harbor shoreline through Gilchrist Park which culminates at Fishermen’s Village.
Along the way, take in the mangroves, waterfront vistas and park activities including America’s latest favorite sport: pickleball. You will also pass by the Military Heritage Museum which is worth its own stop.
At Fishermen’s Village, kick-off your vacation shopping with delightful and unique shops for all family members, a multitude of options for waterfront dining and the option to explore the Harbor by boat – when you board the King Fisher for a Sunset Cruise.

Pre or post-cruise, step beyond the main hall to again put your feet in sand on little Sunset Beach, where the Village Brewhouse has an outpost under a large tiki palapa and taste one of the many local craft brews or visit any of the many establishments for a harborside bite and sip.

6:15 p.m. – Sunset Cruise – King Fisher Fleet (6:30-8:00pm)
Fishermen’s Village

8:30/9 p.m. – Dinner – Hemingway’s Grille
139 W Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, FL 33950 (3 blocks from Four Points)
Tel. 941-637-9477

Day 2

Option 1 – The Great Outdoors and Eco Touring

9 a.m. – Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens
5827 Riverside Drive, Punta Gorda, Fl 33982

12 p.m. – Lunch – Peace River Seafood & Marketplace
5337 Duncan Rd, Punta Gorda, FL 33982

Eatery made famous by great crabs and great customers. No frills, cool, roadside restaurant serving up steamed blue crab, shrimp & oysters in a simple setting with an on-site market.

2 p.m. – Babcock Ranch Eco Tours
8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda, FL 33982

Take a guided tour deep into Florida wilderness and swampland for a close-up on native wildlife.

4:30-7 p.m. – Relax, shop, wander town


Option 2 – History and Arts (plus Rum tasting)

8:30 a.m. – Vietnam Wall / Veteran’s Park Memorial Garden
200 Harbor Walk Dr 
Punta Gorda, FL 33950

Half scale replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial in D.C.

Spirit of Punta Gorda Sculpture
View a bent palm tree sculpture and standing palm tree sculpture made of scrap metal from Hurricane Charley which made landfall on August 13, 2004. The bent tree represents the power of Charley and the standing tree, the strength of the survivors. The sundial of the trees is set to 4:29pm, the exact time Charley made landfall.

9:30 a.m. – Military Heritage Museum
900 West Marion Ave
Tel. 941-575-9002

Flight and range simulators, VR experiences, Gulf Theatre, Six interactive galleries, expansive academy gallery and special exhibits: History of the Navy Seals, Women in the Military

Optional Gallery Tour – Visual Arts Center
210 Maud Street, Punta Gorda, FL

Art galleries, classes and workshops, art store, gift gallery and exhibits across from Fishermen’s Village at entrance to Punta Gorda Isles

1 p.m. – Lunch – Laishley Crab House (TBC)
150 Laishley Court, Punta Gorda, FL 33950

3 p.m. – Tour and Tasting – Alligator Bay (Rum) Distillery
25522 E Marion Avenue 
Tel. 941-347-8419

Alligator Bay Distillers is a family owned and operated small batch distillery. Founded in 2015 by brothers Alexander and Benjamin Voss with a production motto “Cane to Bottle”, Alligator Bay rum is made from 100% Floridian black strap molasses sourced from Clewiston, FL, 78 miles east of the distillery.

4:30-7 p.m. – Relax, shop, wander town

7:30 p.m. – Dinner – The Perfect Caper
121 East Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, FL 33950 
Tel. 941-505-9009

Chef Jeanie Roland was born in Waterbury, Connecticut and this is where her fascination of cooking began. She was obsessed with cooking at an early age as she marveled at her mother preparing nightly meals for the family. Her love of cooking grew into her teens and later in life. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Jeanie worked in California, Florida and travelled the world experiencing the amazing cuisines of China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Morocco, England & Ireland. 
In 2002, Jeanie, with her husband James, opened The Perfect Caper in Punta Gorda, Florida, The Perfect Caper has been a favorite of the gulf coast for nearly 20 years. In 2012, Jeanie opened Ella’s Food & Drink, in Westerly, Rhode Island and has been a destination restaurant in Southern New England since its opening. With more than 30 years of experience in the kitchen, Jeanie Roland brings a culinary expertise and competitive energy to everything in both the back of the house as well as the front of the house.

Day 3

Beach and Activities

8:30 a.m. – Check out, Four Points Sheraton Punta Gorda

9 a.m. – Depart for day excursion and transfer to St. Petersburg

10 a.m. – Stump Pass Beach State Park
900 Gulf Blvd. (south end of Manasota Key) Englewood FL 34233
Tel. 941-964-0375

Gorgeous beach at the southern end of Manasota Key. Hike a beautiful, winding trail through the Mangroves or enjoy the secluded, uncrowded beach. Visitors come to this secluded beach to enjoy the year-round swimming and sunbathing.

A hiking trail passes through five distinct natural communities that provide homes for many species of wildlife. Covered picnic tables are located along the trail.

Visitors can launch a kayak and paddle around the two islands just east of the park’s land base. While at the park, visitors might see West Indian manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, least terns and magnificent frigate birds. Ranger-led nature hikes are available in the winter.

Stump Pass Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding and Kayak
Stump Pass location: 900 Gulf Blvd, Englewood, FL 34223
Tel. 941-504-1699

The area offers an incredible number of paddling trails (almost 60) and more than 30 launch points.

1 p.m. – Lunch – Farlow’s on The Water
2080 S McCall Road, Englewood, FL 34224
Tel. 941-474-5343

Relax and savor some of the tastiest dishes in the area. Keith spent his childhood in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands and loves the freshest catch and Laurie has a passion for Southern cooking, thus the cuisine marries the Caribbean and the south (e.g., Kentucky corn pudding and fried green tomatoes.) All food is made fresh daily. The herbs are grown in their garden at the restaurant which they invite you to tour and inhale (parsley, basil, and rosemary) and to walk their boardwalk to see what’s jumping!

3 p.m. – Transfer to Hyatt Place (1.5hrs)
St. Petersburg, FL

Other Options:

Peace River Wildlife Center 
3400 Ponce De Leon Parkway, Punta Gorda, FL 33950

Visitors will love visiting the rare and fascinating birds and animals at this rehabilitation and education center that offers free educational tours to the public. The Mission of the Peace River Wildlife Center is to contribute to the survival of native Florida wildlife through rescue, rehabilitation, and education.

Harbor Scoops 
150 Laishley Ct Unit 1111, Punta Gorda, Fl 33950

Trip Advisor #1 Ice cream shop… “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place. They have AMAZING homemade ice cream. Their chocolate dipped waffle cones are so good… tables right outside the shop to watch the harbor.”

The Ice House 
408 Tamiami Trail 

Authentic English-style pub, 26 taps of beer from around the world, line-up of dart boards, pool tables, tv screens and multiple seating areas.

Possible Add-on:

King Fisher Fleet from Punta Gorda: Cabbage Key “Cheeseburger in Paradise” Excursion

The area is known for its fishing heritage as generations of anglers have utilized its vast assortment of fish species. It is still widely renowned for its sport fishing, shelling, and beaches. The Cabbage Key Inn and Resort was a 1928 house which had been built upon a 38 feet high Calusa Indian shell mound. The dining room opened in the 1930’s and the bar began in 1944. Jimmy Buffet made the place famous with his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The walls are completely adorned with dollar bills past patrons have signed and left behind. There are few places left in Florida that can combine the laid-back atmosphere, history, and an air of yesterday’s solitude like Cabbage Key.

Social Media:

Mural on the streets of Punta Gorda

Trip Information:

Dates of the trip: September 16-18, 2022

Number of participants to be chosen: 4-6

Applications due: June 8

See the wonderful tentative itinerary with this post for details on this trip.

Accommodations and local transportation to all activities will be covered. See the tentative itinerary for all meals and activities to be covered.

Selected writers would likely fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) near Fort Myers to begin media trip.

Transportation after the press trip to St. Petersburg for the conference will be provided.  Hotel and restaurant information will be confirmed later.