Mitchell Parts
June 16, 2020
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Enjoy Historic Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida

Author: Administrator
If you are longing for a peaceful sunny vacation in Southwest Florida, and have a penchant for history, then Punta Gorda is the place for you.

Punta Gorda is situated where Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River merge, just south of Port Charlotte. Although the name sounds very romantic, translated form the Spanish is means fat point. It holds the distinction of being the country seat of Charlotte County. Surprisingly it is the only municipality in the county that is incorporated.

About ten years after the American Civil War ended, the Howard brothers became the area's first settlers. Then ten years after settlement, the railroads arrived, along with land developers and tourists. As the most southerly stop on the South Florida Railroad, Punta Gorda attracted some enterprising people. George Brown, an African-American landowner and shipbuilder, was one of the founding fathers of his fledgling town.

In 1887, a meeting was held in Hector's Billiard Parlor and Drugstore to get the ball rolling on incorporation. Of the thirty-four men attending four were African-American. Even though Cornelius Vanderbilt who owned part of the fancy Punta Gorda Hotel, lent a gentile flavor, it was a rough and ready frontier town. Since the town was on the edge of nowhere, it attracted some wild and shifty characters who thought nothing of settling disputes with a gun.

In 1921, Charlotte County was created by the splitting of DeSoto County and a small bridge was built along the new Tamiami Trail, joining up Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor. It was replaced by the Barron Collier Bridge in 1931, and now visitors can easily cross back and forth on a beautiful new link over the Peace River.

When visiting this historic town, we sure to devote lots of time to the 1921 Blanchard House Museum, originally the home of Joseph Blanchard, an African-American fisherman and sea captain. It is full of exhibits depicting civic and religious life, politics, education and the Civil Rights Movement. You will get lost in the wonderful newspaper clippings, heirlooms, and vintage photographs.

Why not take a walking tour and soak up the rustic old world feel of the town. It has thrown off its wild beginnings, and is now a vibrant riverfront city that has something for everyone. Admire the two storey colonial houses wrapped with huge front verandahs which stand in stark contrast to the usual bungalows and low rise homes of other Florida towns.

The jewel of Punta Gorda is the sprawling Fishermen's Village, that attracts countless tourist every year. It's right down on the harbor where fish packing houses once stood. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the boutiques and shops where you can purchase artwork, collectibles, resort fashions, and those special souvenirs for the folks back home.

When you're hungry choose one of the sidewalk eateries, enjoy pasta and pizza, or slide into one of the fine establishments where you can enjoy a view of the harbor. In the day time the sight of blue water, hawks circling on high, and gulls that dip and cruise, will delight you. After dark watch the twinkling lights of tour boats and Charlotte Harbor.

Boating enthusiasts will be impressed with the variety of vessels docked at Fishermen's Village from speedboats and cabin cruisers to luxury yachts.

There are trails to hike at the South Florida Birding Trail site, and tours to take at the Environmental Center's Alligator Creek facility, just south of Punta Gorda on Burnt Store Road. You may even spot a pair of nesting bald eagles.

Baseball fans can look forward to 2009 and the opening of Charlotte County's $46 million sports arena where the Tampa Bay Rays will conduct their spring training camp.

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley, which was predicted to hit Tampa, made an unexpected right turn and slammed into Charlotte Harbor. It was the strongest storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The town has recovered nicely from the destruction of torn roofs and destroyed buildings. Charley afforded Punta Gorda the chance to clean up some ramshackle areas of town, and make way for new business ventures to pop up.

A farmers market will soon be opening, and lots of bicycling paths are planned for the cycling enthusiast. A romantic two mile long promenade along the bay is also in the works.

Come to Punta Gorda now for the warm breezes and historical flavor. Bring your family and enjoy small town wholesome activities in a relaxed atmosphere. The beaches are beautiful, the boating and fishing is world class, and of course, the sense of history is everywhere.

Then, in a few years, come back and enjoy one of the healthiest spots in the country to retire. This is according to U.S. News, whose editors selected ten spots, with Punta Gorda being one. The opportunity to exercise, enjoy social interactions, and engage in a healthy lifestyle will keep you well ahead of the curve.


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