The city of Punta Gorda sits 35 minutes north of Fort Myers, bordering Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Peace River. Thanks to the network of canals that surround virtually every residential street, Punta Gorda vacation rentals offer families endless opportunities for water-based fun. Choose a spacious waterfront home with its own pool, and spend lazy days on the deck while the kids splash around. If you decide to head out, there’s much more fun to have like enjoying the area’s wildlife, museums, and other attractions.
1. Take a Sightseeing Cruise to a Deserted Island
A great way to get to see the area is to hop aboard a tour boat. King Fisher Fleet runs a selection of full- and half-day cruises in the area that set off from the Fishermen’s Village Marina in Punta Gorda. The 90-minute Harbor Tour along the waterfront gives kids the chance to spot playful dolphins and other sea animals. The longer Cayo Costa trip begins with a two-hour narrated cruise and delivers you to a white sandy beach on an unspoiled island, where you can enjoy a couple of hours of fun in the sun. Make sure you pack sunscreen and a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, as there are no shops or bars on the island.
2. Float Your Own Boat
If going out on a cruise gives you a taste for more adventures on the water, hire a boat for a day or two. Holidaze Boat Rental at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda has a fleet of boats available, and you can choose the size that’s perfect for your family. Explore the area with the help of charts and self-guided tour information from the owners. Choose whether to head out to the islands or head north along the Peace River to enjoy the wildlife. Stop for lunch at the Nav-A-Gator Grill, where the kids can sample real gator meat and swamp cabbage.
3. Venture Out on a Surrey with a Fringe on Top
Tour the town in style with a delightful surrey bike from Holidaze Boat Rentals. These amazing machines hold up to four adults and two children, so the whole family can climb aboard and join in the fun. Pick up a map of the Punta Gorda Pathways before starting your journey.
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4. Cool Off at Laishley Park
Pack a picnic, and pedal along the waterfront to Laishley Park. Let the kids have fun at the playground while you kick back in the shade. Stroll around the marina and admire the yachts before finishing off the day at the Laishley Crab House, which offers blue crab fished fresh from Charlotte Harbor and fresh king crab flown in daily from Alaska.
5. View Local Wildlife
Introduce the kids to the local wildlife at the Peace River Wildlife Center, tucked into the mangroves at Ponce de Leon Park. This rehabilitation facility treats injured or sick birds and small mammals, returning them to the wild when possible or adding them to the permanent residents. Common birds include eagles, hawks, owls, various songbirds, and wading birds. Entry is free, and donations are welcome.
6. Go Fishing
Along with housing the Peace River Wildlife Center, Ponce de Leon Park offers a small playground, picnic tables, a sandy beach, and fishing piers for visitors to enjoy. Fill the cooler with snacks and drinks, pack your fishing gear, and spend a day there relaxing and reconnecting with your family.
6. Hang Out with Cats
If your kids love learning about animals, take them to the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary on Horseshoe Road in Punta Gorda. Take a picnic if you plan to stay all day. This site offers plenty of seating if you need to take a rest, and the misting areas keep you and the kids cool on hot days. Residents include big cats—such as lions, tigers, and leopards—small cats, bears, monkeys, and reptiles. There is an admission charge, but kids ages seven and below get in free. They don’t take credit or debit cards, so make sure you have enough cash on hand before heading to the sanctuary.
8. Drool Over Dream Cars
Muscle Car City houses one of the largest displays of GM muscle cars and memorabilia in the U.S.A. Once you pay the admission fee, you can admire vintage cars from the 1950s through to the early 1970s, including hot rods and Chevys. There is also a Muscle Car City Diner on-site, where kids can experience 1960s-style dining. If you have a true car enthusiast in the family, coincide your vacation with their monthly car show; entry to the showground is free.
9. Learn Military History
The Military Heritage and Aviation Museum in Fishermen’s Village is packed full of military artifacts that help your kids understand and appreciate the role played by America in various conflicts, from the Spanish–American War to present-day Iraq. There is no entry charge to the museum, so grab the entire family, and head out to the museum for a day of fun and learning.
10. Enjoy Live Music and Retail Therapy at Fishermen’s Village
With more than 30 shops, restaurants, attractions, and services as well as a marina, there’s something for everyone at Fishermen’s Village. Browse the boutiques, treat the family to a meal, and enjoy the live music events. Hit the specialty shops, and make it your mission to find a one-of-a-kind memento of your fabulous vacation.
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