15 Best Things to Do in Punta Gorda, FL

Punta Gorda, FL
Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com

Punta Gorda is a city in Charlotte County.

Situated on the south banks of Peace River jutting out into Charlotte Harbor, it’s a small historic place that boasts year-round sunshine.

Its name translates to “Fat Point” in English, referring to its location on one of the country’s biggest natural harbors.

The city is sandwiched between Sarasota in the north and Fort Myers in the south and is a driving distance from Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

It’s a dream destination for boaters, fishermen, and sun lovers.

It’s a vibrant city with great restaurants, beautiful marinas, and diverse flora and fauna.

Here are the best things to do in Punta Gorda, Florida:

Take a Leisurely Walk at Ponce De Leon Park

Fishing pier at Ponce De Leon Park
Khairil Azhar Junos / Shutterstock.com

Located on Ponce De Leon Parkway, Ponce De Leon Park is a recreational spot with a boat launch, a mangrove-covered boardwalk, and a beach.

It got its name from Juan Ponce de León, who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513.

Mini statues of Ponce de Leon are scattered in the area.

Sunset at Ponce De Leon Park
Julia Bowser / Shutterstock.com

The park sits at the edge of Punta Gorda and has a small beach where you can watch the sunset over Charlotte Harbor and Little Alligator Creek.

There’s also a short boardwalk in the middle of the mangroves where you can spot local wildlife in their natural habitat.

Take a leisurely afternoon walk at Ponce De Leon Park and enjoy stunning sunset views.

A pelican near the waters of Ponce De Leon Park
Wknight94, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tour the Military Heritage Museum

Located on West Marion Avenue, the Military Heritage Museum is a 17,000-square-foot museum showcasing US military history.

From the Revolutionary War to modern conflicts, the museum will give you an insight into how all five military branches work.

There are more than 30,000 artifacts, interactive displays, veteran museum guides, live performances, and audiovisual presentations.

On the first floor is the Heritage Gallery, where you will see photos, military equipment, guns, and uniforms on display.

See the Tall Ship and Aviation Exhibit at the Gulf Theater, where you can also catch weekly documentaries.

At the Atrium are three-period rooms with exhibits detailing the pre-Revolutionary US military history, 20th Century wars, and modern conflicts.

On the second level of the Military Heritage Museum is the Virtual Reality Room, where you can experience a Special Forces parachute jump.

There's also the Flight Simulator room, where you can “fly” an F-16 Fighting Falcon or P-51 Mustang.

Adopt an Owl at the Peace River Wildlife Center

The Peace River Wildlife Center is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center located on Ponce de Leon Parkway.

It’s nestled in a mangrove forest overlooking Charlotte Harbor.

Dr. Jerry Gingerich founded this non-profit organization in 1982, treating orphaned and injured wildlife on his home’s lanai.

It was in 1985 when they moved to the present location, and since then, the center has treated over 50,000 birds and small mammals.

There are around 100 permanent wildlife residents in the center that you can visit.

These include bald eagles, pelicans, songbirds, tortoises, and rabbits.

If you want to help the Peace River Wildlife Center’s cause, symbolic adoptions are offered to animal lovers for as little as $10 a month.

Your adoption will include a Certificate of Adoption and a picture of your chosen animal.

Eat Blue Crabs at Peace River Seafood Restaurant

Located on Duncan Road, Peace River Seafood Restaurant is known for its steamed blue crabs, shrimps, and oysters.

The restaurant boasts locally sourced seafood delivered daily by local fishermen.

It’s best known for the Punta Gorda-style steamed blue crabs served with hot butter, corn on the cob, and potatoes.

There’s an all-you-can-eat blue crab, but you should be early as the restaurant no longer serve crabs after 7 p.m.

If you want variety, you should try the Tippencanoe, a mix of shrimp, clams, mussels, blue crabs, and andouille sausage.

Cap off your meal with a slice of homemade key lime pie.

Head to Peace River Seafood Restaurant to enjoy fresh seafood.

Experience a Luxurious Stay at Fishermen's Village

Entrance to Fishermen's Village
Florida Aerial Pics / Shutterstock.com

In West Retta Esplanade, Fishermen's Village is a waterfront resort complex boasting over 30 retail shops, restaurants, luxury suites, and a full-service marina.

The village sits on a historic pier built in 1928.

It was known then as the Maud Street City Dock, which replaced a dock for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

Today, Fisherman’s Village is a unique dining, shopping, and boating destination.

Dinner cruise ships docked at Fishermen's Village
Florida Aerial Pics / Shutterstock.com

There are five restaurants, including the Village Brewhouse, which boasts award-winning fried tenderloin, and the Center Court, which serves cocktails and live music with sunset views.

Choose from any of the four types of suites available, with the Grande Harbor Sunset Suite offering the best views and the Grande Harbor Presidential Suite giving you the most luxurious experience.

The Fisherman’s Village marina has hundreds of boat slips for boaters that can accommodate boats up to 60 feet LOA and 6-foot draft.

Marina at Fishermen's Village
Florida Aerial Pics / Shutterstock.com

Learn about the Lives of African Americans in Charlotte County at Blanchard House Museum

Located on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Blanchard House Museum aims to preserve, study, and display artifacts highlighting African Americans' history, culture, and contributions in Charlotte County and Southwest Florida.

It was established in 2004, honoring Bernice Andrews Russell, a social activist and a historian of the African American community who was the first to envision the museum.

The house was built in 1925 for fisherman Joseph Blanchard following the Craftsman style popular for smaller houses from 1905 until the early 1920s.

The museum’s permanent exhibits include Early Black History in Florida, The Pioneers, and “Down the Street.”

There are also seasonal exhibits that showcase the African Americans’ contributions to cooking, healthcare, and the wars.

Drive down to the Blanchard House Museum and learn about the plight of African Americans.

Sample Handcrafted Spirits at Alligator Bay Distillers

The Alligator Bay Distillers is a family-owned and operated distillery on Marion Avenue.

Brothers Alexander and Benjamin Voss founded it in 2015.

Boasting award-winning handcrafted rums and whiskeys, the distillery produces them in small batches, resulting in quality cane-to-bottle spirits.

Their rum is made from locally sourced Floridian black strap molasses from Clewiston and distilled in old-fashioned copper pots.

You can book a free distillery tour and sample their products!

Some of Alligator Bay Distillers’ bestsellers are the White Rum, which won the Silver Medal at the 2022 World Spirits Competition, and the Dark Rum, which received the Rum XP Gold Medal at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

Join a Walking Tour of the Punta Gorda Historic Murals

Scattered around the city are 31 life-size murals that depict the rich history of Punta Gorda.

Join a two-hour guided walking tour conducted by the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society where you’ll learn about the local history and the process of creating these masterpieces.

If you want a more intimate experience, you can do a self-guided walking tour with the help of a Walking Guide map that you can get from the Punta Gorda Chamber on West Marion Avenue; you can also download it from their website.

You can scan the QR codes in each mural to learn more about it and its history.

For those interested in history, there’s “The History of Punta Gorda through its Murals” History Class, where you can “visit” all 31 murals from the comfort of a classroom while a guide walks you through more than 450 years of local history.

Visit the A.C. Freeman House

Exterior of the A.C. Freeman House
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The A.C. Freeman House is a Queen Anne-style house on West Retta Esplanade.

It was built for businessman and politician Augustus C. Freeman, who held various government positions in the city from 1896 to 1904.

Freeman purchased the land where the house stands.

Facade of the A.C. Freeman House
Wknight94, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of its restoration in 1985 included moving the entire building two blocks from where it originally stood.

The A.C. Freeman House’s design is considered rare in South Florida; the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Shop at the Punta Gorda History Park Sunday Market

Shop local fresh produce and delicious food items at the Punta Gorda History Park Sunday Market.

Located on Shreve Street, the park was founded in 1999 and houses historic buildings and lush gardens.

Local farmers and artisans gather in the park every Sunday to offer fresh produce and artisanal baked goods.

There’s also a wide selection of plants, flowers, and arts and crafts that make good souvenirs.

Some stalls offer unique pieces to add to your collection if you’re into vintage and antique finds.

When you’re done shopping, relax at Punta Gorda History Park’s manicured gardens.

See Alligators in Their Natural Habitat at the Alligator Creek Preserve

Located on Burnt Store Road, the Alligator Creek Preserve is a nature preserve with hiking loops that go through a subtropical forest and water.

It sits along the edge of Charlotte Harbor, where freshwater meets saltwater, providing a great habitat for alligators.

You’ll also see armadillos, tortoises, and birds roaming freely inside the preserve.

The preserve’s trail system is composed of two loops and a connector.

The Eagle Point Trail goes through pine Flatwoods, marshes, and a freshwater lake, while the Flatwoods Trail leads to pine Flatwoods with cypress domes.

Meanwhile, the Three Lakes Trail will take you to a mangrove forest.

Expect to see wildlife along the trails, especially anywhere with water.

See the Centuries-Old Punta Gorda Historic Train Depot

Exterior of the Punta Gorda Historic Train Depot
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on Taylor Street, the Historic Train Depot was built in 1928 as part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

It follows the Spanish Mission architecture—one of only six in the Atlantic Coast Line built in that style and is one of only two that still stand today.

There are separate ticket windows, bathrooms, and waiting rooms that reflect the segregation implemented during that time.

Drop by the Punta Gorda Historic Train Depot and see memorabilia and historical items from World War II.

Discover Florida’s Flora at the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Garden

Located on Riverside Drive, the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Garden is a 30-acre waterfront property that mixes local flora with world-class sculptures.

Opened by Roger and Linda Tetrault, the garden features five ecosystems: marshlands, mangroves, tidal basin, wetlands, and uplands.

This unique mixture provides the perfect habitat for local flora and fauna.

The garden boasts more than 4,500 species of flowering trees and plants and sculptures from renowned and up-and-coming artists like Carole A. Feuerman, Kemal Tufan, and Jack Dowd.

The plants are grouped according to family, so you can learn about the different species in one family and take notes about their unique traits and features.

Enjoy the best views of the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Garden at the 15,000-square-foot boardwalk.

Appreciate Local Fauna at Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park

Located on the Tamiami Trail, the Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park is a 487-acre preserve with marshlands, freshwater ponds, and Hydric pine Flatwoods.

The wetlands serve as habitat for several species of wading birds, sandhill cranes, and some species of special concern by the state.

In the wetlands, you can also spot American alligators, cricket frogs, banded water snakes, and other reptiles and amphibians.

The pine Flatwoods are home to bobcats, wild turkeys, otters, and dears.

Bring your binoculars and watch bald eagles, sparrows, warblers, and American kestrels gliding freely above the park.

In the drier areas are a variety of snakes, including garter snakes, yellow rat snakes, and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Admire the Colorful Town of Matlacha

Tiny seafood market at Matlacha
Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

Just a 30-minute drive from Punta Gorda is the census-designated place of Matlacha.

It’s a small fishing town off the coast of Cape Coral that boasts colorful houses painted in tropical colors.

A gallery at Matlacha
Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

When the fishing industry was struggling in the 1990s, the people of Matlacha tried to reinvent the town by painting the houses with bright colors.

This led to the town’s reputation as an artsy fishing community.

A shop at Matlacha
Nadezda Murmakova / Shutterstock.com

There are no high-rise buildings or fast-food restaurants in the area, so you’d feel the small-town vibe on your visit.

It’s a life-size gallery of funky, colorful artworks that art lovers will appreciate.

Aerial view of Matlacha
Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Punta Gorda is the perfect all-play-and-fun getaway.

Sun worshippers will love exploring this city with its beautiful waters and lush greenery.

Its diverse flora and fauna and rich history promise a unique experience.

Try out the best things to do in Punta Gorda, Florida, and discover its beauty.

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.