Famous for being one of Florida's eco-tourism destinations, the Southwest Gulf Coast is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and beach bums. Check out this view...
Located halfway between Tampa and Naples, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands are a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor.
Here's a list of eight fun eco-friendly things to do:
1. Embark on a Sea Life Wading Excursion:
Take a walk on the wet and wild side and take part in a free Seagrass Adventure Estuary Wading Trip. After learning about the eco-system, you'll take a guided tour in Lemon Bay. More info: checflorida.org.
2. Take a Yoga Stand-Up Paddleboarding Class:
Open to all ages and activity levels, Hooked on SUP provides YOLO paddle board rentals and instruction in Englewood, Boca Grande and surrounding areas. You can even rent a GoPro camera to video your paddle. Their paddle board “Yoga on Water” classes provide both meditation and a core workout experience. There are special events for groups, including full moon excursions.
3. Head Out on a Swamp Tour:
Explore the swamp with Babcock Wilderness Adventures. Ninety-minute buggy tours are available at Babcock Ranch and Telegraph Cypress Swamp. Expert guides share tales of local history and info on local flora and fauna. You might even see an alligator or two!
4. Hang out with Exotic Wildlife:
Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary provides a healthy living and recovery environment for abandoned and abused exotic wildlife like lions and tigers, bears, panthers, bobcats, primates, reptiles and more. During self-guided tours at this not-for-profit outdoor sanctuary, you'll meet the animals as well as those who love and care for them.
5. Fish at the Tarpon Capital of the World:
One of the world’s top sport-fishing destinations, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers clean waters and dozens of sport fish. Captain Ralph Allen, charter captain and owner of King Fisher Fleet, says that one could “fish a different way, for different fish, and in a different place every week and not repeat yourself in six months.” Enjoy the adrenaline rush of deep sea charter fishing in the Gulf or back bay fishing in the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve, teeming with snook, mackerel, redfish, sea trout, yellowtail, cobia, snapper, grouper and kingfish.
6. Go for a Bike Adventure on Punta Gorda:
A volunteer organization called TEAM Punta Gorda offers a free bike loaner program. There's an 18-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system called Punta Gorda Pathways was recently completed, connecting the city’s parks, neighborhoods and commercial areas. There are four bicycle routes around the city, with the longest route being 31 miles.
7. Visit the Peace River Wildlife Center:
An animal rehabilitation program, Peace River Wildlife Center takes care of orphaned, displaced, and injured native wildlife species. The center admits around 2,000 “patients” annually and most are released to their natural habitats once healed. Guided tours are offered regularly through the day or a self-guided tour brochure is available.
8. Discover a Secluded Beach:
Explore the 28 miles of gorgeous beaches along five barrier islands and two state parks. Swim in the surf and comb the beach for shells. Check out Stump Pass Beach State Park and search for fossilized shark’s teeth. Or visit Don Pedro Island State Park, accessible only by private boat, passenger ferry or a guided kayak tour.
Insider Tip: Follow Kevin Mims, our VISIT FLORIDA Outdoors & Nature Insider for more great tips about how to experience Florida's wild side.
If You Go...
For more info, check out the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau's website: CharlotteHarborTravel.com.