By Hilda Mitrani

Punta Gorda is a picturesque city on Florida's southwest coast whose history dates to the days of Spain's first forays into the New World.

It was Juan Ponce de León who first came through the area in 1513. Punta Gorda’s modern history began in the late 1800s with post-Civil War migration. 

Today, the Punta Gorda Historical Mural Society commemorates the area's long and storied Florida history with dozens of colorful historical murals that were first proposed by proud citizen Dr. Robert Andrews. He convinced the Punta Gorda Business Alliance to help him commemorate the town's history through these artistic works. Now, the murals are an important part of Punta Gorda culture.

The murals are a charming part of this southwest Florida city located where the Peace River meets Charlotte Harbor. They are lovely to ponder in various types of light too. I found myself driving or walking by some of them several times to enjoy this in varying types of light.

Punta Gorda’s civic leaders sought a lot of public input on these paintings and restored them after Hurricane Charley came through in 2004. Now, downtown Punta Gorda once again gleams with the help of the Punta Gorda Historical Mural Society, and smart new shops and restaurants are attracting tourism along with many of the traditional spots.

Experience Punta Gorda Culture & History

An interesting walking guide to the 20 historical murals is free, and can be picked up at the Main Street Punta Gorda office, the Punta Gorda and Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce offices or in Laishley or Gilcrest Parks.

(You can see a list of the historical murals here.)

There's also a lovely riverfront, known as Retta Esplanade, to roam.

During my visit, I stayed at the luxurious Wyvern Hotel, just across from Laishley Park. It's an excellent spot from which to start the walking tour or just enjoy the waterfront. Additionally, a gallery walk is held every third Thursday of each month from 5 to 8 p.m. 

While you're in the area, make sure to try blue crab. It's delicious!