By Hilda Mitrani

An innovative bicycle loan program helps visitors enjoy the Punta Gorda Harborwalk, a 2.4-mile public path that winds through three waterfront parks. This confluence of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor is also an excellent spot for birding.

It’s easy to enjoy a scenic bicycle excursion in Punta Gorda, and you can rent for an hour or a day with just a credit card, driver’s license and waiver. This friendly city, located in southwest Florida, was recognized in 2010 as a “Florida Bike-Friendly Community" by the Florida Bicycle Association.

The bicycles are offered at three locations: Fishermen’s Village, Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside and Laishley Park Municipal Marina.

Punta Gorda, whose revitalized downtown is a testament to the strength and fortitude of our peninsula’s residents, is also home to 25-foot statue fashioned from approximately 35 percent debris.

Called “The Spirit of Punta Gorda,” it was created by artist and sculptor Peggy McTeague. On the sculpture's base is a sundial that reflects the exact time at which Hurricane Charley hit the region in 2004.

Like the Greek mythological Phoenix, the sculpture embodies the emergence of this waterfront downtown, stronger and once again thriving in the warm Florida breeze.

Author's Note: Thanks to reader Ron Thomas of Scoops & Bites in Punta Gorda for encouraging me to explore the Harborwalk! He's created this Google Map of all the activities found in its path.