Eat, Sea, Stay: Punta Gorda, FL
I think I left my heart in Punta Gorda! In all of my stops of this #CANlovesFL trip and my BMF's (best media friends, read more about why we went on the trip here), I was most pleasantly surprised by this "drinking town with a fishing problem". At least, that's how our guide upon arrival introduced it to us! In truth, Punta Gorda is a charming town in Charlotte Country with only about 18,000 people. The community is tight-knit and the accessibility to the water is unparalleled. After making some rounds, it became clear that people love up and leaving their city lives to start something different here.
Always wanted to know where to eat, where and how to get wet and spend a little quality time in Punta Gorda? Maybe you didn't know that, but now you do, so you're in the right place. We also did some stop in Englewood, so you'll find those experience mixed in here too. There's also Eat, Sea, Stay Guides for Sarasota here.
Peace River Seafood - Stop what you are doing. If you want the quintessential Florida Gulf seafood experience, you have found it! Peace River Seafood has their own crab fishing boats and they specialize in their blue crabs. They then barter their wares for hyperlocal seafood and that, and only that, is what appears on their menu. If there's a grouper shortage one day, you're outta grouper luck and that's a good thing. Seafood freshness is the pillar to their business and you can taste in their huge seafood platters, stuffed to the gills with containers of warm butter and wedges of lemon. Pick up some alligator gumbo, peel n' eat shrimp, deep fried lobster and key lime pie while you're at it.
The Perfect Caper - The James Beard-nominated Chef Jeanie Roland beat Bobby Flay on Beat Bobby Flay, and proof's in the pudding! This is an adorable spot with seriously tasty menu of both Southern classics and tropical cooking. There are a lot of classics, a lot of favourites on the menu with an emphasis on both French techniques and Asian influences. For me personally, "A Warm Goat" with warm goats cheese, a whole roasted garlic clove, Kalamata olive tapenade, caponata, roasted peppers with fresh parsley and grilled crostini cheese was the perfect starter. The showstopper was the mac and cheese. On my first forkful, out came this perfectly intact lobster claw and it was heaven from there. A crispy cheesy top gave way to the creamiest, al dente mac and cheese with a hint of the sea and ample lobster chunks. It's official. Heaven is a place on earth.
Farlow's On The Water - Worth a trip out of your way with its dreamy vined-in patio, waterfront patio and modernized indoor space. Nearly everything on the menu knocked my socks off, and for once the team and I ordered seconds of several items (knowing we had dinner to get to in a matter of hours). Mussels with white wine sauce so buttery, yet with a kick, we were mopping it up. Perfectly crispy and tender pork belly slices with a chili jam, tiny green apple cubes and peanut sauce. Seared sesame-crusted tuna nachos with house-ground wasabi, soy sauce and sriracha. Shrimp scampi with local shrimp. Homemade blueberry pie. Homemade salted caramel ice cream, beside a chocolate brownie mug cake. A husband and wife team traded in their former corporate lives to start this place up years ago and you can feel the love in every corner.
Dean's South of The Border - A local may have said not to go to Dean's, but I'm so happy we didn't listen! The drinks were cheap and there's live music ever night. On our particular night, it was group of four dads rocking out and taking requests. If you need to catch up on your sports, or just want to soak up what it's really like to live in Punta Gorda, go here. Special note: as a "Tex Mex Cantina", it'll also be one of the only spots in town where you can find a late night meal.
Riding The Waves: Boat Tours - Hands down. Must try. Riding the waves is the perfect activity for a group, and probably even solo. I've never seen these pseudo seadoo boats before and they were easy to learn how to operate and start whipping through the bay. We were taken to Stump Pass Beach and had a nice walkabout, picking up fossilized shark teeth while were little black dots on the otherwise light, shelly beach. Aside from the sunny day, wind in hair, guided walkie talkie tour, WE SAW DOLPHINS. First time in my life. The whole afternoon felt surreal and contrary to the pictures below, I was not touching my ToFoodies hat the entire time.
Sunset Cruise with King Fisher Fleet - After a long day, this is the perfect activity. Get on a boat and all the fun is brought to you for 90 minutes. Super nice guides on the PA system, the sun setting the distance, a bar on board with snacks. It's not the fanciest, but if want to see the sights and you're going for drinks anyway, why not do it on a boat??!
The Wyvern Hotel - At Dean's, a local told us that The Wyvern is the tallest building in Punta Gorda! Quelle surprise! It's not thaaaat tall, but it's a cute art deco boutique hotel with a killer rooftop patio at Perch360 to boot. The staff at the front desk really went out of their way to help us with anything we needed, for example letting us get snack even though she just closed her cash. The restaurant in the lobby, 88 Keys, is also a great spot for your morning breakfast or coffee. Flowing with my lobster kick, I ordered the lobster sunrise which is like a baked quiche with chunks of Maine lobster, tomatoes, onion and Italian parsley with citrus buere blanc and prosciutto.
Fisherman's Village - With family run shops, an event centre, marina and a boardwalk on Charlotte Harbour right there, everything you need is arm's length. The pastel buildings are the perfect backdrops for commemorative photo opps. Bonus food tip: Island Life Yogurt for frozen yogurt with unlimited toppings & Simply Sweet for slabs of fudge are the perfect snack stops!
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In partnership with Visit Florida.