Charlotte Harbor, officially explored by Ponce de Leon in 1513, was settled by the English in 1775 and named after Queen Charlotte Sophia, wife of King George III. Some of Florida's oldest homes have been restored here. In Punta Gorda's Historic District -- which is being revitalized by a streetscape program that features brick lanes, street lamps and sitting areas -- there are more than 130 historic homes and 25 commercial buildings. Many of the buildings have been transformed into works of art with murals painted on their walls. Port Charlotte is also home to numerous historic properties.
Students in the communities are served by the Charlotte County Public Schools district that includes three senior high schools, four middle schools and ten elementary schools. The Charlotte County Campus of Edison Community College is located on a 200-acre site in a beautiful and traditional setting with a full range of higher education services.
For those who like to shop, browse or simply relax and enjoy the view, Punta Gorda's Fishermen's Village is a unique waterfront destination of gift, clothing and specialty shops, restaurants, a 98-slip marina, and fully furnished luxury villas. The Port Charlotte Town Center is the largest enclosed mall in Charlotte County. The Mall offers shopping in fine department stores, as well as 100 exclusive specialty stores. It is home to a 16-screen cinema and a food court.
When it comes to recreation, all kinds of activities are available. Punta Gorda is home to four golf courses with six more just over the Peace River in Port Charlotte. With 219 miles of unspoiled, natural coastline, Charlotte Harbor and the surrounding Gulf Islands offer some of the best fishing in the world. International Tarpon fishing competitions are held annually. The unspoiled, protected waters of Charlotte Harbor, and the Myakka and Peace Rivers, are excellent for sailing, boating, and fishing. For swimming, snorkeling, shelling, picnicking, or just taking it easy in the sun, the "out islands" on the Gulf of Mexico are ideal. Nearby lakes and streams offer superb fresh water fishing. Inland in the county, the big game hunter will find deer and wild boars, while the bird hunter will be challenged with wild turkey, quail, dove, and duck.
Punta Gorda features numerous parks and nature preserves. Laishley Park is a beautiful 16-acre waterfront park situated adjacent to the Downtown area. The park has a 400-foot fishing pier and a public boat ramp. Gilchrist Park is a picturesque 20-acre riverfront park with tennis and basketball courts, a picnic area and a wooden fishing pier. Nature Park is a 19-acre facility featuring a bird-watching observatory. The park has a walking trail that meanders thru the wooded and low-lying areas, where birds are abundant. Ponce de Leon Park is a beautiful harbor-front park featuring a beach, boat ramp and boat trailer parking. The park has numerous benches and picnic tables with charcoal grills available.
There is never a lack of things to do or see. In the spring, the Texas Rangers make their home at Charlotte County Stadium. It is also home of the Charlotte Rangers Class A Florida State League franchise and the Gulf Coast Ranger Rookie League franchise. The Florida Adventure Museum has served the community since 1969. Its mission is to educate people of all ages about Florida and Charlotte County in a hands-on, interactive environment. Changing exhibits explore topics related to state and local history, Florida natural history and the sciences. Annual special events include "Florida Frontier Days," a pioneer festival held each May, and "A Symphony of Trees," held in November.
Babcock Wilderness Adventures gives visitors the opportunity to discover a place where the silence of the woods is broken only by the haunting cry of a panther and to experience the thrill of watching panther, bison, deer, turkey, alligators and more in their natural habitat. The 90,000-acre Crescent B Ranch in eastern Charlotte County provides a chance to see the real Florida, unspoiled and untouched.
One of the most eclectic collections of decorated coconuts in the world is housed in the Holiday Inn Harborside Hotel at Punta Gorda. The collection is used for the three annual International "Coconut Races" held at the Inn during the spring and fall seasons.
Port Charlotte Beach Park overlooks serene Charlotte Harbor. This facility can be rented for meetings, weddings, dances or parties. The public swimming pool and public beach are located here. Picnic shelters are available for rent. There are tennis courts, a boat ramp, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pit, bocce ball courts, playground equipment and an outdoor basketball court.
Harold Avenue Recreation Center in East Port Charlotte is home to a youth basketball league, teen dances and an adult basketball league. This facility has a gymnasium, tennis courts, ball fields and meeting rooms for rent. Harold Avenue Park is another popular site for day camp during the summer and other extended school breaks.
Founded in 1885 by Colonel Isaac Trabue, Punta Gorda is the county seat for Charlotte County Florida. The city was originally called Trabue and was renamed Punta Gorda in 1887. The name Punta Gorda, which means, "fat point" when translated from Spanish, was given to the city because a broad part of the land in Punta Gorda juts into Charlotte Harbor.