Go beyond the spa getaway and enjoy nature’s bounty in Florida’s quieter paradise

CHARLOTTE HARBOR AND THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (March 7, 2013) – Looking to plan a trip with the gal pals, or maybe with mom over Mother’s Day? Look no further than Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands where you can relax some, then spend the rest of your vacation becoming inspired by the natural surroundings and the fun things to see and do. Because as Cyndi Lauper so joyously sings: “Girls just wanna have fun!”

Just a few of the activities you might entertain adding to the itinerary of your next girlfriend getaway, mother/daughter escape or multi-generation retreat that encourage lady travelers to celebrate themselves and their friendships at this classic Florida locale include:

Wading with the Starfish:
For those who like to take a walk on the wet and wild side, you can take part in a free Seagrass Adventure Estuary Wading Trip where after an introductory program on aquatic environments, participants walk a short distance with their guide, and using dip nets and hand viewers, wade into the shallow waters in search of the plants and animals that reside there. This exciting hands-on activity is both educational and fun for people of all ages with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center. www.checflorida.org

Ceramics Galore:
Pottery Express and Bamboo Farmin Punta Gorda offers everything ceramic for interior décor and exterior landscaping. Five acres of folk art and ceramics from Asia, Mexico and by local artists too, inspire visitors to transform elements of their home’s décor with striking ceramic sinks, fountains, wall art, garden ornaments, urns, vessels, serving pieces and more. You’ll also find on premises The Painted Cabana, a shop featuring whimsical coastal décor by local artisans, keep an eye out for a variety of craft classes offered too! www.potteryexpress.com

Soak in the Mineral Springs:
Just over the county line in North Port are the legendary Warm Mineral Springs, believed to be the “fountain of youth” Ponce de Leon sought over 500 years ago. Geothermally heated to a constant 85F degrees, the spring’s healing properties provide an elixir for the body and soul, and guests who spend time soaking actually take on a more youthful and energetic experience. www.warmmineralsprings.com.

Discover a Secluded Beach:
Water-lovers seeking a respite from the crowds will delight in more than 30 miles of pristine beaches for swimming, shell combing and wildlife-viewing. Five barrier islands, two state parks and miles of beaches offer access to delightfully open stretches of sand, sun and surf. Stump Pass State Park is ideal for shelling and gathering fossilized shark’s teeth. True adventurers will enjoy the wildlife on Don Pedro Island State Park, accessible only by private boat or a guided kayak tour.

Watch a Kaleidoscope of Color in the Sky:
Englewood Beachon Manasota Key is the locals’ favorite spot to watch the sun slip into the Gulf of Mexico. A popular sunset scene is atop Punta Gorda’s charming boutique hotel, The Wyvern, where guests and locals enjoy panoramic views of Charlotte Harbor from the rooftop. Be seen sipping a signature martini and nibbling on tapas by the pool as the sunsets, www.thewyvernhotel.com.

Take in the Arts Scene:
Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands are home to a thriving arts scene that infuses these laid-back communities with bold splashes of color. Here, art literally spills outdoors – more than 20 professionally-executed historic and decorative murals adorn buildings throughout Punta Gorda’s historic commercial district. www.puntagordamurals.comFestivals and galleries draw residents and visitors, while renowned arts centers offer hands-on workshops. More than 600 unique artists display their talents throughout Charlotte Harbor.
Paddle Paradise:
Charlotte County’s nearly 200 miles of kayak- and canoe-friendly Blueway Trails are heralded for their excellent backwater fishing, colorful birds, dolphin and manatee sightings, mangrove tunnels and 53 easily accessible canoe and kayak trails that appeal to novice and expert paddlers alike. http://www.charlottecountyfl.com/communityservices/blueway.asp.

Mingle with the Locals:
Historic Punta Gorda, with its original Florida architecture, streetlamps and cobblestone walkways, turns on the charm every third Thursday from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Gallery Walk is a feast for the eyes, ears and palate as residents and visitors stroll to explore the town’s galleries, boutiques and restaurants while listening to live music and enjoying libations and appetizers.

Rated by TripAdvisor.com as the Number 2 emerging travel destination in 2009, Englewood boasts a lively downtown historic district with charming gift shops, galleries, jewelry and clothing boutiques. On the first Saturday evening of the month, most are open late to accommodate the crowds Cruizin’ on Dearborn, admiring the show of antique autos, muscle cars, hot rods and live music. If you miss it, don’t worry, there’s a second Saturday of the month event too.

About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers a pristine unspoiled beauty that has served as the backdrop for seven major feature films as well as countless memorable vacations. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” The city of Punta Gorda was named in one of “Top Ten Places to Retire Healthy” by U.S. News & World Report. Englewood was named as #2 of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by TripAdvisor.com.

For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104, Port Charlotte, FL 33948; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor’s Guide; or visit the Web site at www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.

Jennifer Huber
Tourism Public Relations Manager
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
(941) 743-1900

Mary Jane Kolassa / Cindy Dobyns
Above Water Public Relations & Marketing
(407) 463-0040 / (239) 596-9149
MJKolassa@AboveWater.com/ CDobyns@AboveWater.com

Charlotte Harbor Visitor
& Convention Bureau
18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
941-743-1900, FAX: 941-764-4932