Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.
~John F. Kennedy

CHARLOTTE HARBOR AND THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (March 25, 2013) – When vacationing in Charlotte County there are many ways to get around. For beachcombing, there’s the barefoot stroll. To discover nature’s bounty among its estuaries, there is kayaking and also paddle boarding. Fishing means power boating, while racing enthusiasts go full sail. In the city of Punta Gorda, you can even roll along during the winter season on guided Segway tours.

Yet one of the loveliest modes of transportation to utilize in sunny Florida is aboard a bicycle. Maybe because as Albert Einstein wrote: “Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

For those not used to cycling, know that Florida is a flat land, making a cycling adventure a less strenuous, more leisurely undertaking than say, biking in a hillier locale. But cycling enthusiasts can still find a high-octane journey here if they want.
In Southwest Florida cycling is growing by leaps and bounds in popularity. In fact the city of Punta Gorda has over 15 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails and paths that connect the neighborhoods, the parks, and the commercial areas as a ring around the city, aptly named Punta Gorda Pathways.

Punta Gorda also features the first Florida free bike loan program. The city was recognized, in 2010, as a “Florida Bike-Friendly Community” by the Florida Bicycle Association as a result of their volunteer organization called TEAM Punta Gorda (http://www.teampuntagorda.org/bicycleloaner.html) offering a complimentary Yellow Bike Loaner Program. All that is required to enjoy a bicycle for an hour or a day is a credit card, driver’s license and signature of waiver. Bicycles are offered on a space-available basis at various downtown locations such as Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Charlotte Regional Medical Center Wellness Center, Wyvern Hotel, Fishermen’s Village and Punta Gorda Isles Yacht Club. In February 2013, the program saw a 300 percent increase in visitor usage of the Yellow Bike program.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) CYCLING OPTIONS
If you vacation with your own bike, you’ll surely want to bike along the 7.8 mile Cape Haze Pioneer Trail. The fairly straight and flat rail-trail offers a relaxing ride almost to the entrance of the Boca Grande Causeway. Along the way, there’s plenty of wildlife viewing, pelicans and fish jumping in the Coral Creek, and beautiful spots to stop and take a refreshment break.
For those preferring to hit the trails riding their own bikes, multiple guided tours are provided by Phoenix Rising Kayaks (www.prkayak.com). Perfect for novice riders they provide a wonderful look at nature closer to home. One scenic tour takes riders through Amberjack Environmental Park, a 225-acre preserve not far from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The trip provides a fine opportunity for bird watching, since the park provides a wetland home for such local species as the great blue heron, snowy egret, glossy ibis and roseate spoonbill. Another of Phoenix Rising Kayak’s narrated tours, designed for beginning riders, offers a chance to see wildlife that includes ospreys, bobcats, snakes and more at Oyster Creek Regional Park in Englewood. Part of the Ann Dever Memorial Regional Park, this facility includes Cedar Point Environmental Park, 115 acres filled with trails that crisscross the natural habitat. Both tours cost $20 per rider.

BICYCLING TOUR OPTIONS
If you don’t have your own bike, and also prefer to tour with someone familiar with the territory, Acme Bicycle Shop (www.acmebicycleshop.com) offers rides through Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area. This 65,000-acre preserve provides an up-close glimpse of nature, replete with wild plants, native animals, and living swamps. This 2-hour tour is a breeze for average rides covering a little over 10 miles. Price is $29 for the trip and Acme provides most of what you’ll need including bike, helmet, water and the knowledgeable guide.

Grand Tours of Placida, best known for their kayak and paddle board eco tours also offers bike rentals for the 18-mile roundtrip ride along the Pioneer Bike Trail. For an added fee, riders can travel one-way and opt to arrange for a pick up. On this self-guided tour riders experience some of Florida’s woods and hammocks, scrubs and palms, sighting of abundant wildlife and birding. Visit www.grandetours.com/bikes or call 941-697-8825.
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.

CONTACT:
Jennifer Huber
Tourism Public Relations Manager
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
(941) 743-1900
Jennifer.Huber@CharlotteFL.com

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
www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com


Jennifer Huber, TMP
Tourism Public Relations Manager
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
Charlotte County Administration Building B
18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104
Port Charlotte, FL 33948

Tel: (941) 743-1900
Fax: (941) 764-4932
Email: jennifer.huber@charlottefl.com
www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com