Can you keep a secret? How about 10 secrets? Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is known for its miles of beaches, beautiful golf courses, great dining and more, but a lot of the draw to the area can be found in a few hidden gems you may not know about! Keep reading to discover 10 family-friendly hidden gems in and around Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach.
 

Babcock Ranch Eco Tours

If you are looking for a unique, fun experience, Babcock Ranch Eco Tours are the perfect thing for you! You get to see exclusive wildlife and nature up close and personal.

When we visited Babcock Ranch Eco Tours, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but, we were pleasantly surprised! This certainly is a hidden gem more people need to know about!

On this tour, you will board a bus and you will immediately start seeing one cool animal after the other! You will see everything from horses, cattle, birds, alligators (lots and lots of alligators), and more! There are surprise animals you get to see that aren’t mentioned...but I don’t want to spoil the fun! Go check it out for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Call (800)500-5583 to book a tour. Get more information about their schedule times and directions here.

Banyan Street in Boca Grande, Fla.
Banyan Street in Boca Grande, Fla.
Banyan Street on Boca Grande

Gasparilla Island, also known as Boca Grande, is such a beautiful island! There is a $6 toll to get across the bridge, but it is worth every penny. One of the many beautiful spots on Boca Grande is Banyan Street. It has big, beautiful banyan trees that make for a great photo spot. We drive down this street every time we visit the island. Get there by typing "Banyan Street" into your GPS once you are on Boca Grande.
 

Bay Heights Park in Englewood
This park was recently rebuilt by the Englewood Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club, and it is so nice! There is a boat ramp, a small playground for the kids to play on (perfect for playing while dad gets the boat in and out of the water!), picnic shelters, and bathrooms. They have life jackets available to borrow if you don't have any for the kids! You do have to pay for parking- and there's plenty of parking for both cars and trailers. Bay Heights Park is located at 1000 S. McCall Road in Englewood.

 

Bay Heights Park in Englewood
Bay Heights Park in Englewood
Don Pedro Island State Park
Want to know why Don Pedro Island made the hidden gem list? Not only because it’s beautiful and not a lot of people know about it, but also because it can only be accessed by boat!

Don Pedro Island State Park has beautiful white sandy beaches! It’s the perfect spot to stop for a picnic lunch because of it’s picnic shelters and restrooms. If you don’t have a boat, you can also get there by charter or ferry service. There is a park fee of $2 per person. 

Gasparilla Island Lighthouse
This lighthouse is located on Boca Grande, not far from Banyan Street (which also made this hidden gem list!) The lighthouse is a staple on the island, and it’s always a lot of fun to get pictures by it. 

After you snap a few lighthouse pictures, you should walk out to the beach to see that crystal blue water! The Gasparilla Island Lighthouse is located at 220 Gulf Blvd. on Boca Grande. 
 

Kidstar Park in Port Charlotte 
Kidstar is a big play place for kids- big as in BIG! The kids could play in the ball pits and tunnels for hours! Plus, they have an arcade where kids can win tickets and exchange them for a fun prize. 

Kidstar is definitely hidden (another reason why it’s a “hidden gem”) so you have to know what you are looking for. It’s inside the flea market across from Target on Veterans Blvd. Park behind the flea market and go in the back door. The address is 18505 Paulson Dr. in Port Charlotte. 

Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary
Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary
Octagon Wildlife Center
This is a wildlife sanctuary with a variety of exotic animals. The animals that come to Octagon Wildlife Center have been injured, rescued from illegal situations, or have just been dropped off at the gate. 

Resident animals include primates, lions, tigers, bears, leopards, birds, and reptiles. Each one has its own special story and they will live out the rest of their lives at the Octagon Wildlife Center. They are located at 41660 Horseshoe Rd. in Punta Gorda. 

Peace River Wildlife Center

The Peace River Wildlife Center is home to many various kinds of birds, including bald eagles, pelicans, and more! It’s free to the public and it’s next to an adorable park, beach, and nature trail.
Admission is free and donations are welcomed. It is located at 3400 Ponce de Leon Pkwy. in Punta Gorda.

Ponce de Leon Park
Punta Gorda has so many beautiful sights that it’s hard to pick out a favorite. However, we do have one at the top of our list! We found a great boardwalk trail at Ponce de Leon Park that is perfect to take in the beauty of the mangroves and water views! 

The boardwalk trail is across the street from the park and beach area so it’s easy to miss. Be sure to look for it. The park is located at 3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway in Punta Gorda. 

Stump Pass Beach State Park
Stump Pass Beach State Park
Stump Pass Beach Park 
We love Stump Pass Beach State Park because it has a hiking trail with the view of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the view of the intercoastal on the other side! You can hike the sandy path the whole route, or you can stop off at one of the many outlets to the beach and enjoy the beach side of the trail. 

It is $3 to park and oh so fun. We went about an hour before sunset and hiked a little way up and then walked back down the beach side to see the sunset as we walked. It’s also a great place to fish and launch your kayaks! Tip: arrive EARLY during the winter and spring season since parking is limited. 

Whether you are a visitor or local to Southwest Florida, these are places you should definitely check out! They are all family friendly and a lot of fun!