Pedaling through Tippecanoe Environmental Park, Port Charlotte, Fla. Pedaling through spits of white, soft sand at Southwest Florida's Tippecanoe Environmental Park earlier this month I thought I was going to need a helicopter to lift me out. It was the final stretch of an hour-long-ish (or 90-minute) guided tour and my lack of fitness was catching up with me. Guided Bicycle Tours What kept me going was seeing the Charlotte Sports Park lights and knowing the end was around the corner. When finished, I felt a high-five sense of accomplishment and wouldn't mind doing it again. In reality, pedaling through Tippecanoe Park was a new way of exploring this environmental park and home to Florida Scrub Jays, among other birds and wildlife. Acme Bicycle with shops in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda is now offering guided bicycle tours which include the bicycle, helmet and water. You bring the sense of adventure and all is right in the world. Hop On a Yellow Bike for Free at Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda, Fla. Hop on a Free Bike It seems over the last few years, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is embracing the two-wheeled mode of transportation a little tighter. The City of Punta Gorda was recognized in 2010 as a "Florida Bike-Friendly Community" by the Florida Bicycle Association and the city offers Florida’s first free bike loaner program. Called the Yellow Bike Loaner Program, thanks to the volunteer organization TEAM Punta Gorda, all you need 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 several locations including Fishermen’s Village, Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside, Laishley Park Municipal Marina and the Wyvern Hotel. BYOB Options There are several bring-your-own-bike options ranging from guided off-road adventures into Florida wilderness with Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours to several bike-friendly trails and paths. Try the nearly eight-mile, one-way Cape Haze-Pioneer Trail, a railroad-to-trails conversion in Englewood leading to Placida, for an off-road pedal with some areas paved. If you don’t have your own mode of transportation for the Pioneer Trail that's OK, Grande Tours Kayak & Paddleboard Center offers bicycle rentals and is at the southern point of the trail. On the other side of Charlotte Harbor hop on the Punta Gorda Pathways for a self-guided tour of the City's historic murals, leisurely pedal along the Peace River or an intense ride to get the heartbeat going. There are several restaurants and shops conveniently located along the paths to enjoy a refreshment. Go Ahead, Pedal & Play While on the topic of bicycling in Punta Gorda, grab your bike for the Third Annual Pedal and Play in Paradise with proceeds benefiting Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and TEAM Punta Gorda’s Bicycle-friendly Community Initiatives on Saturday, April 6, 2013. Bicyclists of all skill-levels are invited to participate in one of five rides, 15-mile, 30-mile, 62-mile, a 10-mile Mystery Tour and the City Manager’s/History Tour with Punta Gorda’s City Manager, Howard Kunik and local historian Gordon Bower. For more information about pedaling in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands and other happenings, visit www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.
About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Florida's premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is known for its pristine, unspoiled beauty. The area has hosted seven major feature films, been featured on SAIL magazine's list of the "10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States," ranked by Golf Digest as the "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." For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands Visitor and Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B-104, Port Charlotte, FL; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor's Guide; or visit the Web site at CharlotteHarborTravel.com.