Escape to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands
By Chad H. Vorbrich
Today’s life pace has heightened the need for clearing mind clutter, getting unplugged, and spending quality time with loved ones; and there’s no better way to do so than to get away and enjoy natural pursuits in unspoiled surroundings, like those in the Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands region.
Just a two-hour drive away from Tampa Bay is the second largest estuary in Florida (Tampa Bay is the largest) — largely unspoiled and rich in quiet retreats and abundant in wildlife.
Here you can connect to the Old Florida pace, its people and culture. Here you can disconnect, to reconnect. Here you connect with the outdoors, encounter wildlife, and become more aware of nature. Discover a meandering gopher tortoise, collect shiny fossilized sharks’ teeth, catch sight of soaring ospreys, eagles, gulls, pelicans and more.
For recreation there’s lots to do, as locals will attest, out-and-about on the water and inland too. Charlotte Harbor is widely recognized as the Tarpon Capital of the World, but there are lots more for anglers, sailors, cruisers, kayakers, paddle boarders, snorkelers and beach goers to enjoy too.
Named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the U.S.,” the area offers incredible cruising and anchoring opportunities, with accessibility to several State Parks and Beaches. Smoke & Roses, a pristine 47 ft. luxury catamaran offers half, full and multi-day cruises for up to six passengers.
Kayakers and paddle-boarders will love exploring the area’s Blueways on nearly 200 miles of Blueway Trails which are mapped for kayakers, with 53 trails rated for access, difficulty and scenic value. Kayaking and canoeing the Peace or Myakka rivers throughout the expansive aquatic preserves of the Charlotte Harbor watershed, offers a special, up-close look at the unique features of an estuarine ecosystem. Experience mangrove canopies while kayaking among secluded, hidden coves of Coral Creek & Gasparilla Sound along the Intracoastal Waterways.
Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is the newest and hottest human-powered water activity, a cross between surfing and kayaking, offering a great workout and a lot of fun in calm water or waves. Rentals are available at Hooked on Sup. Try the “Light Up the Night Paddle Tours” on a Saturday evening. Your paddle board will be lighted from underneath while you float above in the dark, giving you a whole new perspective and ability to view sea creatures in a unique way.
From Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park to Don Pedro Island State Park and Stump Pass Beach State Park, the area is host to a plethora of nature programs and events and provides exceptional recreational activities that include plenty more opportunities for bird watching, bicycling, hiking, swimming, snorkeling and more.
Forget technology, and embrace Mother Nature’s bounty, from spectacular sunrise to magnificent unobstructed sunset. Throughout Charlotte County, where Old Florida prevails and commercial development does not intrude, you’ll follow the road less traveled and be richer for it indeed. M
[su_box title=”FAST FACTS” box_color=”#defbfd” title_color=”#050505″]• Established in 1921; population approximately 159,990 • 693.60 square miles; 448,640 acres • Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute relays shoreline mileage for Charlotte County at 830 miles including river passages, mangrove-edged aquatic preserve and 28 miles of sandy beaches. • Approximately 84% of the Charlotte Harbor shoreline is preserved land. • Canoe/Kayak Blueway Trails – 53 trails for a total of 192.9 miles throughout Charlotte Harbor • Often referred to as the “Tarpon Capitol of the World,” Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands offer world class fishing with an incredible variety of species, including snook, redfish and sea trout. • Charlotte Harbor is part of the National Estuary Program. • 365 miles of canals; 190 miles of saltwater and 175 miles of freshwater • Charlotte Harbor, fed by the Peace and Myakka rivers, is the 17th largest estuary in the nation and the 2nd largest estuary in the state encompassing 270 square miles. • The Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park is the 4th largest state park, of which 30,000 acres are in Charlotte County. Enjoy the vast hiking opportunities including the Old Datsun Trail.[/su_box]
Photography © 2015 Copyright Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
© Tampa Bay Metro | A Metro Life Media, Inc. Publication