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Punta Gorda is doing a good job developing a bicycling infrastructure through its Punta Gorda Pathways program, planned for 18 miles. Shared-use trails and paths will connect neighborhoods, parks and commercial areas throughout the city. Here we report on the approximately 8.4 miles of wide, paved biking now complete. We visited the Harborwalk (2.4 miles, great Florida views), connecting to the Linear Park Path (1 mile), connecting to the Shreve Street Shared-Use Path (1 mile), connecting to the US 41 Shared-Use Path (4 miles). While not an extensive ride, we enjoy the laid-back "Old Florida" feel that the downtown area of Punta Gorda retains, and casual biking is a great way to explore. It can be part of 2-leg trip that includes the nearby Cape Haze Pioneer Trail. (Map link and photos below.)
Map link ... Punta Gorda Trails
Location: Charlotte County
Nearby points of interest: Fisherman's Village, Babcock Ranch Preserve, Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary, Peace River
Acme Bicycle Shop (rentals, sales, service)
A wonderful amenity in Punta Gorda, the Harborwalk runs a scenic 2.4 miles along Charlotte Harbor between Bayfront Health and Fisherman's Village. The path links parks, restaurants, businesses, and neighborhoods. Parking is available at parks and some other locations along the route. Pavers displaying the names of crossroads along the way are a bonus. Interpretative signs also tell about the area and history.
Harborwalk begins beside a parking area along Adrienne St., entry is directly across US 17 from the Bayfront Health complex. Check out the pier. The ride here is wind sheltered by greenery, the expansive waterfront comes into view as you ride toward downtown Punta Gorda. More parking at Milus St. Laishley Park has parking, a marina, boat ramp, fishing pier, Veterans Memorial, restaurant and shops. The path crosses quietly under US 41 twice, then past a restaurant, hotel and the convention center before entering Gilchrist Park, where we suggest for pleasant, fresh air, scenic parking.
At Gilchrist Park are great views of the Harbor, plus parking, restrooms, a gazebo, picnic facilities, playground, tennis, basketball courts, and fishing pier. The path in this section parallels West Retta Esplanade from Harvey Street through Gilchrist Park, Shreve Park, Pittman Park and Alice Park, along the way passing the Bayfront Center YMCA and Punta Gorda Boat Club. The Harborwalk then ends at a short bridge leading to Fisherman's Village and link to the Linear Park Path.
More about the Harborwalk: City of Punta Gorda - Harborwalk
Linear Park Path starts at the end of the Harborwalk at Fishermen's Village and runs about 1 mile to US 41. It has benches, water fountains, fix-it station, a sculpture garden and 3 outdoor fitness zones with exercise equipment. Built on an old Florida Southern Railroad right-of-way and following a canal, it's all off the road - a pleasant ride. There are several road crossings, keep aware of vehicles. At about 1/2 mile, it crosses Shreve Street - the Punta Gorda Library and History Park are at the intersection. Continue on the Linear Park Path to US 41, or take Shreve Street south to US 41 and its Shared-Use Path.
More about the Linear Park Trail: City of Punta Gorda - Linear Park Path
Starting at the intersection with the Linear Park Path, this bike path runs a little over 1 mile to US 41 where it connects with the US 41 Shared-Use Path at Airport Road (see below). At the Linear Park intersection along Shreve are the Punta Gorda Library and History Park (a relocation site for historically significant structures scheduled for demolition). The path crosses to the other side at Henry St. There are 2 crossings to make, it's a little tricky - ride onto the island and cross Shreve, then cross W. Henry on the east side. There are no other intersections until US 41, but there are a few business entrances, so keep aware.
More about the Shreve Street Path: City of Punta Gorda - Shared-use Path
US 41 Shared-Use Path starts in south Punta Gorda at Taylor Road and runs about 4 miles to Airport Road and the connector with Shreve Road Path. This is a commercial stretch of road, but the path is on the east side between the road and a rail bed, so other than a few road crossings there are no driveways to deal with - all the commercial development is on the west side of US 41. Continuing north of Airport Road, however, US 41 gets busier heading into central Punta Gorda.
More about the US41 Shared-use Trail: City of Punta Gorda - Shared-use Path
Punta Gorda (the County Seat of Charlotte County) is pleasant to visit, located on Charlotte Harbor at the mouth of the Peace River. Dating from the late 1800's, "Fat Point" has a restored historic district with restaurants and shops; Fisherman's Village has restaurants, shops and a Military History Museum. There are several parks to visit, and the usual fishing and boating popular in this area.
The city was severely damaged when Hurricane Charley made landfall here in 2004, the Pathways are part of the restoration effort. The Spirit of Punta Gorda sundial at Laishley Park is in remembrance of the hurricane. The bent tree symbolizes the wind that stopped the downtown clock at 4:29 p.m., August 13, 2004.
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