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Florida Family Vacations: Charlotte Harbor

Little Gasparilla Island beach

Don’t forget Charlotte Harbor when planning your Florida family vacation, even though it isn’t as popular as Clearwater beach, or Treasure Island, it still is an amazing destination for a family escape from the everyday. Charlotte Harbor is best known for boasting one of the world’s largest protected marine estuaries with almost 220 miles of natural shoreline. Charlotte Harbor is nestled along the Florida Southwest Gulf Coast between Sarasota and Naples, about 100 miles south of Tampa and includes beautiful beaches, sweet little cities, and quaint towns that are all kid friendly and filled with family fun. Be sure to check out ; Port Charlotte, Boca Grande, Palm Island, Don Pedro Island, Punta Gorda, El Jobean, Manasota Key, Cape Haze, Placida, Englewood, and my favorite; Little Gasparilla Island, they are all great places to visit for your Florida family vacation.

The Charlotte Harbor area covers a diverse landscape of cities and towns. With four island escapes: the beautiful barrier island community of Boca Grande; and Palm Island, with its serene beaches (accessible by ferry); the secluded Don Pedro Island; and a wonderful escape- Little Gasparilla Island. For a small city experience, visit historic Punta Gorda, Englewood, or Port Charlotte. Or the picturesque waterfront towns of El Jobean, Manasota Key, and Cape Haze; and don’t forget Placida the quaint fishing and arts village.

Kid Friendly Things to Do in Charlotte Harbor on your Florida family vacation

Local Parks

Wild Florida comes alive at Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center’s Cedar Point Park location in Englewood. Spend the morning exploring the wonders of the estuaries, rich in young sea life.

In the afternoon, head out to Don Pedro Island State Park via Grande Tours’ ferry from the Fishery Restaurant Docks in Placida, or launch a kayak from the park’s landbase on Placida Road. Pack a picnic for lunch at the pavilion. Kids of all ages will enjoy searching for shells, swimming and fishing on this barrier island park accessible only by boat.

See more about Charlotte Harbor Beaches here.

Stump Pass Beach State Park
Website Southernmost end of Manasota Key. Sunbathing, shelling, fishing, outdoor showers, restrooms and shelter.
Don Pedro Island State Park Between Knight and Little Gasparilla Islands Boca Grande, FL 33921 941-964-0375 Website Swimming, shelling, picnicking, hiking and fishing.

Port Charlotte Beach– 4500 Harbor Boulevard, Ph#(941) 627-1628 Clustered around the man-made beach, a variety of facilities and activities will keep the family entertained for an entire day. Bring a picnic lunch or buy from the concessions. Play volleyball, basketball, tennis, or horseshoes. There’s also a playground, boat ramps, a fishing pier, and a swimming pool. This fun Beach Complex is a public beach facility at the southeast end of Harbour Boulevard in Port Charlotte. – The beach complex offers a boardwalk,tennis courts,a boat ramp, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe area, fishing pier, picnic shelters, and more.

Amenities at Port Charlotte Beach Park

  • Basketball
  • BBQ Grills
  • Boat Ramps
  • Bocce
  • Canoe/Kayak
  • Fishing
  • Horseshoes
  • Picnic Shelters/Pavilion Rentals
  • Picnicking
  • Playground
  • Recreation Building
  • Restrooms/Port-O-Lets
  • Room Rentals
  • Swimming Pool/Beach
  • Tennis Courts
  • Volleyball Courts

Port Charlotte Beach Park is a paid parking facility. Parking is 75 cents per hour. Obtain a ticket from kiosks located in the park and display it on your dashboard. For the convenience of our patrons, annual parking passes are also available for purchase. Click for more information. Englewood Beach

Englewood Beach / Chadwick Park -2100 North Beach Rd.,Englewood, FL 33223 Amenities at Englewood Beach

  • Basketball
  • BBQ Grills
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Horseshoes
  • Picnic Shelters/Pavilion Rentals
  • Picnicking
  • Playground
  • Restrooms/Port-O-Lets
  • Swimming Pool/Beach
  • Volleyball Courts

Fish Cove Adventure Golf-4949 Tamiami Trail, Ph#(941) 627-5393 – Great put-put, with two 18-hole courses!

King Fisher Fleet– 1200 West Retta Esplanade, Ph#(941) 639-0969 –The best place to go for nature-hunting and island-hopping boat excursions.

Charlotte County Historical Center-22959 Bayshore Road, Ph#(941) 629-7278 —

Its exhibits teach informally about local natural history, ecology, and history. One gallery is devoted to African animals, another holds dress-up costumes. Other exhibits rotate in and out.

Kidstar Park; 18505 Paulson Dr- Awesome Arcade and Theme Park All reviews I’ve read of this place are great! There are go-karts, laser-tag, black light pool, tons of arcade games, an indoor play unit (think McDonalds ball-pits, but huge!), tons of arcade games, rides, etc…it is great for little kids, teenagers, super place to bring the kids and spend the day. The park offers mechanical rides, a pool & video arcade, Stars Restaurant, go karts, Laser Tag and a climbing wall! They have group rates too.

Bowland; 3192 Harbor Boulevard- Bowling fun for the family, a kid friendly place too!

Fantasea Dive Shop3781 Tamiami Trail- Take the whole family and Learn how to dive! Fun for the whole family! Kid friendly facilities.

Charlotte County Stadium, Port Charlotte-2300 El Jobean Rd. Ph#: 941-625-9500–The former spring home of the Texas Rangers, this great baseball facility hosts County baseball and softball leagues throughout the year, as well as concerts, special events, and other activities.
Pelican Petes Playland Inc; 3101 S McCall Rd, Englewood, Florida 34224 –Great family fun this kid friendly Amusement Park Pelican Pete’s Playland Inc. is a one-stop provider of fun for the family in Florida. Call them at (941) 475-2008.
Gilchrist Park Playground located at; W. Retta Esplanade & Chasteen St. Punta Gorda, FL 33927 Ph#(941) 575-3324– A fun and Kid Friendly Park with a Large playground located in park along Charlotte Harbor. 11 acres along Charlotte Harbor, sidewalk for walking, jogging and biking, basketball court, playground, two tennis courts, one fishing pier, gardens, gazebo, restrooms, shelters, picnic tables, small beach and four parking lots.
City of Port Charlotte List of Parks (click on each to learn more)

One of my all-time favorite places to go to really get away from it all is Little Gasparilla Island. Now granted, it is only accessible by boat, but when you get there you really feel like you’ve got your own private beach.

The island is inhabited by few locals (who live there year-round), and a few condos for snow-birds and vacationers, along with the myriad of wild life.

But one thing you won’t see on Little Gasparilla Island is cars. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island, so everyone gets around by golf cart (except for the one-and-only fire truck on the island). Some friends of mine own a condo in the Hideaway Bay and we spend New Year’s almost every year there, it is fantastic! There are a few condo owners who rent out their places to vacationers for a week at a time, and some for even just a weekend getaway. The island is wonderful for children, (on the west side only- because on the south side of the island the water current is pretty strong), the warm Gulf water and soft sandy beaches are totally kid friendly with tons of shells to gather, or just play in the shallow tides.

Hideaway Bay Beach Club is a 102 unit condominium complex on Little Gasparilla Island. The condos include a great pool, community barbeque facility and children’s play area. Docking is also available for boats under 21.5 feet on a first come first served basis. The condos also offer a ferry service to and from the island for condo owners and their guests or renters.

The best place to check out a list of what attractions and activities the area has to offer is Charlotte Harbor Travel.com

Best Kid Friendly RESTAURANTS in Charlotte Harbor & Port Charlotte to visit while on your Florida family vacation:

The best Kid Friendly Restaurants in Port Charlotte according to UrbanSpoon.com

  1. Sprinkles Ice Cream…
  2. Luigi’s Italian…
  3. Ichiban Japanese Steak…
  4. Bocca Lupo
  5. The Daily Grind
  6. Cracker Barrel Old…
  7. Charley’s Grilled Subs
  8. Checkers
  9. Jack Dogg’s Hot Dog Zone
  10. Steak ‘n Shake
  11. Jumbo’s Subs; 2270 Tamiami Trail Ph#(942) 624-4102
  12. Brickhouse Pizza – voted best kid friendly pizza; (941) 766-7499

See Urban Spoon for more kid friendly restaurants in Port Charlotte and Charlotte Harbor.

Places to Stay on your Florida family vacation in Charlotte Harbor; Kid Friendly Resorts and Hotels:

Sleep Inn And Suites
806 Kings Highway Port Charlotte, FL 33980
Situated just off of I-75 in Port Charlotte, the Sleep Inn and Suites Port Charlotte is minutes away from shopping at Fishermens Village and the Port Charlotte … more

Days Inn Port Charlotte
1941 Tamiami Trail Port Charlotte, FL 33938
The Days Inn of Port Charlotte, nestled among century old oak trees covered in Spanish Moss, is located within a mile of the local mall, movie theatre … more

Hampton Inn Pt Charlotte
24480 Sandhill Boulevard Port Charlotte, FL 33983
The Hampton Inn Port Charlotte is located 45 miles to Southwest Florida International airport and is close to attractions like Busch Gardens, Charlotte Speedway and more. Hot breakfast included.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Charlotte
24440 Sandhill Boulevard Port Charlotte, FL 33983
Holiday Inn Express Suites Port Charlotte is situated directly on Lake Sandhill, 28 miles from Badcock Wilderness Adventure, and approximately 43 miles … more

Country Inn Suites Port Charlotte
24244 Corporate Court Port Charlotte, FL 33980
The Country Inn and Suites Port Charlotte is conveniently located off of I-75 and Kings Highway.

La Quinta Inn and Suites Port Charlotte
812 Kings Highway Port Charlotte, FL 33980
The brand new pet friendly, La Quinta Inn Suites Port Charlotte is your gateway to port charlotte beach, gilded grape winery, deep creek golf and country … more

Fishermen’s Village Resort
1200 West Retta Esplanade Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Come enjoy the history of Punta Gorda. Punta Gorda offers 23 outdoor murals painted by area artists, each celebrating the history and heritage of our community.

Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside
33 Tamiami Trail Punta Gorda, FL 33950
The Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside is located on the edge of the Charlotte Harbor waterfront in beautiful Punta Gorda.

Pearl Beach Inn
7990 Manasota Key Road Englewood, FL 34223
The Pearl Beach Inn offers offers direct access to beautiful white sand beaches.

Paradise Cove At Lemon Bay
664 South Mccall Road Englewood, FL 34223

A Little More About Charlotte Harbor’s Communities from Charlotte Harbor Travel

Boca Grande
Set on Gasparilla Island, the historic village of Boca Grande offers old world charm, quaint shops and restaurants, and gorgeous beach views.

El Jobean
Charming El Jobean has its own old-Florida flair. A former winter home for circus and carnival performers, it features a historic post office museum and cafe that hosts weekly Bluegrass jam sessions.

Englewood-Cape Haze
Located on the Lemon Bay, off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Englewood remains one of Florida’s best-kept secrets… But not for long, the area was recently named as a “Top Ten U.S. Destination for 2009” by TripAdvisor™ TravelCast. Englewood is a beach community which thrives on its nature parks, cultural events, beaches, fishing and arts offerings.

Manasota Key
Two jewels you will find on Manasota Key are Chadwick Park at Englewood Beach and the Stump Pass Beach State Park. Sparkling water, sandy shores, hidden seashells and a lot of sunshine!

Palm Island
Seven miles of white sandy beach and crystal clear water await you on this retreat away from the world. A car ferry to get there adds to the remote feel of this island getaway.

Placida
If you’re looking for adventure, this secluded Gulf Coast community hosts any number of fun-in-the-sun pursuits. Placida is also offers excellent catch-of-the-day dining and charming home-away-from-home accommodations.

Port Charlotte
Port Charlotte, the county’s geographical center, is home to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Charlotte County Historical Center, a waterfront museum featuring changing glimpses into the area’s past.

Punta Gorda
The city of Punta Gorda is a historic town that lies along beautiful Charlotte Harbor. Streets lined with huge royal palms, beautifully restored period homes with wide verandas, brick lanes, street lamps and benches leave an almost tangible old-Florida atmosphere. Nearly everything is waterfront here from hotels and shopping to parks and fine dining.

Come to Charlotte Harbor for your next Florida family vacation and find out why it’s one of Florida’s best kept secrets…but do me a favor and keep it to yourself!

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