Thursday, June 2, 2011

Staycation 2011

My friend Kelli (great name - Right?) from  participated  in a terrific  "Staycation" Link-Up. I just HAD to share it with you and make a page for my own area here on the Gulf Coast of  Southwest Florida.

There are hundreds of ideas from all over the country for terrific and affordable ways to enjoy your family time this summer!
 This list is a MUST see and has been compiled by some of the best family bloggers around the nation.

Use it to get ideas for family fun in your own city- planning to travel to other areas- or regular field trips and family weekends! Just click on the picture map above and scroll down the list of the cities and states.

IF you are on the GULF COAST of SOUTHWEST FLORIDA - or planning to head that way- I'm going to let you in on a well kept secret: there is a little piece of the world here that is a hidden gem-
Boca Grande and  the surrounding area is an oasis that makes you feel like you are a world away! I have composed a list of things to do here for you: 

Boca Grande, FL- on Gasparilla Island located about 1 1/2 hours below Tampa and about 1 1/2 hours above Fort Myers- $5.00 for bridge toll and your access to paradise!

1. Beaches! Some of Florida's best beaches lie on its beautiful Gulf Coast. Boca Grande beaches are my favorite of them all. (There is a small parking fee at the public beaches owned by the State Park system, but there are other parking options along the Island for free)


*Other beaches to explore- (also see state parks list below) Englewood Beach, Manasota Key Beach, Venice Beach, Siesta Key Beach- Sarasota

2. Hit the water- Snorkeling, Swimming, "Boogie" Boarding, Skim Boarding- inexpensive Snorkels and  Masks if needed, can be bought at a WalMart for $7.00 - $9.99 and up.  A "boogie" or body board will run from $10.00 - $30.00-  A skim board costs less than $20.00.  These things are not necessary for a fun day at the beach - but they can sure add to the fun. A $1 sand bucket keeps my little guys busy for quite awhile collecting shells and finding small sea creatures like sand fleas and coquinas!

*Extra Adventure:
 Ever heard of "paddle boarding" ? The gulf coast isn't known for it's surfing because of the calm clear waters- one of the latest water sports is standing on a surf-type board and paddling - great fun, great exercise and recommended for all ages.
 Island Bike and Beach rents paddle boards if you want to give it a try: 941-964-0711- Rental includes drop off and pick up at the beach and even a lesson- they'll have you up and paddling like a pro in no time!


3. Tour the island: Take a walk around the historical beach town, visit local shops, historical churches, grab an ice cream or fish and chips at the old train station turned restaurant called "The Loose Caboose"  or from the "Dolphin Cove" - rent a golf cart to see the rest of the island  or a bike from Island Bike and Beach. Paved trails run the length of the island for hikers, bikers, and golf carts.


 *Boca Grande is known for it's superior shelling and plentiful fossilized sharks teeth!
 *Don't miss out on seeing the Lighthouse Museum at the south end of the island - located within the Gasparilla Island State Park - picnic tables available- strong currents at the south end- stay to the middle
and north end of the island for swimming!

4. Fishing- Boca Grande is known as the "Tarpon Capital of the World"! People come from all over to fish these waters for trout, redfish, snook, snapper..... and so much more. You can splurge and hire a captain- I happen to be married to the best one! Check out his website for charter info or for great fishing tips for you and the kiddos-  - or you can fish from the beaches and from local piers available to the general public. I recently bought my boys nice new rods for less than $12 a piece. We got our monies worth within the first two days.     

There are childrens fishing tournaments during the year that are great for the kids and usually free of charge! (unfortunately, not during the summer) Contact Joe Wier at 964-2564.

My son (far left) caught his first Tarpon @ 125 lbs. in the Kids Classic last week! (fee for entry) 

5. Check local Chamber of Commerce for summer camps, sailing camps,
Father's Day fishing, beaches, local events and more:

Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda-
Englewood Cape Haze Chamber-

6. State Parks -   Cayo Costa State Park 941-964-0375 information and camping reservations.
Go to  for a complete list of area parks and detailed information on each of these:
Cayo Costa - One of our favorites-  is only accessible by boat or seaplane.
There is a ferry service that runs people over from Pine Island-
  Ferry reservations 239-283-0015  

Walk for miles on the beautiful sandy beaches- camping is available-
 pitch a tent or rent a primitive cabin. (no electric)
The island does have showers & bathrooms available.
Explore the island on foot or by bicycle. There is a tram that will take people from the docks (ferry landing) to the beach side of the island or you can walk the wooded trails.

Gasparilla Island State Park- on Boca Grande - tour the old lighthouse, learn about the Calusa Indians and the rich history of the island in the museum at the lighthouse. Have a picnic at one of the shaded picnic tables. Walk down the boardwalk to the beach. Enjoy fantastic views of the Boca Grande pass and nearby Cayo Costa.   941-964-0375               
Stump Pass State Park Beach  -   On the mainland- near Englewood beach. "Combine nature walks with a day at the beach, or bring your kayak to launch into the bay. Parking is limited to 40 spaces and a $2.00 donation is requested as you enter (honor system). Nestled between Lemon Bay and the Gulf of Mexico at 1 foot above sea level, Stump Pass Beach is for those who enjoy no crowds and the clean waters close to an inlet"

Don Pedro Island State Recreation Area -941-964-0375  Grande Tours offers ferry service during certain days of the week- 941-697-8825 - or take your own boat to this secret little getaway!

Myakka River State Park- Has it all:  hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boat rental - canoeing, kyaking,  air boat ride, tram ride/ nature tour, canopy walk in the trees, nature walk, birding, visitor center & more! Experience old Florida at its best!

Oscar Scherer State Park-  Wonderful place for families to explore, swim, kayak down a river, camping, biking, hiking. There is a terrific little nature center for visitors -perfect for a day trip or as an overnight camping trip- affordable "home base" for those who aren't local to explore the area. (near Venice Beach)


7. KayakingGrande Tours -  Camping & Bunk House-  offers both wilderness camping on one of the local "out islands" or a rustic bunk-house with shower area. (We prefer the camping!)  There is also a historical "guard house" with bunk beds & a.c. for $45 first person and $10 for the second - very rustic, bring your own bedding.
Stay on site - ready for your adventure -and you don't even have to pitch a tent! (941) 697-8825
* also at Grande Tours- kayaking along  peaceful "Coral Creek" or along the "Woolverton Trail" - part of Southwest Florida's famous "Blueway Paddling Trails"- travel through pristine gulf coast waters where birds and wildlife abound- see manatee and dolphin playing in the water! Experience the "real" Florida-

FREE kayak fishing seminars every 2nd Tuesday of the month
November through March at 6:30p.m.
FREE kayak and standup paddleBoard in water demos
Every Saturday 11:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m.

"Nearly 200 Miles of Canoe, Kayak Trails Showcase Ecological Diversity, Eco-Adventure"

8.Local Events-


Wildlife/Animal Awareness Expo
Saturday, Jun. 4, 2011
Fishermen's Village , 1200 Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda
Call 639-8721 for more information
Wildlife/Animal Awareness Expo
Visit with organizations and businesses throughout the Village dedicated to the care and education regarding wildlife and domestic animals. Location: Fishermen's Village   Hours: 10 am - 3 pm  Admission: Free
National Marina Day
Saturday, Jun. 11 – Sunday, Jun. 12, 2011
Fishermen's Village , 1200 Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda
National Marina Day and Boat Show at the Village
Local Phone: Call 639-8721 for more information.

 Visit with leaders in the industry, take tours of the Marina,
 enjoy water recreation activities, shop and dine!
Location: Fishermen's Village Hours: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Admission: Free  
Ongoing Events:
Shallow Water Wading Adventures (a favorite of ours)
Wednesday, Jan. 5 – Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011
Call for Dates- Punta Gorda
Discover the estuary's hidden treasures with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.
2 locations-
Ponce De Leon Park - Punta Gorda, 941-575-5435
Cedar Point Environmental Park, Englewood, 941-475-0769 Hours: 9:30 a.m. - Noon
Admission: Free. Call to register

Gilchrist Park Waterfront Music Jam Session
Thursday, Jan. 6 – Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011
Every Thursday
Gilchrist Park, 400 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda
Local Phone: 941-661-5622

Join in or listen to diverse musical offerings of guitar, bluegrass, jazz, folk
 and country music at this waterfront park. Location: Gilchrist Park
Hours: 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Admission: Free

Saturday Night Live on Dearborn
Saturday, Jan. 8 – Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011
2nd Saturday of Every Month
Dearborn Street in Englewood, Englewood
Local Phone: 941-474-5511
Enjoy the quaint atmosphere of Dearborn Street and meet many friendly shop owners who stay open later for the event. Stroll the hometown street for a pleasant family evening. Grab dinner or save money by eating first, come out for an icecream, and then walk it off under the streetlights & stars!
Hours: 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Punta Gorda Speedway Racing
Saturday, Jun. 4 – Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011
Charlotte County Airport on Piper Road , Punta Gorda
Local Phone: CALL 941-575-7223

Stock car racing on the southernmost 3/8 Mile oval asphalt track, every saturday night. Location: Charlotte County Airport on Piper Road Hours: 6:30 p.m.
Admission: Adults $10 - Seniors $8 - Children 11-17 $5 - 10 and under are Free

Charlotte Stone Crabs Regular Season
Friday, Apr. 1 – Friday, Sep. 30, 2011
Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd., Port Charlotte
Local Phone: please call 941-206-HITS

The Charlotte Stone Crabs are a Minor League Baseball team in the Florida State League based in Port Charlotte, Florida. The team is the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and is owned by Ripken Baseball. A Fun and exciting family time at the ball park with fireworks & special kids area!
Location: Charlotte Sports Park Admission: Seat prices range from $5.00 - $11.00

Downtown Punta Gorda Gallery Walk
Thursday, Jan. 20 – Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011
3rd Thursday of the month.
Punta Gorda Historic District, Punta Gorda
941-639-3720 Website:
A lively gathering of artists and musicians plus shops and eateries in the charming Punta Gorda Historic District. Location: Punta Gorda Historic District
Hours: 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Admission: Free                         

 Peace River Audubon Society Field trips
Saturday, Jan. 15 – Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011
Please call for Locations or check the website,
 Port Charlotte (941) 613-6753
"Southwest Florida has some of the best birding destinations in the country. Our trips explore many of these great places and offer an opportunity to learn, share your knowledge and enthusiasm, and have fun with your neighbors who share your interests.

Field trips tend to be more of a nature adventure, and are often a greater travel distance from our 'home' area. They occur on the 3rd Saturday of each month. Additional trips are occasionally scheduled. unless otherwise noted. Reservations are not necessary but you are welcome to contact the trip organizer for further information. Location: Please call for Locations or check the website "
Hours: Field trips usually begin at 7:00 a.m.

9. Local Parks and Recreation:  there are so many to choose from - here are a few of our favorites:

Oyster Creek: Olympic size swimming pool (small addmission fee or season pass), tennis courts, walking trails, and an awesome skate park! 

Cedar Point Park: Visitor Center with terrific information on local flora and fauna. Walking trails through the Florida scrub - see Bald Eagles nesting, and much more as you walk the quiet pathways and are rewarded with a beautiful bay view.  There are picnic tables and there is a small playground for the kiddos. Docks are available for fishing- be sure to have necessary Florida fishing licenses:
Learn more about Cedar Point Park or schedule a guided "shallow water wading adventure"-

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center- CHEC:
King Fisher Fleet Cruise- take a boat tour of upper Charlotte Harbor and the mouth of the Peace River. A naturalist from CHEC provides information on the environmental, historical, and cultural influences of our beautiful area-

Alligator Creek adventures and events:  Participate in wading adventures, explore beautiful estuaries, special events grouped by age (4th grade water adventure) and so much more!

Ponce de Leon Park and Peace River Wildlife Center:  Free
of charge, but a donation is recommended for the wildlife center. Walk along the boardwalk, fish from the dock, enjoy a picnic. The kids will love the playground and there is usually a nice breeze blowing across the harbor as you watch the sailboats pass by. Sunset is always a favorite here. For directions and a full list of parks in nearby Punta Gorda go to:


Charlotte County Parks List: 

10. Nationwide- Frugal Family Fun All Around the Country:

Museums and Science Centers: With your family membershipto ASTC affiliate: Charlotte County Historical Society (you need not live here to join) - cost: $35 for a FAMILY you can visit for FREE some 300+ museums from all around the country! Click on the picture below for the link to complete info-

Around Charlotte County (or within 1 1/2 hours drive time) we have quite a few to choose from:
G-Wiz Science Museum  in Sarasota, FL -
MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) in Tampa, FL-
Great Explorations Children's Museum in St. Pete, FL-
Imaginarium in Fort Myers, FL-

         (go to for a full list of museums nationwide)

11. Kids Bowl Free-  - sign up in towns and cities across the country - find a participating bowling center near you at - Locally  - we go to Bowland Port Charlotte.
(shoe rental usually runs about $3- we found 3 pairs of affordable shoes & only rent 2 pair- so our family of 5 can bowl 2 games every day for just $6- we've already used it 4 times this season!)


- I will work on a better way to organize this list of great things to do- I hope it helps you either plan a trip or encourages you to get out with the family here in Charlotte county and around the country. Please do visit the other bloggers pages on things to do- your area may be listed! 

Enjoy your family Adventurez ! ! !


Kristi said...

Wow!! Ok, we may need to plan a vacation to your town:) Hope that you are doing well! Been thinking about ya!

Andrea said...

Hello my fellow Floridian:-)
Following you from Bloggy Moms!

Hyacynth said...

Kelli, I am SO glad you wrote about this! I've been wanting to check out Boca Grande for a few years now. We visit my grandparents every year for a few weeks in the winter time, and the kids and I love exploring. But Fort Myers only has so much. We LOVE Sanibel, so Boca Grande looks right up our alley. Exciting! Thanks so much!

Susan S said...

Oh my, what a list! I'm on my way!

Kay ( said...

Thank you for posting this! It sounds like a beautiful place. Someday soon, we would like to take our youngest children to Flordia so that they can see the ocean. (Lake Michigan is nice, but it's just not the same. :)) It's nice to have ideas for places to visit.

Hope you are having a great summer!

Kelli Robin said...

Oh my WOW! I so want to come visit you right now. Sounds like you guys live in paradise. I was born in Florida, but I don't remember it being like that. I am so definitely linking this to my staycation link up. I need to post this on facebook too. Everyone is coming to your town girlie. How are you guys?

Kelli -