The Old and the New in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Having passed this exit a thousand times on trips back and forth to Naples from the Tampa Bay area, I finally decided to take my own travel advice and stop and see the downtown area of Punta Gorda. Well, it is so much more than just the exit area and I’m so glad we sidetracked the slight bit to see it and experience it.
There were two highlights that we’d suggest on a visit to Punta Gorda. Of course there’s more and I’m sure better but if you love local dive bars and don’t mind touristy festival marketplace type facilities then we may have a couple of gems for you too. Shorty’s Place in downtown Punta Gorda is located just to the west of US 41 on West Marion Street in the downtown area. It is a small downtown only a few blocks wide but historic enough by Florida standards of history. This is a smoking bar so if that bothers you don’t come in because it isn’t subtle. The owner and the bar tender were very friendly as were the locals hanging out here. There is a more open air section in the back but the main bar consisted of loads of beer memorabilia, primarily old beer cans, and there was no shortage of things to look at.
We had a beer or two here and enjoyed our stay. It is easy to see why it is a popular place as the owner was extremely friendly. Don’t miss visiting the toilets either. They are pretty cool too. This is old Florida at its best. Not polished but still perfect. In contrast to this old bar, which takes cash only and features packets of potato chips for food, is Fisherman’s Village a short drive down the road.
It is on the water and is a typical festival marketplace that most waterside towns have – from Baltimore to Miami. Though this isn’t something you’d expect in a small town much less Punta Gorda. It was really quite well done with a wide variety of shops and restaurants.
At the end of the pier, with shops and restaurants/bars on both sides, is Harpoon Harry’s. This is where we opted to grab some lunch and it was well worth the walk out here to find it. The service was excellent and the food was really very good. The views were great too as we got a seat right on the water. I don’t recall all the shops on the pier but they were pretty predictable and suited to visitors to the area as well as residents. It was a nice mix of product and on a hot day the covered Fisherman’s Village is quite pleasant.
So, taking my own advice of getting off the exits and into the towns, I finally ventured off my favorite exit between St. Petersburg and Naples for gas. It was well worth it and I would highly suggest you try the same thing. There are other things to discover in Punta Gorda, these were my two discoveries. I hope you find yours.