Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach: our best side is outside

The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast, a charming, laid-back destination nestled between Sarasota and Fort Myers on the gulf coast, features an array of quality courses allowing any golf aficionado to experience some of the best golf Florida has to offer. Golf Digest has ranked the area as “3rd Best Place in the Country to Live and Play Golf.”

Although Florida’s terrain is relatively flat, Southwest Florida is home to many different types of ecosystems providing the aesthetic appeal and natural obstacles necessary to enhance and challenge a player’s experience.

One can choose an itinerary of courses to include heavily wooded terrain, salt marshes, and wetlands, as well as Audubon certified courses teeming with a variety of native wildlife. This diverse pool of courses also features two 4 ½ star courses, including Riverwood Golf Club, which

Golfweek Magazine ranked as the #15 best course in the state of Florida in May 2012.

Whether taking a golf vacation with the guys or gals or simply playing a couple rounds during a family vacation, it doesn’t need to be stressful or cost a fortune. In fact, the area was named the U.S. Best Value Destination in 2014 by trivago. According to the world’s largest online hotel search site, the destination offers “the biggest bang for your buck on vacation.” Adding to the value, virtually every course in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is open to the public year-round and greens fees (with a cart) in peak season average approximately $55 per round with summer and fall rates even lower. Find adventure off the greens, too. Aquatic adventures beckon with nearly 200 miles of Blueway Trails ideal for kayaking, canoeing and standup paddle boarding. Charlotte Harbor has been named one of the top 10 places to sail by SAIL Magazine and the area is known for its world-class fishing with deep sea and back bay angling opportunities. For a true adrenaline rush, fish for silver king in the Tarpon Capital of the World.

Speaking of water, soak up the sun and beachcomb on some of the 12 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches, or, island hop without a passport. Five barrier islands hug the coast with some only accessible by boat offering a true natural Florida adventure.

On land, take advantage of the City of Punta Gorda’s free bicycle loaner program. Peddle away on either one of the four bicycle routes, which range from 17 to 31 miles, or ride the 18-mile Punta Gorda Pathways which circles the city and includes a ride along the tranquil Peace River. Along this ride, stop at the Punta Gorda Outdoor Fitness Zone to tone up your muscles on this free, outdoor gym equipment.

The dining scene in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is an eclectic mix of seafood shacks, sidewalk cafes, waterfront eateries, fine dining and sweet spots. Primary dining districts include downtown Punta Gorda, Fishermen’s Village, Manasota Key and Englewood’s Dearborn Street. Familiar chain restaurants are bountiful, too. Whatever the craving and occasion, there’s a restaurant satisfying every taste bud.

Plan your Southwest Florida golf vacation by visiting PureFlorida.com.