By DEBBIE FLESSNER
Harborwalk, in Downtown Punta Gorda, is a 2.4-mile stretch of trail that winds along the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor.
Besides the panoramic water views, what makes this recreational path, which runs from Fishermen’s Village on the western end to the Charlotte Regional Medical Center on the eastern side, is that there are a multitude of things to do for family members of all ages.
One of the best ways to experience Harborwalk is from a bicycle, which can be rented at no charge from the Free Bicycle Loaner Program. This program is a collaborative effort between the City of Punta Gorda and TEAM Punta Gorda, a volunteer-driven organization with the mission of making greater Punta Gorda a better place to live, work and play.
There are six locations where you can find the bicycles: The Fishermen’s Village Marina, the Wellness Center at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda, the Wyvern Hotel, Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Four Points by Sheraton and the Isles Yacht Club & Marina.
The Fishermen’s Village site usually has a large selection of bicycles available, including tricycles and hand-pedaled bicycles, for those with knee or hip disabilities.
Be aware the numbers of bikes at each location are limited, so you may need to wait a little while for one to come back.
Generally, bikes must be returned between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., but the actual hours are determined by the participating location’s management.
TEAM Punta Gorda
The one type of bicycle TEAM Punta Gorda does not supply is a children’s bicycle, so if you have young ones who can’t ride on an adult bike, even when the seat is adjusted down, you will want to bring one for them, as well as a helmet to wear.
When you check in, you will be asked to let the TEAM Punta Gorda host copy your ID and credit card and you will sign a City of Punta Gorda waiver. After that, you will be given a helmet, lock and cable, so you can secure your bicycle when you make stops on the trail to eat, go to the restroom or let the kids play on the playground. To find out more, visit teampuntagorda.org/free-bike-program or call 941-637-8326.
Gilchrist Park and Fishermen’s Village
As you head east from Fishermen’s Village, you will come to Gilchrist Park, which is a nice place to stop and take a break. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a lovely playground, which sits underneath Punta Gorda’s iconic Ficus Tree. It includes an Pirate ship where children age 5 to 13 can “walk the plank” and steer the ship. Other playground features include swings, climbing areas, slides and additional activities. For more information, visit www.fishville.com or www.ci.punta-gorda.fl.us/visitors/gilchrist-park.
Punta Gorda Historic Murals
While passing underneath the Tamiami Trail on Harborwalk on your bicycles, make sure to stop and admire the lovely mural painted there. Sponsored by the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society, it’s called “Tails from the Harbor,” and features the work of noted Suncoast artist Skip Dydra. As you round the corner by the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, you’ll pass by a nice waterfront tiki bar, which you can keep in mind for a future visit. For more information, visit puntagordamurals.org.
Laishley’s Crab House
Coming up at the end of your trail will be Laishley’s Crab House, on the ground floor of which is a nice little ice cream shop called Harbor Scoops (formerly Harborwalk Scoops & Bites) This is a small “mom and pop” business owned by Claudia and Thomas, who make each of their 47 flavors of ice cream right there in the shop, using their own unique recipes. Enjoy your ice cream and vintage sodas while sitting along the riverfront or take them with you to Laishley Park, which is adjacent to Harbor Scoops. For more information, visit laishleycrabhouse.com, www.ScoopsandBites.com or call 941-505-8880.
This is where the whole family can cool off and prepare for the ride back to Fishermen’s Village to return the bicycles. There is a beautiful interactive fountain in the park, so prepare to get wet, and if the kids still have some energy left, there is also another playground where they can climb and play.
Have fun and ride safely.