Punta Gorda is a small, picturesque city in Charlotte County, Florida, known for its beautiful waterfront views, historic district with Victorian-styled buildings, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and a popular destination for boating, fishing, and enjoying the pleasant Floridian climate.
Punta Gorda shares some of the ecological and environmental characteristics that are typical of the Everglades region. If you like warm seasonal weather even during December, the west coast of Florida is your destination of choice.
I had spent 17 years living on the east coast of Southern Florida in Palm Beach County with its golf coast beaches. The west coast of Southern Florida boasts a similar Intracoastal Waterway with gorgeous sunsets, it also has those sandy white powder beaches akin to the sand used in the best golf course traps. Recently, my in-laws moved to Punta Gorda from Denver, Colorado — talk about a lifestyle change. We decided to travel from California to spend Thanksgiving with them this year.
There are two main residential areas in Punta Gorda. The first, old Punta Gorda, sits on the bay and features beautiful southern architecture. The second area, with modern housing, sprawls across a vast area interlaced with sprawling saltwater canals leading to the bay. The city maintains all the seawalls and concrete platforms, ensuring the canal community is secure and well above sea level. Hundreds of houses boast boats and pools. From my experience living in Florida, having access to water, lakes, and the ocean is paramount to enjoying the good life there.
Punta Gorda’s history is deeply intertwined with the old South, and a prime example of this is its old train station, which has now been transformed into a coffee house. During our search for a latte, we stumbled upon Downtown Kava. Initially, we passed it twice, not realizing that the train station was our intended destination. The owners have made a conscious decision to preserve the Jim Crow-era front façade, maintaining it as a reminder of a bygone era and an integral part of the area’s history.
Many visitors to Downtown Kava in Punta Gorda take time to photograph its front, which depicts a segregated past. However, this is left behind as you enter the interior, which is spacious, with preserved wooden walls and ceilings that create a relaxing atmosphere for enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. The establishment also hosts live music in the evenings, and the backside patio is large and open, offering an additional pleasant space for guests to unwind.
Right across the railroad tracks from Downtown Kava you’ll find RTC Collectables, a hidden gem for enthusiasts of vintage and unique items. This store is a treasure trove of collectibles, ranging from rare antiques to nostalgic memorabilia. It boasts an array of classic vinyl records, vintage toys, unique pieces of art, and historical artifacts, catering to a wide range of interests. Located at 1010 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda, FL 33950, RTC Collectables serves as a gateway to reliving cherished memories and discovering new treasures.
There is a main strip in Punta Gorda, which operates as a one-way street, includes Marion Avenue and West Olympic Street. This area is lined with most of the businesses, bars, and eateries. Our relatives, who live there, took us out for dinner at the Winesett House, known for its brick interior, bar, and spacious setting. The food was spectacular, the service great, and the drinks exceptional. While the ambiance was a bit brighter than my preference, a candle-lit setting would have added a different charm. However, the existing atmosphere was more festive and open, contributing to an enjoyable dining experience.
We were surprised to find such a great big town restaurant in this little town. While all the dishes were excellent, the standout dishes were the Burger Old Fashioned, Filet Mignon and Sweet & Sour Meatloaf and the Keylime desert. Impressed by the culinary experience, we asked our waitress to extend our compliments to the chef. A few minutes later, Chef Winesett himself came out to greet us at our table. The dinner was made even more special as we were celebrating the 40th anniversary of our in-laws, Mike and Debi Knapp.
For a more casual and local dining experience, we visited the Burg’r Bar, which embodied the essence of a small-town gathering spot where making friends and engaging in easy conversation comes naturally. The food there was really good, especially the burgers. They offer a menu with a variety of options, allowing you to customize each component of your burger. You simply tell the waiter or waitress what you want for each part of your burger, tailoring it to your exact preferences. Notably, the potato chips are made to order, adding a fresh and unique touch to the meal. If I lived in the area, I could easily see myself making visits to the Burg’r Bar a regular part of my routine.
Seasonally, this is the place to live if you love water, warm weather, fishing and dining out. Let us know if you have any other local Punta Gorda suggestions.