Though sunny Florida is best known for strolls along eye-catching beaches and fishing trips atop pristine waters, many regions offer great terrain for other forms of outdoor adventure. Located along Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast, Charlotte County provides a wealth of entertainment by the shoreline. However, the region is also home to several opportunities for increasingly popular bicycle tours of the rich environment.
Many associate biking with trips to mountains, organized group activities, or slow rides through paved neighborhoods. While these activities are worthy pursuits, biking in Charlotte County can provide more dynamic destinations, which exist close to home or easily fit into a vacation in paradise.
For those seeking a high octane journey through natural Florida, Acme Bicycle Shop offers such a ride through the nearby Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area. This 65,000 acre preserve in eastern Charlotte County provides an all-too-rare glimpse of unfettered nature, filled with wild plants, native animals, and majestic swamps. Not requiring particular expertise, the 2 hour tour is tailored for average rides and covers between 10-14 miles. Acme Bicycles charges $29 for the trip and provides most requirements, including a bike, helmet, water, and a guide.
For those preferring to hit the trails on their own bikes, multiple guided tours are provided by Phoenix Rising Kayaks. Operating within smaller environs, these trips are designed for novice riders and provide a wonderful look at nature closer to home. One scenic tour takes riders through Amberjack Environmental Park, a 225 acre preserve in Rotonda, not far from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The trip is a good opportunity for bird watching, since the park provides a wetland home for many local species, including the great blue heron, glossy ibis, roseate spoonbill, and snowy egret.
A second bicycle tour of Phoenix Rising Kayaks takes riders through Oyster Creek Regional Park in Englewood. As part of the larger Ann Dever Memorial Regional Park, this multi-purpose facility, which also includes Cedar Point Environmental Park, contains 115 acres filled with trails that criss-cross the natural habitat. Located beside Lemon Bay, the narrated tour is designed for beginning riders and offers a chance to see diverse wildlife that includes ospreys, snakes, bobcats, and more. Both tours by Phoenix Rising Kayaks cost $20 per rider.
If the adventurer simply prefers a slower ride through more familiar terrain, Charlotte County still contains a unique opportunity for fun. Located on the banks of the Peace River, Team Punta Gorda has started Florida's first free bike loaner program for visitors to enjoy its historic downtown region. All that is required for a complimentary bicycle ride is a credit card, driver's license, and waiver of liability. Bikes are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and are available at numerous locations, including Laishley Park Municipal Marina.
Be sure to view the photos in the list above for a small sample of the wondrous scenery of these nearby bike tours.
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