boating

Weekend Getaway: Port Charlotte

Located about halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Port Charlotte is the perfect Gulf Coast destination for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to venture a little further south than Tampa for their next getaway.

Traveling by car takes about three hours, which makes it just far enough away to feel like a vacation, but still close enough that you don't spend your whole weekend traveling.

Let's check out some of the best places to stay, things to do, and places to eat that you will find in Port Charlotte!

Places to Stay in Port Charlotte

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One of the biggest appeals about a weekend in Port Charlotte is that visitors have some amazing bed and breakfast accommodations to choose from. The Banana Bay Waterfront Motel is a local favorite that offers an Old Florida feel situated right on the bay. If renting kayaks and strolling along the docks is your idea of a relaxing weekend, this is a great location.

Another popular B&B is the Tropical Paradise Bed & Breakfast, where hosts Cliff and Joanne go out of their way to make sure that every detail is taken care of. Their home is located on a beautiful lot that features a covered pool and access to the canal.

If your preference is to stay at one of the chain hotels, there are also quite a few of those to pick from in Port Charlotte. One of the highest rated hotels in town is the Sleep Inn & Suites Port Charlotte, where you will find a gorgeous outdoor pool and all of the other amenities you would expect from a big brand hotel.

Things to Do in Port Charlotte

Once you iron out the details of where you are going to stay in Port Charlotte, the next step is to figure out exactly what you are going to be doing during your weekend getaway. For many people, that choice is as simple as enjoying the water…and there are a few different ways to do that in Port Charlotte. Depending on where you stay, you will likely have access to a number of water sports, fishing piers, and even some boating experiences.

Another relaxing way to enjoy the water in Port Charlotte is to spend a day at Port Charlotte Beach Park. Here you can stroll on the boardwalk, collect a wide range of shells, or jump right into the water! The park is also a perfect place to have an evening picnic while watching the sunset.

Since Port Charlotte is the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, many residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills plan their visits during the early spring months. However, Port Charlotte is also home to the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, which is a minor-league affiliate of the Rays. That means that you can catch a game here throughout the summer, and minor league baseball games are always fun to see in person!

Places to Eat in Port Charlotte

Assuming that you are going to be staying at one of the local bed and breakfasts, you probably won't have to worry about finding a good spot for coffee and breakfast in the morning. But when the time for lunch rolls around, The Philadelphian should be the first local restaurant on your list. Here you will find authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks that will absolutely blow your mind.

If you are thinking about heading over to Port Charlotte Beach Park for a sunset picnic but don't feel like packing dinner, grabbing a delicious pie from Pioneers Pizza is always a solid option. We recommend going with either the Formaggio or the Meat Lovers specials!

Every weekend getaway needs at least one fancy dinner, and the place for that in Port Charlotte is JD's Jazz Club & Fine Dining. Here you will find a first-class fine dining menu that is accompanied perfectly by live music and delicious cocktails. The only question here is whether you will get more enjoyment from the food or the music!

If you are looking for a great place to spend a relaxing weekend, Port Charlotte along the bay, is filled with waterfront activities and delicious dining.

 

Withlacoochee State Forest Just Minutes From the Villages of Citrus Hills

Located just a short drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills is Withlacoochee State Forest, the third largest forest in Florida. The Citrus Tract is 41,222 acres and provides a tremendous number of opportunities for Citrus Hills residents to get out and enjoy their wonderful natural environment.

Like most state parks and forests, Withlacoochee State Forest has all the amenities that you would expect to find; camping, fishing, boating, and hiking. But in addition to those activities, there are also areas devoted to off-road motorcycle and ATV riding and horseback riding.

Here are just a few of the highlights of Withlacoochee State Forest and Citrus County that make living here a great outdoor adventure!

Camping & Boating 

There are many camping locations throughout Withlacoochee State Forest. Some of the most popular areas are Holder Mine Recreation Area, Mutual Mine Recreation Area, and Tillis Hill Recreation Area.

There are also many locations throughout the forest that are devoted to canoeing. The Withlacoochee South River, which flows directly through the forest, contains many points for canoes to enter or exit. Depending on the start and stop points, canoe enthusiasts can plan trips ranging from 3 miles all the way up to 14.4 miles.

Croom Motorcycle Area

The Croom Motorcycle Area at Withlacoochee State Forest is a haven for dirt bike and ATV riders. This 2600-acre facility offers courses and trails for riders of all skill levels. There is also a training area for riders who are just getting their feet wet. More experienced riders will enjoy the rougher trails that have been left as natural as possible.

The motorcycle park is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Riders who are looking to stay near the park for an extended period of time will be delighted to find that there is a campground here as well. 

Withlacoochee State Trail

The Withlacoochee State Trail is currently the longest rail-trail in the state of Florida. The trail was originally part of Henry Plant’s railroad that ran from Croom to Inverness. Over the years, the rail line was part of the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Coast Line, and CSX Transportation. In 1989, CSX Transportation sold the line to the state of Florida so that it could be paved as part of their Rails to Trails program.

The current trail runs from Citrus Springs down to within six miles of Dade City, for a total of 46 miles. The trail takes its visitors through everything from suburbs, to small towns, to historic landmarks. The trail is popular for walking, biking, and skating. It also has areas where horseback riding is available. There are many locations along the trail that feature a wide variety of dining and hotel accommodations.

The Florida Trailtrotter Program

Withlacoochee State Forest contains two different horse trails that are featured in The Florida Trailtrotter Program. The Bear Head Hammock Horse Trail is 8.4 miles long, and the Little River Ranch Trail is 8 miles long.

According to the Trailtrotter Program, one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the state parks and forests in Florida is on horseback.

The Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program

The Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program encourages Florida residents and visitors to experience the natural beauty of the state by exploring a number of different trails throughout each of the state forests.

There are a total of nine different trails in Withlacoochee State Forest that are part of the Trailwalker Program. There are a number of shorter trails like Mud Spring, McKethan Lake, Hog Island, Johnson Pond, and Oxbow that are all less than 2 miles long. There are also some longer trails like Richloam South, which is 12.3 miles long!

Whether you are looking for fast-paced dirt bike action, slow-paced canoe trails, or the experience of horseback riding through a natural environment, there are plenty of options available in Withlacoochee State Forest and along the Withlacoochee State Trail.

Considering its close proximity to Citrus Hills, it’s easy to see why this is a very popular outdoor destination for our residents.