fishing

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

rendition.6003_original.1280.500.jpg

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.

 

Weekend Getaway: The Upper and Middle Keys

There’s no place like home here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but it’s nice to get away every now and then, and when the time comes there is nothing quite like a getaway to the Florida Keys.

While we have already covered all kinds of great places to stay, things to do, and outstanding restaurants in Key Largo and Key West, there are also dozens of spots in between those destinations that also make for a great weekend getaway.

So, let's explore the Upper and Middle Keys.

Where to Stay

Islamorada is one of the most popular places to stop for many tourists making the journey from the mainland all the way down to Key West, but it is also a destination in and of itself. Here you will find the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, which offers every bit of the paradise you would imagine exists in the Keys. With all of the resort amenities offered at the Postcard, this is a one-stop shop for a weekend getaway.

landing-page-4000x1400-lagoon-01.jpg

If you are looking for a more secluded getaway, Duck Key could be the perfect destination for you. The place to stay here is the Hawks Cay Resort, which offers standard hotel-style rooms, as well as more private villas.

If being as close to the beach as possible is important to you, then the Rainbow Bend Fishing Resort in Marathon should be on your short list. This is also the place to stay if you are looking to spend the weekend fishing, which is one of the many ways to enjoy yourself in the Keys.

Things to Do

Craft beer lovers will be thrilled to know that there are two different breweries located right in Islamorada. Both the Florida Keys Brewery and the Islamorada Beer Company Brewery and Tasting Room offer up a fantastic selection of local beer in a traditional Florida Keys atmosphere.

Another fun way to spend a weekend in the Keys is to get right into the water. In Duck Key, you will find swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, and chartering your own fishing expedition. No matter what you are looking to do on the water, there are plenty of choices in the Keys.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Marathon for animal lovers is The Turtle Hospital.  They have been rehabbing injured sea turtles and educating the public about them since 1986, and it is consistently recommended among the top places for animal enthusiasts to visit in all of the Keys.

Places to Eat

When you are heading out to eat in the Keys, the atmosphere is almost as important as the food. One of the best places to find that environment in Islamorada is the Islamorada Fish Company, where you will find a massive outdoor restaurant with a menu full of great seafood. We recommend trying the Grouper Reuben!

Whether you are staying there or not, the place to eat in Duck Key is Alma, which is located on the property at Hawks Cay Resort. This high-end restaurant divides its menu evenly between local seafood dishes and excellent cuts of meat, and everything is delicious.

In addition to all of the excellent seafood, you will also find plenty of Cuban restaurants throughout the Keys. One of our favorite spots is La Nina Restaurant in Marathon. It might not look like much from the outside, but this little restaurant will blow you away with their Cuban pork and beef dishes.

You can find ways to spend an entire weekend exploring any single town in the Upper and Middle Keys. You can also have a blast cruising from key to key in search of specific destinations. Whatever your idea of a great weekend might be, you can make it a reality in the Florida Keys.

Weekend Getaway - Marco Island

Located approximately four hours south of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Marco Island is one of the most peaceful and romantic destinations in Florida.

This little island offers fabulous resorts as well as quiet little hideaways, beautiful beaches and exciting Gulf Coast fishing, and some of the most delicious restaurants you will find anywhere. It’s the perfect getaway location for anyone looking to spend a romantic weekend at the beach!

Places to Stay on Marco Island

When you are talking about places to stay on Marco Island, the conversation almost always has to start with the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort. This vacation paradise offers the complete first class experience of Marco Island. They have their own private white sand beach, two private 18-hole golf courses, a fabulous spa, three swimming pools, 10 restaurants, and beautiful state-of-the-art guest rooms. Everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway will be right at your fingertips here.

Another first-class choice is the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which is a Mediterranean-themed resort that boasts a wide range of unique amenities like smoothies on the beach and the ringing of “the captain’s bell” at sunset. The hotel also offers an excellent concierge staff that will be happy to arrange dinner reservations at local restaurants or tee times at some of the best golf courses in all of Florida.

If something a little bit simpler is what you are looking for, the friendly people at The Boat House Motel are consistently ranked as one of the very best places to stay on Marco Island according to TripAdvisor. Staying at The Boat House Motel feels more like staying with old friends.

Things to do on Marco Island

Whether you plan to stay at one of the larger resorts or rent a quiet cottage, getting as close to the beach as possible is the name of the game at Marco Island, so spending time kicking back on those beautiful white sand beaches is definitely the most popular thing to do on the island. One of the best beaches around is South Marco Beach, which is a favorite for shelling and strolling along the waterfront.

Another popular way to spend your time in Marco Island is to head out on the open sea for some big- time fishing! There are dozens of local fishing charters that operate just about every day of the week, so ask your hotel staff to recommend their favorite, and you’ll be reeling in a monster in no time at all.

If you are more of a landlubber, the Marco Island Historical Museum is a great way to spend some time away from the water. This cool little museum is free to the public and offers all kinds of interesting insight into the history of the island.

Places to Eat on Marco Island

For a fairly small island, Marco Island is absolutely packed with amazing places to eat! Your first stop on at least one of the mornings you spend there should be Doreen’s Cup of Joe. This is one of the most unique and interesting coffee shops you will ever find. The breakfast menu is delicious, and the coffee is the best you will find north of Cuba.

You are also going to want to stop at The Italian Market and Deli for an afternoon treat. Both the pizza and the subs here are out of this world, and the personality is pretty outstanding too. Owners Jimmy and Susan Barney bring all of the Italian flair of a Brooklyn deli to the island, and they really don’t miss a beat!

 

 

Hidden in a little strip mall is where you will find one of the classiest restaurants on the island. Finn Bistro specializes in fresh fish that is cooked to perfection and plated in a way that makes you love the dish before you taste it. No matter what happens to be on the menu during your visit, you can be sure that it will taste terrific.

No matter what type of lodging, activities, or dining you are looking for, there really is something for everyone here on Marco Island. That’s why this is one of our top weekend getaways for anyone here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

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.