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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Biking along the trail
Phoenix Rising Kayaks offers a scenic tour of Amberjack Environmental Park in Rotonda, Florida. Trails cross the 225 acre preserve and provide riders with a great chance to see an array of wildlife in a wetland habitat. Examples of species commonly spotted include the gopher tortoise, indigo snake, great blue heron, and snowy egret.
Florida cooter finds a spot in the sun
Stops along the trails provide fun opportunities to observe the wildlife in surrounding wetlands. This coastal plain cooter, also known as the Florida cooter, is a freshwater turtle found throughout the southern United States. Relying on a herbivore diet, the turtle prefers still bodies of water with plentiful vegetation and is common in the many ponds, lakes, swamps, and sloughs of Florida.
Colorful eastern meadowlark spotted in the trees
Acme Bicycle Shop offers a thrilling bike tour of the nearby Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area in eastern Charlotte County. The 65,000 acre preserve is home a diversity of native wildlife that can no longer thrive elsewhere in Southwest Florida. Riders have a chance to move about the preserve’s wetlands that are filled with stunning pine flatwoods, such as the one on which this eastern meadowlark is sitting.
Babcock/Webb offers look at old Florida
Located in between the nearby cities of Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area was purchased by the state in 1941. Surrounded by lands that have long been transformed to promote Florida’s traditional agricultural interests, the preserve provides a unique glimpse of the natural habitat. While bikers generally stay dry along the trails, the surrounding lands often hold standing water, which create great photo opportunities.
Punta Gorda’s waterfront filled with beauty
Located along the banks of the Peace River, the quaint city of Punta Gorda created the state’s first free bicycle loaner program. Just by taking a few easy steps, visitors can borrow a bike at several downtown locations free of charge. A leisurely ride provides a wonderful chance to traverse peacefully through the town’s many historic sites and capture the beauty of its picturesque waterfront.