Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Checking out the Port Charlotte area

February 1-10, 2013
Myakka River Motorcoach Resort
Port Charlotte/El Jobean, Florida

The dawning of a new month meant it was time to roll up the rug, pull in the slides, and start our journey south to the Florida Keys. We had originally planned on making the 300 mile trek to Marathon, where my brother lives and where we will driveway camp, in one day. A glitch in this plan (which is too complicated to explain) caused us to make a one week stop somewhere new: the Myakka River Motorcoach Resort (MRMR).  Not only was this place new to us, it just opened last winter. We had a 25% discount offer from the Tampa RV Show which enticed us even more to check it out.  Here are a few photos of the place and our site:

It turned out we liked this place even more than we anticipated. The only thing it really lacks is mature landscaping—something Florida weather will remedy in short order.  The park is built on a thirty acre parcel of land that overlooks the Myakka River.  Since the lots are all for sale, they are fairly large (75 x 50) with brick paver pads and room for a small coach house, outdoor kitchen, and/or storage building. There are tennis and pickleball courts, pool and spa, fishing pier, a kayak launch area, and a lovely clubhouse with a well-appointed exercise facility and second floor sunset patio. The resort advertises that it is promoting a spa-like atmosphere with yoga classes and massages available. It is a ways from that reality, but the river setting does create a peaceful feeling especially with the expansive views.

The park is also fairly close (15 miles) to the charming city of Punta Gorda, a place we felt drawn to on previous visits and would like to explore a little more. We also have been anxious to check out the village of Boca Grande on the nearby island of Gasparilla, a place known for its destination beach weddings, and as a reclusive retreat for the rich and famous. So, aside from enjoying the amenities of the RV resort, we had plenty of other things to check out while we were here.

First on our list was a trip to Boca Grande. It turned out to be only a thirty minute drive to the island, but we were a little put off by the $6 toll for crossing the bridge. We left the motorhome a little hungry so found a cute place, South Beach Bar and Grille, right on the beach with live music where we stopped for lunch. I liked the colorful murals indoor and the fantastic setting right on the beach.

After lunch, we explored the beach area for a while then drove into the little village of Boca Grande. Not much there but we did find a homemade ice cream shop where a brand new Bentley pulled up with the same idea in mind--probably the only thing we had in common with the couple who exited the Bentley convertible.

On day two, the sun was shining too brightly to pass up the possibility of getting our kayaks wet. Charlotte County has a great website for finding paddling trails. After reviewing lots of possibilities, we chose to head back to an area near Boca Grande, the town of Placida, where there is a public boat launch with a nominal parking fee of .75 an hour. Our destination in the kayaks was a white sandy beach that looked like it could only be accessed by boat.

It turned out to be a great paddle (actually mostly pedal) with lots of dolphin sightings. I was also quite allured, right out of the boat, by huge whelk and conch shells in the water that I could only reach by standing in the water. Sadly, most of them were alive and needed to stay in their home on the bay. 

On our return from kayaking, we had a surprise phone call from our friends, Mike and BJ, who are staying in Cortez. They came down to see us, so we had happy hour at a little outdoor dive near our park, then joined them and another couple for dinner in Englewood. Always fun to hang out with these special folks.

The next couple of days were a bit of a blur as I wasn’t feeling well and the weather turned rainy and overcast. We did manage to get out to the local movie theater, in our quest to see most of the best picture Oscar nominees. Our  movie choice this time was Nebraska, an Alexander Payne film with a brilliant performance by Bruce Dern. The entire film is in black and white, set mostly in the rather desolate farm country of Nebraska. Nothing about the story was uplifting, but it did make us both feel better about our life choices and overall zest for life in contrast to the lives portrayed in the film! Actually, we found the story quite provocative as it caused each of us to reminisce on our own childhoods and reflect on what’s most important in life.

I am also happy to report that Victor and I did get out on the tennis court here, something we keep promising to do, but seldom happens. I would like to take lessons and make tennis a regular part of my life someday. (To my son Jesse, if you are reading this: I haven’t forgotten that you owe me three one-hour private lessons.)  In the meantime, we just volleyed balls back and forth appreciating the exercise and the fantasy of being real tennis players in our retirement years.

Every Friday night here at the park, they hold a happy hour “meet and greet” with wine and beer and light appetizers provided. This was a fun way to get to know our neighbors here, especially in a park that is so spread out. We enjoyed getting to talk to a variety of folks and felt a little sad that our time at the park was almost over as we would like to have hosted some gatherings ourselves. I especially would have liked to take advantage of the yoga classes in the park (which I intended to do but didn’t feel well) after hearing how the great the instructor was. Apparently, George and Barbara Bush took private classes from her while they were staying at the Gasparilla Inn in Boca Grande. The story goes that after the class, George W. took her aside and said: “You really kicked my ass.” Ha.

On Saturday morning, we visited the Farmer’s Market in Punta Gorda and then ventured out to the Peace River Wildlife Center.  It turned out the market was rather small and had no organic, locally grown vegies. I think the only market that we have been to in Florida that does was in Sarasota. I guess I am a spoiled girl when it comes to the real farmer’s markets we have in Oregon. This market, like many in Florida, had more craft items than food. In spite of my disappointment, we liked walking around the historic part of the downtown and listening to the live music that was part of the market.

From here, we drove out to Ponce de Leon Park where the Peace River flows into Charlotte Harbor. We were quite surprised to see a beach here. They built a seawall and brought in tons of sand to make a very inviting beach—sans sea shells—along the harbor.

Just next to the park is the Peace River Wildlife Center, a rehabilitation and intensive care facility for injured and orphaned native Florida wildlife. Several of the center’s “residents” were permanent ones but happily their goal is to return all wildlife to their natural habitat.

We were happy to have had the chance to see their good work and add to their funds with our donated admission. I am so happy to see places like this thriving as I can hardly stand it when we come across an injured bird or other animal.  Here are just a few images of the current inhabitants.

Our stay here was originally going to be for one week, but we learned that the Ragnar Relay race, a 190 mile race from Miami to Key West was going on Saturday and Sunday-- a terrible time to travel on US 1. We usually avoid big travel on weekends anyway, so it was easy to extend our stay at MRMR for two days. They even honored the 25% show discount on the daily rate.

So once again, a week, or in this case nine days, seemed like a flash in the pants. Sunday night we packed up so we could get an early start for our 280-mile drive to the Keys. We are sure looking forward to warmer weather on a more consistent basis and taking advantage of all the close proximity of water adventures.  Roll on. . . .


  1. WOW...your site is beautiful.

    My gosh...you two have hit pay dirt for sure. What a fabulous area. We are keeping a log of all the areas to visit when in FL. This area is now on our list. I love the beaches!

    Keep enjoying the good life!

  2. What a beautiful spot you had! I also love to visit the refugees...if I weren't traveling, I would love to volunteer!

    Enjoy the Keys! We have never been to this part of Florida.....I'm really enjoying your posts!

  3. Y'all have found another great park. Good luck on the tennis goal, Judy is continuing to nurse her torn ACL and has sold her tennis racquet.

  4. Great new resort! I like all the space. But, as usual, big spaces don't go with closeness to the beach. Looks like you totally enjoyed yourselves while there. Looking forward to our time together in March!!

  5. That's one fancy resort! Looks like a neat area to explore.

  6. OK, that's it. You have to take me with you next year to the Tampa show or I just won't go. You get the best deals on beautiful parks. You blog is so much fun to read for me because your pictures are beautiful and you are always doing things that I love to do.....well not tennis so much but that kayak paddle and the beach look fantastic.

  7. $6 toll? What, is that bridge gold plated? ;c)

  8. Wonder where you are at the Keys? We are currently at Sunshine Key RV Resort in Big Pine Key leaving on Sat, Feb 15.

  9. Beautiful and marvelous. I was left stunned when I watched dolphins argyll. It was a very great thing to witness... those creatures in there natural habitat.


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