Charlotte Harbor also includes 200 miles of Blueway Trails. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

Charlotte Harbor also includes 200 miles of Blueway Trails. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

Looking for a new way to vacation in Florida, I chose Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands and checked in to the Four Points by Sheraton in Punta Gorda.

Gotta start somewhere, right?

No beach, but never mind.  Plenty of those in previous Florida family jaunts.  Plenty nearby too. This is a harbor holiday so abundant that two lodging options could fit your plan, and mine next time.

First, the Four Points where Wi-Fi and water in the rooms are free; beer’s local.

View from my window embraced the big harbor. Breakfast included distinctive egg DestinationReviewdishes, with and without meat.

This 106-room and suites hotel is surrounded by smooth, paved paths so walking, biking and stroller pushing are a breeze in the breeze blowing across Charlotte Harbor.

Pleased me on a power walk to slow to a tiptoe because little alcoves along my way harbored kissing couples, or leisurely conversations. Bikes are free, and easy to pick up in sight of the Four Points. Bicycle around the downtown too for eateries and murals, art galleries and shops.

Punta Gorda’s bustling, and often chic. Leisurely bike riding is not something I do where I live, or on most trips with the grown kids and their children. Punta Gorda struck me as a place to do simple and pleasant things together.

Punta Gorda skies become artist palettes. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

Punta Gorda skies become artist palettes. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

The Four Points Tiki Bar on the harbor bustled too, as I walked by, perhaps vacationers with nannies, or no kids. Kind of the designers to remove this delight beyond the sight of careful families.

Believe I could go on an adult getaway, and enjoy this place as much as a multi-gen visit. Then, I’d move to an apartment above a shopping center bordering the harbor marina.

Fishermen’s Village is the name; painted murals and big views of nature both abound. Quite alluring. And I am no shopper.

This sleep six-of-us villa opened the harbor for me. Shoppers can access 40 shops, all individually owned, no chains in Fishermen’s Village.  Step out the villa front door and it’s all there.

Five couples own and operate 13 of the shops, two or three each, always emphasizing family and returning guests. Even a military heritage museum in this Village, and fine art gallery.

Dinner at Fish Village Market pulls from 32 years experience but my Gulf red grouper was only a day old. The gluten free menu is a source of chef owner pride, as are the onion rings, hand cut twice daily.

Alternate chocolate with harbor tours in Charlotte Harbor lodging.

Alternate chocolate with harbor tours in Charlotte Harbor lodging. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

My earnest recommendation for staying here: multiple harbor cruises and Gulf eco tours on the family-owned, three-generations King Fisher Fleet alternated with chocolate stops in the Village Simply Sweet confectionery café.

Seeking a new way to vacation in Florida really worked this way. So easily. So comfortably.

One of many options on the water: all day adventure to Pine Island Sound and Cayo Costa State Park. Easy to catch the 9:00 a.m. boat since you only walk out your front door and turn right.

Villa has a kitchen so breakfast no time issue, and neither is packing a picnic lunch for a day on this barrier island with eight miles of undeveloped beach.

King Fisher Fleet family cruises dawn to dusk, and beyond.  Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

King Fisher Fleet family cruises dawn to dusk, and beyond. Photo credit: Christine Tibbets / Blended Family TravelingMom

Another day do the Peace River eco-tour with naturalists aboard helping sight osprey, heron, ‘gators, egrets. This one’s three and a half hours so explore Punta Gorda the other half and return to the harbor for a 90-minute sunset cruise.

Spectacular clouds at dusk when I did this one, and lingering sunset orb as the grand finale.

Gourmet ultra-premium chocolate goes well with every harbor and Gulf experience and this neighborhood confectionery sells everything at $7.00 a half pound. “We cater to families with small children,” says owner Amy Hicks because they can experiment, and then we see their tastes change.” My tips include order the petite size platter, and return often.