By Heather Turk
Best known for its beautiful beaches, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is also home to a treasure-trove of attractions sure to pique the interest of visitors. From enriching the mind to simply sipping some vino, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has a hidden gem for every traveler to enjoy.
Recognized as a Top Winery in Southwest Florida by TripAdvisor’s FlipKey.com, this Englewood winery (cataniaswinery.com) is known for its full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. as well as by appointment, visitors can sample some vino with cheese and crackers for $8 or learn about the art of winemaking at one of its winemaking classes (nominal fee applies unless a winemaking kit is purchased). Commercial and home winemaking equipment is available for purchase as well as an assortment of gifts.
MILITARY HERITAGE MUSEUM
Located inside Fishermen’s Village, this free Punta Gorda attraction (freedomisntfree.org) offers guests a truly priceless experience. Spread out over 2,500 square feet, it houses artifacts and memorabilia from all branches of the service and from the Civil War forward. Visitors will see old rifles on display along with uniforms, newspaper clippings and more. Be sure to check out the museum’s Wall of Warriors, honoring brave individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty.
OCTAGON WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
This safe haven for abused and abandoned exotic animals (octagonwildlife.org) is the wildest retirement/nursing home in Punta Gorda! Open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can spend the day with a variety of former zoo and circus animals including lions, tigers and bears. Some guests might even recognize the sanctuary’s female hyena, Jake, from Animal Planet’s “Fatal Attractions” episode “Pet Hyena.”
RICK TREWORGY’S MUSCLE CAR CITY
Featuring row upon row of restored classic cars, this Punta Gorda attraction (musclecarcity.net) is home to more than 200 automobiles. Though some date back to the 1920s, the museum’s main focus is on the muscle cars of the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Amid the impressive collection, visitors will find 12 Pontiac GTOs and 64 Chevrolet Corvettes—one from every series from 1954 to 1975 as well as some newer models. There’s also a selection of automotive memorabilia on exhibit and a 1960s-style diner serving drive-in favorites like burgers and milkshakes.