By Kendra Helmer
Sun Herald Writer
At one beach, you can watch shrimp boats go by or wave to those on sailboats. At another, you can watch dolphins in the distance. And at yet another, you'll think you're in the Caribbean.
Welcome to Charlotte County, Florida -- home to some of the state's least-crowded but breathtaking beaches. There is one harbor beach and one white sand beach in the county. A third public beach in Boca Grande is akin to Caribbean beaches and is only a short drive outside of the county. The only way to reach this island paradise is to drive through the county.
Port Charlotte Beach
Port Charlotte Beach Complex is a public beach at the southeast end of Harbor Boulevard in Port Charlotte. The beach complex offers a beach club, fishing pier, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoe pits, a pool (at annual or one-time rates), a snack bar, boat ramps and barbecue grills.
The beach is within a short drive or boat ride from local attractions. Fisherman's Village, located directly across the harbor from the beach complex, features shops, restaurants, bars and boating and fishing excursions.
Parking at the beach is 25 cents per hour or $2.25 per day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. The beach is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. No lifeguards are on duty.
Englewood Beach is Charlotte County's only gulf beach. Located along County Road 776 (Beach Road) near the Charlotte-Sarasota County line, the beach has light-colored sand and tufts of sea oats growing along the dune line.
For those who want the privacy of a more secluded beach, Stump Pass, a state recreation area, is located just past Englewood Beach at the end of the road. By walking on a short path through beautiful trees and vegetation, beachgoers will see lizards and other wildlife before coming to a more secluded white sand beach.
Shops, restaurants and bars are within short driving distance of the beach.
Englewood Beach is open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. Facilities include freshwater showers, picnic tables and sheltered barbecue areas. Parking is $1 per day, seven days a week. No lifeguards are on duty.
Boca Grande Beach
Boca Grande is a public beach located just outside of Charlotte County. The only way to reach this island paradise is by driving along State Road 771 in Charlotte County.
After paying a $3.20 toll for cars, visitors will drive along a road surrounded on both sides by light-green water and white sand. The public beach, which is comparable to Caribbean beaches, features three lighthouses and large shade trees near shore.
Dolphins often can be seen from the beach. Snorkelers will find a variety of sea shells near sandbars, and non-swimmers can stroll on the beach, collecting just as many shells. The best fishing and shelling is at the southeast public beach.
The beach offers full facilities, including freshwater showers, picnic tables and grills. There are no lifeguards on duty. The beach closes at dusk.
The town of Boca Grande has several quaint shops, an ice cream parlor and restaurants.
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