Living in Charlotte County Florida

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Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda, FL

Playground at Gilchrest Park

Gilchrist Park is located at 400 W. Retta Esplanade in historic downtown Punta Gorda, FL.  It has 11 acres along Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River.  It contains a sidewalk for walking, jogging or biking.  There is a playground for kids and basketball and tennis courts for sports activities.  There is also a lot of open space if you want to play catch or Frisbee. There is one fishing pier, gardens, and a gazebo where weddings and numerous fun and interesting events are often held.  It also has restrooms, shelters, picnic tables, a small beach and four parking lots. 

Every Thursday evening you can go to Gilchrist Park to watch, listen or participate in informal jam sessions of all types. It is open Mike night.   Some common jams include Bluegrass, Old-time, Folk and country.  Bring a chair, sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds.  We have gone several times and if you stay long enough, you can catch a beautiful sunset. 

There is also a Ponce De Leon monument at the park.  The Royal Order of Ponce De Leon Conquistadors established a tax deductible fund and put up a life size bronze statue of Ponce De Leon to commemorate his visits to Charlotte Harbor in 1513 and 1521.  There are engraved bricks that surround the statue.

The park got its name from Albert Gilchrist.  He was a citizen of Punta Gorda who made significant contributions to the city over the course of his life.  He made his name in real estate and land surveying.  He was also active in politics and became the Governor of Florida from 1908 to 1913. 

When my grandson was young, he loved to go to the playground at Gilchrist Park.  The playground includes a swing set, climbing, a train you can go inside, slides, bouncy animals and other equipment.  His favorite thing to do was to play in the sand under a large tree.  He would bury small plastic animals and toys and then dig them back up.  Most of the playground is in the sun, and the tree provided shade and relief from the heat.                                                                                                                                                                           

For more information on active parks in Punta Gorda, FL go to the city of Punta Gorda web site at:

This is one of my Walkabout Wednesday series.  Check back each Wednesday for another place to walkabout. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL

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Solomon’s Castle, Ona, FL

If you are eclectic and love to look at unique artwork, take a trip to Solomon’s Castle.  It is located off the beaten path in Ona, FL.  It is the home of Howard Solomon an internationally known artist and sculptor.  He built the castle himself with printing plates discarded by the local weekly newspaper. 

There is a fee to take a guided tour of the castle.  Inside the castle you will find room after room of magnificent, interesting artwork and displays.  You will see the family’s living quarters, extensive exhibits, stained glass windows, and unbelievable artwork.  The tour guide will describe each area as directed by Solomon himself.  He is very witty with a sense of humor and the descriptions are full of puns.  So get ready to laugh. 

Outside of the castle you can explore the grounds designed by Peggy Solomon.  You can walk the nature trail and see picturesque Horse Creek as well as sculptures and whimsical characters located among the foliage, tropical flowers, oaks and palmettos. 

While you are there enjoy fine dining at The Boat in the Moat.  Howard Solomon also built this replica of a 60 foot 16th century Spanish galleon.  You can eat inside or outside.  They have a small menu choice, but everything is delicious. 

There are two gift shops located on site.  One is inside the museum doors which contain many treasures and the other is located next to the restaurant which has crafts and typical gift shop items. 

And lastly, if you are adventurous and would like to spend the night, they have The Blue Moon Room.  It is a bed and breakfast room that is a fully equipped efficiency apartment located on the top floor of the castle.  It is available for overnight or weekend stays.

I have never seen anything like it in my life.  I went there last summer on a day trip with the Corvettes of Charlotte County Club.  We took a tour of the castle and had lunch.  We ate outside.  I had the taco salad and I wish I lived closer so I could go there often just for lunch.  We also got to meet Solomon himself.  He is usually walking around somewhere or working in his workshop. Plan to make a day of it if you stay for lunch or at least plan for half a day. 

Solomon’s Castle has been featured on CNN, Better Homes and Gardens and Extreme Homes.  People come by the busload to see the castle.  For more information and photos go to their web site at

This is one of my Walkabout Wednesday series.  Check back each Wednesday for a new place to walkabout.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL

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Boca Grande Lighthouse on Gasparilla Island, FL

The Boca Grande Lighthouse is located at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island in Boca Grande and is part of the Gasparilla Island State Park.   It was built in 1890 and is the oldest building on Gasparilla Island.  On February 28, 1980 it was posted to the National Register of Historic Places.   The lighthouse has a matching keeper’s house as well.  There is a toll to get onto the island and a fee to enter the park. 

Inside the lighthouse you will find a museum and gift shop. It is run by the Barrier Island Park Society.   It is kind of old-fashioned and not a huge museum, but you can see old photos of the island and the lighthouse and learn about its history.  There are also some exhibits of sea life and seashells.  The gift shop has jewelry and small gifts.  The museum is free after paying the parking fee, but there is a donation box outside the front door.  A $2.00 per person donation is suggested to offset operating expenses. 

We went to Boca Grande for Mother’s Day last year and visited the lighthouse.  It was my first time there.  It is a worthwhile visit, even if you only go there once.  The views of the water from the lighthouse are spectacular.  We took photos on the lighthouse porch overlooking the Gulf.  I used one of them for my Christmas photo this year.  Then we took a leisurely walk along the beach and had some ice cream in town. 

Some other activities you can enjoy at the park include saltwater fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, shelling, hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing.  The facilities include the beach, showers, restrooms, nature trails, picnic areas, as well the lighthouse and museum. 

If you are looking to take a day trip, bring your beach gear, walking shoes and fishing gear.  Be sure to stick around for the magnificent sunset. 

Here is a great web site with the history of the lighthouse with additional photos:

This is one of my weekly Walkabout Wednesday series.  Check back each Wednesday for a new place to walkabout. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL

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Bayshore Live Oak Park, Port Charlotte, FL

Bayshore Live Oak Park is located on Bayshore Road in Port Charlotte, FL.  It is a 7-acre waterfront park with views of the lower Peace River and upper Charlotte Harbor.  It has barbeque grills, canoeing and kayaking, fishing pier, nature walking, picnic shelters, and pavilion with a fireplace, an amphitheater, picnic tables, and restrooms.  It is part of the historic Charlotte Harbor where the first settlers of Charlotte County landed. 

The grand re-opening of the park after hurricane Charley took place in March 2008.  The park was funded in part by Park Impact Fees, a Community Development Block grant, Tourist Development Funds, Sales Taxes dollars, a Land Water Conservation Fund grant, Lighting District Funds and Ad Valorem dollars.

Bayshore Live Oak Park is a nice area to go for a leisurely walk, bike ride, or have a picnic at the pavilion.  Every year the Corvettes of Charlotte County has their annual October picnic at Bayshore Live Oak Park.  The club provides the meats and drinks and everyone brings a dish to pass.  The member’s park their Corvettes in the grass all lined up for the viewing of members and passers-by.  Many other businesses and community organizations have events at this park such as summer camps for youth and a community dog show. 

Bayshore Live Oak Park is also home to the Charlotte County Historical Center.  The center offers a variety of programs and services.  They have permanent exhibits and changing exhibits related to local and state history.  Their purpose is to educate the community about the rich history of Charlotte County.  They also pledge to preserve and protect the County’s historical resources.  The admission fee is $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children 12 and under.

If you are looking for something to do some day, pack a picnic, your fishing gear, and your walking shoes and make an afternoon of it.  Don’t forget to stop by the Historical Center too.

Link to Charlotte County web site for more information and photos:

This is one of my Walkabout Wednesday series. Check back each Wednesday for a new place to walkabout.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL


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Buying a home versus renting a home

With mortgage interest rates and home prices being so low, it is more affordable now than in the past 15 years to own a home.  In many cities it is less expensive than renting, according to the Wall-Street Journal’s third-quarter 2011survey.  If you are thinking about buying rather than renting you need to do your research, compare the pros and cons, and decide if it is affordable and practical for you.

Some issues that many face are being unable to sell their current home, unable to qualify for a mortgage because of the new stricter guidelines, and even keeping a steady job.  These people are most often forced to stay put or continue to rent.  Apartment and home rentals are expected to rise and they have been continually rising in certain areas of the country.  This makes owning a home more attractive to renters.

There are some items to take into consideration when buying a home that you will not have to do if you are renting such as:  paying property taxes and special assessments, purchasing homeowner insurance, paying for maintenance, paying homeowner association fees (if applicable), and/or paying a membership or recreation fee in a community.  Some advantages to renting are you may get more space for your money, you have more flexibility, you don’t have to pay for repairs, and there is minimum risk. 

In most instances it is better to buy a home than rent.  Your mortgage payment is pretty stable other than homeowner insurance or property tax changes, you can deduct your mortgage interest and property taxes on your federal income taxes, you have pride of ownership, you eventually build equity in your home, no landlords to deal with, and you can remodel, paint or redecorate any way you choose.

If you are thinking about buying rather than renting you need to do your research, compare the pros and cons, and decide if it is an affordable and practical choice for you.  If you are thinking of buying a home in Florida, there are a lot of affordable properties in North Port, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral and Ft. Myers.  Whether you are a first time buyer, repeat buyer, second home buyer, snowbird or other, there are options for everyone. 

Here is a web link to a calculator to compare the advantages and disadvantages of renting vs. owning.