Located about 145 nautical miles north of Key West in picturesque Charlotte Harbor, the idyllic Burnt Store Marina has been quietly developing a glowing reputation as an oasis of tranquility and convenience. Ensconced in a pristine waterfront region of the Punta Gorda municipality, this fully equipped maritime haven is eager to welcome visitors to its well-appointed shores.
As with most historical tales of Florida’s development, the Burnt Store narrative commences with the usual Ponce de Leon visit followed by acrimonious relations between early settlers and, in this case, the once thriving Calusa Indians. As stated in the literature, “after the Seminole massacre of 1839, this group of Indians was pushed back into limited territory but still managed to live peacefully side by side with the settlers. All of this in the shadow of the Trading Post… which acted as General Store and gathering place for everything from gossip to politics.”
Predictably, the peaceful coexistence ended when a certain Lt. Gil Harstuff, the new commander in the area, treated the Indians with utter contempt and disdain while flagrantly disrespecting what little remained of their territorial claims. In retaliation for the continued affront to the land and the tribe’s sovereignty, an Indian known as Billy Bowlegs led an assault on the Trading Post, burning it to the ground and killing several settlers in the process.
Having also suffered heavy losses in the conflagration, the Indians fled the region shortly thereafter. The Trading Post was never rebuilt and the area was henceforth known as Burnt Store.
Fast forward to present times and the region is now a bastion of elegant abodes and snow birds seeking refuge from harsh northern climes. All that remains of a once chaotic and murderous chapter in American history is an evocative name that perversely yet thankfully preserves the memory of those who fought for their ancestral rights as well as those who sought a brighter future in the New World.
But the legacy of Burnt Store has yet to be fully written as future generations will be able to create new memories filled with laughter and camaraderie. And as Harbour Master Capt. Peggy Wark hopes, this new generation will be arriving by boat.
“We are a 525 slip marina with capacity for 300 more in dry dock. We have a 27-hole executive golf course on the property along with a pool, fitness center, showers, laundry facilities, tennis courts, a general store, free wi-fi, sunset tours, fishing guides and a great restaurant & bar that is currently undergoing a complete renovation,” says the wily captain with well-deserved pride. “We get an enormous amount of visitors who stop in while traveling north from Key West or heading south from the panhandle region of the Gulf of Mexico. They simply love the amenities we offer to all our guests and the feeling of security we provide.”
Indeed, this marina is akin to a country club but without the exorbitant membership fees. “We charge $1.75 a foot for short term stays and can accommodate vessels up to 100 feet long. Of course, we offer discounted weekly, monthly and annual rates along with special rates for cruising associations,” asserts Capt. Wark. “And by the way, we are open 364 days a year with mechanics on site and a host of related vendors.”
As a symbol of Burnt Store Marina’s continued push for excellence, the popular Porto Bello restaurant has recently been purchased by two entrepreneurs from the Northeast who are eager to elevate the culinary offerings of their new waterfront trattoria. “We are bringing in renowned Executive Chef David Repp to completely revamp the menu,” gushes gregarious co-owner Bill Kelley. “The idea is to have outstanding food to fit every budget. There will be a strong emphasis on high-quality steak and seafood in our elegant main dining room while still providing the laid-back burgers and beer vibe at the bar and on the outdoor patio.”
“We will have all the best sports packages on our many flat screen TVs and will provide great entertainment as well,” adds business partner Brian Decaro. “With friendly dockside service and great happy hour drink specials, we hope people will really enjoy themselves and come back to see us often.”
And in all likelihood, those cruising Florida’s Gulf Coast will gladly make it a point to return with great frequency to luxuriate in the conviviality and gorgeous scenery that are the embodiment of the iconic Burnt Store Marina.
Malcolm McClintock is a sailing enthusiast who holds an MBA and has lived in Thailand, Spain, France, Mexico, Canada and the US. He currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale with his wife and two daughters.