Favorite Florida pit stops, Punta Gorda.

Living in Southwest Florida, it takes forever to get anywhere by car. Not just because of the traffic but also because of the  location, so far south and west on a peninsula. Getting out of town require hours of driving. Pit stops are inevitable and serve as inspiration for this new series.

Favorite Florida Pit Stops looks at places to literally pull off the side of the road for a break and a bite while traveling on the state’s main corridors. Pulling over on I-75 and I-95 is not quite the same as say U.S. 17 or U.S. 27. In these instances, I generally look for pit spots that are within five minutes from the exit.

I write about food and wine for several publications, and have a passion for mom and pop restaurants. I seek them out when on the road.

{Peace River Seafood

Peace River Seafood sits on U.S. 17, in Punta Gorda. It’s just a few miles east of I-75

Pit stops Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda may still be in Southwest Florida. However, if you are traveling from parts of Collier County or Marco Island, this fits that one hour minimum before making a pit stop. It’s also a contender on your way TO the area.

U.S. 17 is a well-traveled route to central Florida. Many road trippers pick up the highway from I-75 in Punta Gorda. Less than two miles northeast from the interstate, sits Peace River Seafood, nestled off the road in the shade of oak trees.

It has a great story, founded by a crabber (Jimmy Beall) and his wife (Kelly) as a means to save a local industry. Crab houses were disappearing and Jimmy and his friends were loosing their livelihood. The couple purchased a 1920’s era feed store and turned it into this quaint crab shack and restaurant (and eventually wholesale operation) as a means to keep crabbing viable.

Blue crabs are the specialty of the house and they often come as all you can eat. It’s a blast, dumping a big bucket of crabs on the table and making a mess digging into the sweet meat. If you don’t know how to use a mallet and/or open the crabs, the staff does a great job explaining. The seafood is all local and includes mullet, alligator, shrimp and more. Selections are known to change depending on the season, the weather and the what’s biting.

They also serve healthful juices and smoothies. I’ve stopped here several times and it’s always been fantastic.

The property is perfect for stretching your legs. The deck even has a coy pond. The restaurant’s market has local products, produce and can even pack seafood in ice if you want to take some with you. Off the beaten path, this one is a local gem for sure. Here are a few photos.

If you have any favorite Florida pit stops, let me know here.