CAPE CORAL WATERFRONT GUIDE
From Captain Black (AKA Bill Black, Realtor)
If you are considering living in Cape Coral, you probably already know that:
The city was designed and developed in the 1950’s as a boating community.
Cape Coral is still growing; 194,000 and counting! Median age: 43
Waterfront prices are the most affordable in the state; from $150K (fresh water) to
$200K – $3M+ for saltwater.
No fishing license required for persons under 16 or over 65 years.
We have the lowest crime rate in Florida (for cities with a population over 100,000)
NO personal income tax!
Now let’s talk water……..
Waterfront Property Values
Whether you are a Landlubber who enjoys waterfront views but don’t want to get your feet wet, or a Skipper who is always at sea, there are many waterfront choices. Regardless, properties with closest proximity to the Caloosahatchee River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico are the most costly. Land prices decrease as you go inland. Keeping it simple: Highest value is riverfront, next is saltwater with no bridges or locks, restricted saltwater, fresh water sites, and finally, dry (no water access) lot site being the least expensive.
Saltwater or Freshwater?
Cape Coral has over 400 waterfront canals and lakes; some of which are saltwater and others freshwater. (NOTE: There is no Gulf access from the freshwater system, and this directly affects property value.)
Fresh Water property owners enjoy calm waters, wildlife, bass fishing, turtle hunting, and bird watching. Watercrafts usually are pontoons, canoes, flat bottom skiffs w/electric motors, or kayaks. Swimming is not encouraged in any of our canals or lakes. There is little boat maintenance or wear and tear in fresh water and you can leave your boat in the water. The Chain of Lakes freshwater system offers 30 miles of cruising opportunities. Not all freshwater canals are part of this chain. Know before you buy! Boat launches are easily assessable to put your boat on a trailer and travel with it to other fishing sites.
Salt Water boaters can see the world! They also have higher boat maintenance. Engines must be flushed with fresh water and boats hosed down after a day cruise. Most boaters have electric lifts and/or bottom painted boats to prevent barnacles. Saltwater canals are affected by the tides (vary 12-20”). Winter tides can be even lower due to NE winds. Larger vessels with more than 4’ drafts need to be aware of low tides. The City of Cape Coral does a good job of dredging canals to maintain depths of 6.5’ to 7’ in center but canals are variable.
All saltwater canals lead to the Gulf, but getting to the river is key. Some locations are 45-60 minutes cruise time (no wake). Once you reach the Caloosahatchee River, you can go North through the Franklin Locks into Lake Okeechobee to Stuart Florida on the Atlantic coast. Or, take a day cruise to Fort Myers Beach, Naples or the barrier islands (Sanibel, Captiva, Useppa, Cabbage Key, etc.) via the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Tie up and have lunch at Bert’s Bar in Matlacha or at other casual dining places in St. James City, Pine Island. Discover restaurants and shelling beaches that can only be accessed by boat. Key West is 3 hours on charter jet boat; 5 hours by smaller watercraft. The world is at your boat dock!
Even if you are not a boater, saltwater home ownership has best re-sale. Size of canal is naturally a factor. Canals are 80’, 100-150’, 200’ with intersecting views most desirable.
What Floats Your Boat?
First, consider the type and size of your watercraft before property shopping.
Sailboats: If you are a sailor, you will want unrestricted river access; no bridges. Mast height is also important behind the lock system in the SW quadrant due to utility wires over the Spreader Canal. Ask about canal depths and tides. Bridges connecting Cape Coral and Fort Myers have a 56’ clearance, so if your mast is 60’or higher keep this in mind.
Power boats: Local maps indicate all bridge heights in the saltwater system. From 8.5’ to 11.25’ the canals can accommodate most power boats but take into account heights if your boat has a flying bridge.
Second, know the lock system: The one lock system is located at Cape Harbour off Chiquita Blvd in the SW quadrant. (Other locks have been removed). If you buy a saltwater home behind the lock, expect a wait to get through the lock. In season with many watercrafts, the wait will be longer. But while you are waiting your turn, focus on Cape Harbour with its Funky Fish Houses and Rum Runners Restaurant. Lot’s more about Cape Harbour on another page.
Third, what are Weirs? Clearly marked on Cape Coral maps, these structures separate fresh water canals from saltwater canals. Similar to dead end streets.
Special notes from the Captain
- The ICW is maintained by the US Federal Government. US Coast Guard station is at Fort Myers Beach. Unless your boat is equipped with depth sounders and navigational maps, stay in the channel and closely follow markers. If you are new to saltwater boating, I strongly suggest that you take the Coast Guard Smart Boating Class offered by the Cape Coral Power Squadron. (Believe me, I was a Great Lakes boater all my life and was out of my comfort zone until my wife and I passed this course!)
- Don’t skip towing insurance which costs about $179/yr. A single tow without insurance can run $800. “Sea Tow” and I are on a first name basis!
- Manatee Zones: watch your speed! The waters are patrolled and you will be ticketed for ignoring the signs. Ignorance is not an excuse for not following the rules.
- Shallow water: stay in the channels or risk grounding your boat!
- Please be a courteous boater. Give consideration to smaller watercraft.
- Rent a boat and preview properties from the water before you buy!
- Hire a Realtor who is a boater!
How to choose waterfront property
At the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself: Hire a Realtor who has boating experience! Now, let’s begin…. Cape Coral is divided into quadrants (SE, SW, NE, NW).
This area was the first to be developed in the late 1950’s. Homes were designed for Northern retirees; most have 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, (1,100 sq. ft) and one car garages. Standard home site is 80’ X 125’. Most have seen either extensive upgrades or have been razed for McMansions. Expect to pay $200K+ for a “fixer” home in this most desirable waterfront/river access location. Lot prices alone will be minimum of $200K. Many of the home sites are sailboat access. All lots North of Cape Coral Pkwy and East of Del Prado Blvd are direct (no bridges) access. Many home sites South of Cape Coral Pkwy and West also have direct access. The Cape Coral Yacht and Racquet Club, Beach and Fishing Pier are popular SE attractions. We take the grandkids here to picnic and swim when we are too lazy to drive 20 minutes to Fort Myers Beach or Sanibel. (How lazy is that?) This entire area is scheduled for re-development in the near future. Also located in the SE is the original downtown with many small businesses and restaurants. Annually, there are two major juried art festivals, parades, cardboard boat races, 4th of July fireworks, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas Boat Parade, and the famous Farmer’s Market. We don’t need a reason to have fun we just need more time!
In the 1980’s when the young Northern families discovered affordable waterfront living, they flocked like birds to the Sunshine State. Median age is now 43 (did I already say that?) “Move over retirees, we are here to stay!” Adding to the population were our Canadian and European friends, and soon the community began growing like a beanstalk. The city spread westward with new infrastructure, seawalls and gated communities!
Tarpon Pointe is a gated village of luxury high rise condos, garden villas, and The Westin Cape Coral Resort. Amenities include fine dining, tiki bar, shops, club house with fitness room and pools, plus a deep water marina. High rise prices: 3BR/Den/3Bath, 3000 sq.ft. expect to pay $650K+. Garden Villas: 3BR/3.5Bath, 3000 sq.ft. starting at $375K+. Surrounding Tarpon Pointe is the Rose Garden area with many lovely single family waterfront homes.
Cape Harbour is both people friendly and private. The public is welcome at Rum Runners restaurant for fine dining with view of the boat lock. You are invited to stroll the Mediterranean style waterfront shops, outdoor bar, marina and Funky Fish Houses. Quite often there is live music, big screen sports tv and a farmer’s market on Saturdays. Overlooking the activity are high rise condominiums for sale. $280K for 2/2, 1365 sq.ft.
The private area is a gated community of single family waterfront homes with direct access to the river through the lock. $600K to 1.6M.
This small gated enclave of exclusive waterfront homes is within walking distance to Cape Harbour. All home sites are sailboat access. Prices begin at $1.5M
FRESH WATER GATED
Discover this lovely little gated treasure! 101 homes in this very private community on Weatherly Lake offers a private beach w/fishing pier, community pool, and playground. City water and sewers with all assessments paid. Created by Avatar Builders in 1999, the mostly 2BR + den villas appeal to busy, working couples and small families. Sidewalks and compact sites create a family friendly atmosphere. HOA fees are only $150.00/month and includes all lawn care ground maintenance. Floor plans vary from 1500 to 2100 sq ft with prices ranging from $120K -$160K. Pay just under $200K for a 3BR/2BATH 1500 sq ft. home on the lake.
FRESH WATER CHAIN OF LAKES
Leave Weatherly Lake via canal and enter the Chain ‘O Lakes fresh water system that joins six lakes for 30+ miles of inland boating and fishing. This unique waterway lies in the heart of Cape Coral joining the SE and SW quadrants. The lowest bridge is 6.5’ and will accommodate most small watercraft. One of the easiest ways to identify location of the different lakes is by Unit #:
Weatherly Lake Unit 62
Alhambra Lake Unit 28
Lake Kennedy Unit 29
Lake Saratoga Unit 23
Shamrock Lake Unit 16
Killarney Lake Unit 16
Home prices vary according to size of home, size of lot, view. Overall, prices still lower than salt water locations.
NON GATED, SEMI-PRIVATE SALT WATER
Known locally as the original Gold Coast, these non-gated residential neighborhoods align the East side of Del Prado Blvd from Cape Coral Pkwy north to Veterans Pkwy. These semi-private communities have designated areas and entryways; all the waterfront homes have direct sailboat (no bridges) river access. Convenient walking distance to shopping, schools, restaurants. Very small annual dues cover landscaping of the boulevards. These communities were designed without curbs for a more informal atmosphere. In all of these communities you are paying for location!
Savona, Palaco Grande and Cornwallis
Most homes were built in the mid 1970’s to 1980’s. A 3BR/2Bath 1500 sq.ft “fixer upper” (built in 1974) recently sold for $207,500. Sale price for home built in 1990 with 3BR/2Bath, 1653 sq.ft. was $310K. New construction 4BR/3.5 Bath, 3100 sq.ft on a triple lot just sold for $770K.
The new Gold Coast Estates
This salt water area is located adjacent to the Mid Point Bridge off Everest Pkwy and features many riverfront homes. Nice laid back family community where boating is the main attraction.
There is a public boat launch and park at the end of Everest Pkwy. Expect to pay in the high $200K for a modest home to over $1 M for riverfront.
NW Quadrant Salt Water Access
Closest access to the ICW is through Matlacha Pass and into Pine Island Sound. You will find newer homes on well and septic in this area. If you appreciate more open spaces you will like this still developing area. Take a day cruise to Matlacha for lunch at Bert’s Bar. Browse the small artist boutiques of this little “Key West” village. Back in NW Cape Coral you will find convenient shopping and the semi-private Royal Tee Golf Course.
Condo living is a lifestyle choice and Cape Coral has many from which to choose. Before you purchase, review the “condo docs (documents)” and know the Rules and Regulations. Most condo associations are very strict and you will be uncomfortable if you cannot follow rules. The upside is controlled maintenance, noise levels, pet limits, guest restrictions, lease or no lease policies. Most of the worry of Florida living is eliminated by having an association in control.
For affordable salt water living, boaters flock to Beach Parkway on Del Prado Blvd. Beach Parkway ends at Jaycee Park on the river with playgrounds, picnic tables, walking trails, and the occasional festival. This affordable avenue is lined with low rise (1-3 levels), mid-rise (4-7 levels) and high-rise (8+ levels). Scattered among these are a few older attached villa homes. Most were built mid 1970 – 1985 with some newer construction interspersed. Expect to pay $90K for 1100 sq.ft. 2BR/2Bath with carport, $200K for 3BR/2Bath. Again, here you are paying for location to river, plus amenities like carports, garages, community pools and/or club houses. A newer condo (2007) 3BR/2Bath/2 car garage, 1662’ will run $327,500.
For more upscale condo living, I refer back to the SW resort communities of Tarpon Pointe and Cape Harbour.