The Cape Haze peninsula south of Englewood has been a popular place for thousands of years. Native Americans, including the Calusa and Timucua tribes, took advantage of the mild climate and ample fishing grounds and thrived until the arrival of Europeans.
In 1881, tool-maker and Florida land baron Hamilton Disston purchased much of the land (he later went broke). Then, from 1905 to 1909, the Charlotte Harbor Railroad completed tracks south to Boca Grande for the hauling of phosphate for loading aboard ships.
Small fishing and farming settlements continued to grow on Cape Haze. But from a real estate perspective, things really took off in the early 1950s, when Alfred and William Vanderbilt, sons of the famous railroad magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, bought 35,000 acres. They initially planned to use the area as a cattle ranch, but they also had it platted, constructed seawalls and used fill to create canals and the current lay of the land.
In 1961, the Vanderbilt brothers sold what is now Cape Haze West to the Kavanaugh Leasing Co. for further development. Most of the ground-level, block-style homes — Florida ranches — were built then.
Today, the community covers the area from the Intracoastal Waterway to Placida Road, the main thoroughfare of Cape Haze, with Green Dolphin Drive and Spyglass Alley marking the norther boundary; Gaspar Drive represents the southern border.
The main entrance off Placida Road, Cape Haze Drive, leads to a bridge and a separate peninsula with plenty of waterfront property. There are mangrove islands in the surrounding canal, and mature palms, oak trees, and lush shrubbery give the neighborhood a distinctly “old Florida” feel.
Pelican Bay and the canals provide sheltered docking, making Cape Haze West an ideal boating community. The environs are a maritime playground and fishing paradise. There are all kinds of places to explore with canoes and kayaks. Tarpon, redfish, mackerel, pompano and snook abound in Gasparilla Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
“I love the area,” says Carol Stewart, a broker-associate with Michael Saunders & Co. “We owned land there for years — it’s heaven. It’s quiet and private. We don’t have U.S. 41, so there is definitely a slower pace of life.”
Lots are generous in size — at least a half-acre. Some of the waterfront properties cover more than an acre. Many of the original Florida ranch-style houses are still standing. “They’re very popular and many have been remodeled,” says Stewart.
There also have been a number of teardowns, especially on the water, with vintage houses replaced by larger, million-dollar-plus homes.
Stewart’s listing at 50 Buccaneer Bend, for example, was built in 2005 by a local contractor for himself and his family. Priced at $1.45 million, the four-bedroom, single-story, waterfront luxury home has a fireplace with a coral stone mantle, a rooftop deck, Brazilian cherry wood floors, and plantation shutters and transom windows throughout, as well as a dock with two lifts. “It’s all very special,” says Stewart.
Residents in Cape Haze West are mostly retirees, many of them snowbirds, with some families and children. The district schools are Vineland Elementary, L.A. Aigner Middlle and Lemon Bay High.
At some point the Cape Haze Property Owners Association had a clubhouse and community swimming pool, but sold them, keeping only a small parcel that provides community access to the beach. Voluntary CHPOA fees are $425 a year.
The association still owns beachfront property on Pedro Island, the key on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway. All neighborhood residents can use the it and the community dock. “It’s just a 5-minute jaunt north by boat, and from there a short walk over to the Gulf and the beach,” says Stewart.
Other nearby amenities include a Publix supermarket and the U.S. Post Office right across the street from the community’s entrance on Placida Road. Scenic restaurants like The Fishery, a picturesque old fish house dating back to the 1940s, are just down the road. Englewood and Boca Grande beaches are within easy driving distance.
About a dozen golf courses, including The Coral Creek Club to the south, are within a 30-minute driving distance. For cultural activities, downtown Venice and Port Charlotte provide ample opportunities.
In the past year, 11 properties have sold, ranging in price from $379,000 to $1.27 million. Currently, eight listings are active, priced from $410,000 to $2.795 million.
There are also 12 empty lots still available, starting at $59,000. Most of the rest are in the low $100,000s, and one prime waterfront lot is listed at $975,000.