The area south of Englewood and Rotonda known as Cape Haze, or Placida, encompasses barrier islands and an elongated inland triangle west of Coral Creek.
At its point a long, narrow peninsula marking the beginnings of Gasparilla Sound, reaches all the way south to the causeway leading to Boca Grande.
“I love it here,” says Debi Benson, a broker-associate with Michael Sunders & Co. “There are so many preserves and greenbelt areas that will never be developed that it will keep its old Florida charm for a long time.”
Indeed, Placida has been recognized for its natural beauty and appeal by developers going back more than 130 years, and property values have risen accordingly.
In 1881, Hamilton Disston, a Florida land baron, purchased much of the land from the state for 25 cents an acre. Seventy years later, in the 1950s, the two sons of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt bought land in the area for $40 an acre. By the end of the decade, they had started to develop 30,000 acres.
In 1961, they sold a third of their holdings, including what is now the Cape Haze Windward golf-course community, to General Development Corp. for $400 an acre. Ten years later, Kavanaugh Leasing Corp. purchased the remaining Vanderbilt property for $730 an acre.
Today, vacant inland lots sell for $35,000, and water front and canal properties command $150,000 and more.
Cape Haze Windward, a golf-course community east of Placida Road, the main thoroughfare of the area, was developed in the 1990s. Bounded to the north by Amberjack Environmental Park, and flanked by Coral Creek and Amberjack Creek to the east and west, respectively, it comprises 475 home nestled around the Links Golf Course.
There are single-family residences, patio homes and condos — the latter in two attractive, four-story buildings. The architecture is 1990s Florida modern with barrel-tile roofs and high ceilings.
“Prices vary from the $200,000s to the $600,000s, depending on location — canal, lakefront, greenbelt or overlooking the golf course,” says Benson. Not all lots have been sold, and there is some new construction.
Not all of the residences have been upgraded and renovated. Benson’s listing at 18 Windward Terrace, for example, a three-bedroom home, still has the original kitchen and bathroom, beautifully maintained. Built in 1992, it is priced at $239,900.
The 18-hole, executive golf course was created by links architect John LaFoy, who remodeled Augusta National and has designed and renovated more than 100 courses nationwide. The fairways and greens are molded around a number of scenic lakes — water in one form or another comprises 35 of the 80 overall acres of the community.
The course is open to the public and has a small pro shop. Annual memberships entitle golf enthusiasts to play on four other courses in Rotonda West, as well. Altogether, there are about a dozen golf courses within 30-minute driving distance.
But what has always attracted people to the Cape Haze area, as far back as the indigenous Calusa and Timucua Indian tribes, is the bountiful fishing — tarpon, pompano, redfish, snook and Spanish mackerel. The “World’s Richest” Tarpon Fishing Tournament is an annual event in nearby Boca Grande every May.
While Cape Haze Windward’s waterways are shallow, best suited to kayaks and canoes, residents enjoy plenty of boating opportunities nearby. There are dry docks and marinas all along the Placida corridor. The Freedom Boat Club offers annual membership allowing members to reserve and rent and variety of boats.
According to Benson, most of the residents are older retirees. Many of them are snowbirds whose homes are second or third residences. “But they stay here from four to six months out of the year,” she says.
They all appreciate the many nearby amenities. A Publix supermarket and U.S. Post Office are close to the entrance of the neighborhood, just across Amberjack Creek. Restaurants, including the Fishery, a picturesque old fish house dating back to the 1940s, are just down the road. Englewood and Boca beaches are within easy driving distance.
Over the past 12 months, there have been 21 sales in Cape Haze Windward, ranging in price from $199,894 to $649,900. Currently, 20 homes on the market, from $225,000 to $698,000, and three are under contract.
“This is some of the most affordable, amazing property you’ll find in any area. It you took any of these homes to Sarasota or Tampa, they’d be a lot more expensive,” says Benson.