Our lake in fog, New Years dawn 2012









Welcome to the Southwest Florida Survival Guide

I suggest you bookmark this site right away.  You can always delete it if it turns out it’s not your cup of tea…. We use a lot of links, which we use like footnotes because they’re easier to manage, and would hate to lose you somewhere in the ether.

This site is intended to help you avoid unpleasant surprises and pitfalls when moving to or visiting SW Florida.  Some of the topics covered may be generally applicable to the Gulf Coast and beyond, such as housing issues.  Other information is related to particular localities in Southwest Florida, such as beaches, towns, etc.  We’ll try to let you know when something pops up that may/may not be unique to this area.

But all is not gloom and doom. We’ll do some things just for fun and try to keep you up to date with current trends and events in the blog section of the site.

Southwest Florida is that part of Florida south of, roughly, Bradenton/ Sarasota and west of the Miami area.  Sarasota and Manatee counties , located west of DeSoto county, are more properly viewed as a part of the Tampa Bay area which we consider to be in central Florida. I suppose you could get technical and say that DeSoto county west of the Peace River and everything north of Arcadia belongs there too. That’s OK with me but I’m not going to change the following map.

Southwest Florida includes the coastal counties of Charlotte, Lee, and Collier.  The inland counties include DeSoto, Glades, and Hendry. The mainland part of Monroe County, on the tip of the peninsula, is entirely within the boundaries of Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks and has few people: I didn’t include it for those reasons. The rest of Monroe County, where 99% of its people live, consists of the Florida Keys which are not part of our area.  The only mainland town in Monroe County, Flamingo, is accessible by road only from Homestead in southeastern Florida near Miami.

  • I need to inject a comment here. Historically from a cultural perspective, the residents of the keys and coastal areas of South Florida (like Chokoloskee and Everglades City in Collier county, Pine Island in Lee County) have a great deal in common. They’re pretty much a breed apart (see Conch Republic if you don’t believe me).  So, my separation according to mere population size is admittedly arbitrary. But I’m sticking to it.

The bulk of Southwest Florida’s population is located in the coastal counties, which is where our emphasis will be.

Map of Southwest Florida (click to enlarge)

The green part is Everglades National Park. The map omitted the town of Flamingo in Monroe County, almost at the tip of the peninsula. As I said above, you get to it by road from Homestead which is southwest of Miami. It isn’t like Miami: see Conch Republic, again.

Our part of Florida is distinguished from the southeast coast–Miami,  Palm Beach, etc.– as being less urbanized.  The incoming residents are mostly from the Midwest; Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota.  On the other coast, the newcomers are mostly from the northeast. We have our share of night spots, trendy bars and the like but not nearly as many as,  say,  Miami’s South Beach. The pace is slower… less frenetic over here.  Most of us like it that way.  When we don’t, we can always go across I-75 and spend a weekend in Miami or down US 1 to Key West.  That’s about as long as most of us can handle it all.

You will see references to “South Florida” and find that this often refers to the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area with the rest of us pretty well left out.  This is a result of over-population giving rise to an unwarranted imperialism.  We don’t do that.  The east coast of Florida is  “the other coast,” a place you ought to visit at least once, if only to see the bright lights, and to see what happens when northeast culture and Caribbean refugees meet the swamp.  If you like it, stay there as it is unlikely you’ll like it here.   Life is too short to mess around with second guessing yourself.  Forget Flamingo, too. You won’t like it there either.

But for the Everglades forming a natural barrier between the two parts of South Florida, we likely would have been homogenized out of separate existence by now. The ‘Glades are like a moat that way.

Nevertheless, some of the information on this site will be helpful to you, even if you decide to stay on the east coast.  Especially the part about hurricanes.  Some of the real estate buying hints are applicable to the east coast, too.