The Beach, the Bay and the Back-country of Florida

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Photo: Kelly Dean

The Beach, the Bay and the Back-country of Florida

Kelly Dean

When people move to Florida, they are generally relocating to change their life. They want to live the lifestyle that marketers call “paradise” with lapping waves and orange sunsets. They envision themselves living on a beach, taking strolls, shelling each day and drinking mimosas each night. “Oh that must be the life,” they say.

But paradise is expensive, folks. Not everyone has 30 years worth of equity in a business to liquidate for Fun in the Sun fantasies toward the end of their life. That is the essence of retirement, but not everyone is equally prepared.

It isn’t fair one must work their whole life to earn enough to kick back, especially so close to death. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to take advantage of it before you’re too old? Perhaps so, but there’s different kinds of paradise in Florida. In general terms, there’s the beach, the bay and the back-country. Understanding each will help you decide where you want to live.

The beach possibly leads all fantasies when it comes to a potential lifestyle change. The aforementioned walking on the beach in the sunset is often the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they have just taken that ass-chewing from the boss. That night, while seeking out voodoo dolls on the internet, your hitting the content pages seeking out information about beach living. Because these are written by marketers, they will make it sound easy. But here’s the truth.

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Copyright Kelly Dean 2016

The Beach

Generally, the closer you live to the water, the more expensive it is. Everyone says, “Well, all I need is a condo or even a trailer and I will be happy.” Fact is those condos and trailers still cost right at $300,000 to start, and most are 40 years old and stacked on top of each other. Rent for these shacks start at about $1500 per month, at this writing. And that’s starting – meaning there’s one listed – on that particular beach – at that price – right now.

Visiting the beach is not entirely inexpensive either. If you’re not too tired from working all week, you’re best to get to the beach early in the morning before 10 a.m. In Florida, there is no state income tax, so revenue is generated through tolls, along with other revenue. Tolls are nothing new, even to states with taxes, but before you get to walk on the beach, you often have to cross a bridge or take a highway to get there. The highway toll varies of course, but many of the bridges will relieve you of six to eight bucks, just to cross the bridge. If you get to the beach early enough and find a parking space, there is usually an eight-dollar fee there too. So, before you even get off the parking lot and stick your toe in the sand, you’ve already spent about $16. Yikes. Statewide toll passes save some money on the roads, but seldom apply a discount to bridges.

It’s a good idea to know a few things about fitting in at the beach. But that’s another article.

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Photo: Copyright Kelly Dean 2016

The Bay

The bay life is for folks whose Florida fantasy is boating or fishing more than sand. There’s a lot of “Old Florida” here. These areas cost nearly as much as living directly on the beach but there is less sand associated with the water around inlets, canals and barrier islands – there are seawalls and mangroves and lawns.

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Copyright Kelly Dean 2016

Canals exist all over Florida, creating a great deal of waterfront property, but still the price is about beach-like. The canal communities developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s are a touch of Old Florida and popular among the locals –- just imagine Dean Martin crooning in the background. There are plenty of new Mediterranean-style new homes, but nothing has the pastiche of Old Florida.

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Copyright Kelly Dean 2016

The Back-country

OK, it’s not really “back-country” but the alliteration with beach and bay was too irresistible. This is the area for people whose fantasy is simply the warmth and the sun, which is everywhere, of course. This is where most people in Florida live, because the cost of living directly on the water is too prohibitive for most. And although most of Florida lives near the coasts in theory, it really isn’t that misleading because most of Florida’s center is within 60 miles of the coast.

That’s because most of Florida is about 120 miles wide (math, go figure). Here is where the working class folks live: the salt of the earth, because you can’t afford the salt of the ocean. They are still attracted to the tropical climate yet still within driving distance to the beach or the bay.

It’s less expensive to live in the back-country, with home costs only slightly higher than cost of comparable homes nationwide. Golf course resort living is in this category as well.

So living in Florida is not necessarily cost prohibitive, depending upon where you choose live and where you are in your career curve. You must simply decide what lifestyle you are seeking. I know, not that simple, right?

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