Their back yards are their portals to the world.
With so many of its homes on the water, the New Port Richey community of Gulf Harbors offers its residents quick access to the Gulf of Mexico.
"The dream we sell is the dream we live," Gulf Harbors Woodlands resident Chris Belloise, a real estate agent, said as he stood on the dock behind his house and pointed toward the Gulf of Mexico.
"You can leave your back yard and go anywhere," he said.
Gulf Harbors has easy access on land, too. Located in western Pasco County, it is about 45 minutes from Tampa and Clearwater Beach.
Gulf Harbors has three sections anchored by two large east-west channels, each with smaller feeder canals. Like many older gulf-front communities, the neighborhoods were built by dredging and filling. This area was limestone, and the rocks that dot the area are a testament to its past.
And whether a buyer has $100,000 or $3 million, there are homes available, said Belloise, who owns Belloise Realty with his wife, Beth.
The oldest section, Gulf Harbors, has about 2,000 homes and was built in the early 1960s. Smaller homes line the streets of its entrance off U.S. 19. Some of these, on 40-foot lots, are on the water. As you approach the westernmost shore and the gulf, homes get larger and more beautiful.
At the southern tip of Gulf Harbors, in an area dubbed "South Beach," are homes with stunning 270-degree views of the gulf.
Steve and Kyle Kummer live in one with their three children, Ethan, 12, Preston, 10, and Sloane, 9. From their back windows, one can see their canal and boat dock. The front windows frame the gulf.
The Kummers said that when they moved to Florida from New Jersey seven years ago, they knew they wanted to live near the water. They started looking for homes in Venice and moved their way up the coast until they found Gulf Harbors. They lived in the Woodlands section before moving into their home three years ago.
The Woodlands is the second oldest section of Gulf Harbors; it was built in the late 1960s and early '70s, Belloise said. It has approximately 375 homes.
The third section, Sea Forest, features about 550 homes built in the 1980s and '90s. These two more recently built sections feature underground electrical. Sea Forest is also on the water, but farther down the channel system, farther from the gulf and therefore less expensive.
HOA fees vary in the communities that comprise Gulf Harbors. Residents pay from $100 in Gulf Harbors to about $500 in the Woodlands and Sea Forest.
Part of the discrepancy is that there are community pools and tennis courts in the Woodlands and Sea Forest but not in Gulf Harbors itself.
A small beach with picnic pavilions and grills is available to everyone for a fee of $120 a year. There is also a yacht club that anyone can join, whether they are residents of Gulf Harbors or not.
Patti Ewald is a freelance writer based in Gulfport. She can be reached at [email protected]