At the southern tip of Florida, the land is dotted with the dripping trees and sawgrass prairies of the Everglades. This fertile landscape snakes up the west coast and stops at pristine beaches, creating climates and landscapes known as some of the most desirable in the United States. Combine this with beautiful weather and a hint of adventure, and it’s not too surprising that the Sunshine State is the biggest marketplace for vacant land in the United States.
But not all locations are equal within this vast market. Below are a few of the biggest sub-markets, all of which capitalize on the unique landscape of this great state.
Lee County is located in the southwest of Florida, right on the Gulf. This stunning area has nearly 9000 vacant land listings on Landwatch.com, making it the largest marketplace for vacant land in Florida.
So why is this county so popular? Well, world class beaches for one. The major attractions in the area are the three islands of Sanibel, Cayo Costa and Pine Island, which boast of bathtub-warm waters and unusual seashells. But the beaches in Lee County are not only for sun bathers – Lee County also has 40 miles of beach habitat suitable for sea turtle nesting, and each year thousands of hatch-lings successfully make it to the Gulf! Add sunsets that are to die for and it’s really no wonder that so many people want to buy vacation properties in the area.
Charlotte County sits right above Lee County and is the second largest marketplace for vacant land in Florida. It has about half the number of vacant land listings on Landwatch as Lee County, which still makes it quite a large sub-market.
Given its proximity to Lee County, Charlotte County counts many of the same attractions as its neighbor. On top of that, Charlotte County is also home to two nature reserves, the Fred C Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Reserve and the Babcock Ranch Reserve. The Babcock Ranch Reserve was the largest purchase of land for conservation in the history of the Florida and the Fred C. Babcock Wildlife Reserve is one of the last undeveloped expanses of wet pine flatlands in Southwest Florida. Both places are prime spots for hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing.
If that isn’t enough, Charlotte Harbor is also home to unspoiled mangrove forests. These fascinating ecosystems straddle the boundary between saltwater and freshwater ecosystems. They house many species, such as Florida panthers, bald eagles, bobcats, dolphins and manatees. Like the Everglades to the South, Charlotte Harbor is a place with truly unique wildlife, making it another big marketplace for vacation homes.
Collier County is right below Lee County (seeing a pattern?). Like Charlotte and Lee County, Collier is a waterfront area in the southwest of Florida. The entire eastern portion of the county is covered by the Big Cyrus National Preserve. Part of the larger Everglades ecosystem, Big Cyrus became a national park in the 1970s after much effort on the part of conservationists. Today the preserve is a great place for hiking, canoeing and off-roading. Like the reserves in Charlotte County, you will find river otter, bobcats, black bear and the Florida panther in Big Cyrus.
Beginning in 2002, Collier County embarked on a green space acquisition program to preserve more of the area’s unique habitat. The program slowed down after the Great Recession, but shows a unique commitment to conservation that should interest those who want to be near the great outdoors.
Full of gently rolling hills and bordered by three large lakes, Marion County is a different world from Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. It is a place for horse-back riding and ranching. Home to over 600 horse farms, Marion County has been called the Horse Capital of the World and is the wild west of the tropics.
Horse country gives way to the Ocala National Forest in western Marion County. This area is the southernmost forest in the United States and the largest sand pine scrub forest in the world. An opposing sister to the mangrove, the sand pine reaches thin fingers to the sky, leaving plenty of space on the floor to ride or hike through the scrub-lands.
Since it is to the north-center of the country, hurricanes are not as great of an issue as in Florida’s southwest. So for those who don’t care as much about vacationing near the beach, Marion County is a safe and beautiful alternative to the southern counties of Florida.
From these four examples, you can see Florida is just a treasure trove of nature. No wonder it’s a prime market for vacant land! So go ahead and shop around for your very own Florida hideaway.