Cape Coral is a 120 square mile parcel of land on the southwest Gulf coast of Florida, sitting in between Tampa and Key West. The town was started in the 1960s by developers who engineered land where there was once only swamp.
One of the defining characteristics of Cape Coral has been rapid growth; the population of 10K in 1970 has exploded to over 250K today. In 2019, a government report showed the Cape Coral area as being the 7th fastest growing city in the country.
Below, we’ll take a look at what is attracting so many folks to the town of Cape Coral.
10 Pros of Living in Cape Coral, Florida
#1: Water, Water, Everywhere
Cape Coral has over 400 miles of man-made canals running through every part of the city; that is more canals than any other city in the world, including Venice. Loving water is basically a requirement if you want to live on the Cape because everything you do in the city will be on or near water. Residents can enjoy unlimited amounts of boating, fishing, and nature viewing.
#2: Stay Close to Nature
The Cape has four nature parks dotted around the city. Whether by foot or kayak, you can see all of the animals that call the Cape home: endangered manatees, alligators, osprey, gopher tortoises, yellow-crowned night herons, and many more. The local area is saturated with state parks and preserves, mangrove forests, and patches of cyprus. Go for the day or camp out for several.
The Cape Coral area experiences 355 days of sunshine every year, but it also gets some rain on 145 days of the year. It is the perfect combination of sun and rain to keep the area lush with green. Summers do get hot and humid with highs in the 90s, but the winters are a wonderful and dry 60-70 degrees.
#4: Housing Options for Every Budget
The developers at the Cape didn’t just build cookie-cutter identical homes or giant McMansions. There is a wide range of housing options to choose from. Multi-family homes and apartments can be found for around $100K and single-family homes start around $175K. There are luxury homes topping $6 million, and everything in between. The Cape always has a large supply of houses on the market, and they are steadily building more. While 75% of Cape residents own their homes, there is also a huge selection of rentals available at a variety of price points.
#5: Low Crime Rate
The Cape receives an A+ rating for crime levels. Its violent crime is 69% lower than the national average, and property crime is 47% lower.
#6: Good Schools
The schools in the Cape area also have a decent reputation, scoring a bit higher on tests than Florida and national averages. The Cape has 13 public schools and 10 private schools within town limits. The Cape population is also relatively educated with 40% of residents having high school diplomas, and 53% have some form of college education.
#7: This is Not an Age-Restricted Community
Unlike other popular Florida cities, like The Villages, most of the Cape does not have an age restriction. If you really want to live in an age-restricted community then there are a few such neighborhoods available within the Cape, but the vast majority of homes are sold with no age conditions.
#8: There are a Variety of Homeowner Association Options
Despite being a planned community, the Cape does not have a ton of really crazy HOA rules. Each neighborhood of the Cape has chosen whether or not to have an HOA, and what the rules will be. You will find plenty of housing options whether you want complete freedom or complete perfection.
#9: The Cape Has a World-Class Water Treatment Plant
Due to climate change and overuse, parts of the world are going to be running low on drinkable water one day. Cape Coral is ahead of much of the world as it currently operates the largest low-pressure reverse osmosis plant in the world. Using 55 wells dug 800 feet deep into the Upper Floridan Aquifer, the plant pulls up water that is a mix of fresh and saltwater, then forces it through a reverse osmosis process to produce pure freshwater.
#10: Cape Lawns are Always Green
In addition to having a best-in-class drinkable water plant, the city also has one of the most robust water reclamation and irrigation systems. The city not only provides drinking water and sewer services to homes but also provides irrigation water. This is done to stop homeowners from using valuable drinkable water for their lawns.
Wastewater from the city sewer system is pushed through a reclamation plant, where it is turned into non-drinkable irrigation water, which is then sent through the pipes to irrigate homes.
The city also makes good use of its freshwater canals, which serve as water reservoirs for additional irrigation water, if needed. If mother nature doesn’t keep the canals filled, then the city can pump water into them.
Related: Safe Beach Towns in Florida
5 Cons of Living in Cape Coral, Florida
Since its creation in the 1960s, the Cape has grown rapidly thanks to the zealous marketing of all the good things about the Cape, and that marketing trend continues today. There are undeniable benefits of living in Cape Coral, but there are also some facts that are not advertised on the government-produced brochures.
#1: Cape Coral is One Hurricane Away From Complete Destruction
The coastal wetlands of Florida, held strong by the roots of mangrove trees, are designed by nature to absorb the impact of storms. The original developers of the Cape destroyed that swampland and its mangrove trees, leaving the homes of Cape residents unprotected from a major storm.
The land of Cape Coral is 5.5 feet above sea level. A Category 2 hurricane can bring a storm surge of 6-8 feet, while a Category 5 storm surge can be above 20 feet (Hurricane Katrina storm surge was 28 feet).
Given this simple math, it is no wonder that flood studies show Cape Coral has more properties at substantial risk of flooding than any other place in the nation:
- Studies show that 87% of Cape Coral’s 120K homes are currently at risk
- and by 2050, that number will increase to 97% of properties.
The Cape is literally the worst place in America when it comes to a risk of a devastating flood. As climate change increases sea levels and strengthens hurricanes, the chances of the Cape being wiped off the map get worse every year.
#2: The Waters of Cape Coral Get Polluted
Man has spent the last 90-years aggressively farming and developing the land around Lake Okeechobee. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that this shallow lake is now polluted with herbicide, pesticide, and manure run-off.
During the summer months, the polluted Lake produces a huge amount of blue-green algae, covering 2/3 (500 square miles) of the lake. These algae are considered toxic and the human population is advised to stay away from the lake waters during these times.
Due to increased rainfall and hurricanes, the Lake waters have been rising. To relieve the pressure on the dikes and dams, and to prevent catastrophic flooding, the Army Corp of Engineers occasionally releases the floodgates, emptying the water to the Gulf via the manmade Okeechobee Waterway and Caloosahatchee River.
Put the two facts together and, pretty much every summer, the Corp sends polluted, toxic, blue-green algae-infested water down the Caloosahatchee River, and into the canals of Cape Coral.
As the freshwater blue-green algae decay, it feeds a bloom of saltwater red algae along the coast (aka The Red Tide). These red algae are also toxic to humans, and the toxic mix of algae sometimes makes national news when reports come out of flesh-eating bacteria being discovered.
Folks considering moving to the Cape may have their summer boating plans complicated by the algae situation, and even worse, may be living in a house that is surrounded by toxic algae with unknown long-term health impacts.
#3: Cape Coral Consists Almost Entirely of Houses
Moving away from concerns about mother nature, we will discuss a different human decision that may impact the lives of folks considering moving to the Cape.
The original developers made a lot of money selling “waterfront” houses in the Cape. There are houses, houses, everywhere.
They designed the Cape area to hold mostly houses and encouraged folks to travel over the bridge to Fort Meyer for all of their employment and commercial needs. The Cape spent much of its history with nearly 100% residential zoning.
The situation in the 120 square mile town has improved a bit, as city planners have learned people will only drive so far for their basic needs. In 2013, the Cape was 92% residential and today it is 88%. Most healthy cities aim for a maximum of 70%, so the Cape has a lot more work to do to convert residential land into commercial and attract businesses.
One of the reasons the Cape has not attracted a lot of big business is because they have already crammed houses onto every inch of prime land. For example, it took the town 10 years to purchase the property needed to build a Target within the community.
Other reasons why businesses have not come to this fast-growing city are because the town did not have a robust water and sewer system until the 90s, and even today, this system only covers the southern half of the town (the open land that has room for development sits in the north).
Lastly, the town does not have a major tourist destination, does not have direct access to an interstate, and doesn’t even have a Gulf-coast beach. All of these things exist in the nearby town of Fort Myers, so businesses end up investing in that city instead.
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#4: Cape Coral Traffic is Bad
Considering the Cape is a town with limited commercial real estate, it is no wonder that Cape residents are highly dependent on vehicles to meet their daily needs.
The town was originally built without sidewalks, though the town has made a large investment to build them in the last two decades. Currently, the southern area of town is well covered with sidewalks. However, the north, where all of the new development is occurring, has few pedestrian walkways. Bike lanes are also lacking, covering only the major arteries in the south. This has earned the Cape a dismal walkability score of just 17 out of 100, and a bike score of only 39 out of 100.
All residents need cars and they all want to drive over the bridges into St. Meyers. As a result, the traffic in this 120 square mile town is the 7th worst in the nation, up there with San Francisco and Miami, and worse than Tampa Bay and Orlando.
To get to their jobs, Cape residents have the longest commute time in the state of Florida, at 28 minutes each way. For comparison, the average New York City worker travels 35 minutes each way.
And an insurance analysis of traffic incidents (i.e. accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations) puts the Cape at the 4th worst driving city in Florida.
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#5: Cape Coral Can Be A Bit Boring
A Yelp search for “fun things to do at night” leads to a variety of options over in Fort Myers, with the Top 15 destinations being over the bridge. The local Cape area offers a movie theatre, a bowling alley, and a Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park, all rating an unimpressive 3 out of 5 stars.
The alcohol-friendly locations appear to be clustered in a small area of the southeast that is promoted by the government as being “downtown”. Searches for local dance clubs and nightclubs within town limits come up empty.
There is one youth sporting complex in the 120-square mile town, featuring four baseball fields, five softball fields, and five soccer fields.
And for a town that advertises itself as being the water capital of the world, it is surprising to find just one small public beach, which borders the (sometimes polluted) Caloosahatchee River, and not the blue waters of the (sometimes polluted) Gulf.
Rest assured, there are lots of fun things to do as a Cape resident, as long as you are willing to sit in traffic and make the 30+ minute drive outside of town.
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