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A Working Fishing Village on Florida's Balmy Gulf Coast, Cortez has an Old Florida Feeling and a Mellow, Margaritaville Attitude
Just west of Bradenton and protected by a barrier island, Cortez dates from the 1880s and is a quaint, working fishing village, one of the last on Florida's southwestern Gulf Coast. It sits on the north side of Sarasota Bay, and its waterfront is peppered with commercial fishing boats. Many of its fishing families have lived here for generations.
N.E. Taylor Boatworks, a full service boatyard, has been in Cortez since the 1920s, and the fish markets that sell daily catches of snapper, shrimp and grouper to local restaurants have been in business for nearly a century (the Star Fish Company in particular receives rave reviews). Chain restaurants, fancy hotels and trendy stores are not here. Instead, the village has an Old Florida feeling, with quirky nautical shops, bait stands, ramshackle seafood shacks and a Margaritaville attitude. Flip flops and shorts are standard attire, and Blue herons keep watch on the dock while pelicans strut along the pier. The white columned Florida Maritime Museum attracts a few tourists with its local artifacts, and the two day Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival each winter brings out about 15,000 people for food, music and beer.
Not much else happens in Cortez, and the Cortez Village Historical Society works to ensure that the village maintains its mellow way of life and historical integrity. Many homes are bungalows from the 1920s, and there are also some very expensive contemporary residences, particularly in gated Harbour Landings.
Population: 5,500 (city proper)
Percentage of Population Age 45 or Better: 75%
Cost of Living: 22% above national average
Median Home Price: $475,000
Climate: Cortez experiences a humid subtropical climate. Winter temperatures are in the 50s, 60s and low 70s, and summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. On average, the area receives 52 inches of rain per year.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? No, but Blake Medical Center, four miles away in Bradenton, accepts Medicare patients.
At Least One Hospital Accredited by Joint Commission? No, but Blake Medical Center, four miles away in Bradenton, is accredited and is award-winning for patient safety, stroke care, cardiac care and more.
Public Transit: Yes, provided by Manatee County Area Transit System.
Crime Rate: Meets the national average
Public Library No
Political Leanings: Conservative
Is Florida Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Cons: Hurricanes are always a possibility. In fact, Hurricane Ian brushed Cortez in 2022 and brought some flooding but little heavy damage.
Notes: Residents travel to Bradenton, which borders Cortez, for services and shopping. Cortez has grown 20% during the last decade. Home prices have decreased 10% since a year ago.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Sticking out into Hurricane Alley, Florida was a land no nation seemed to want. Ruled successively by Spain, France, England, and the Confederate States of America, the state had a backwater reputation. Other than St. Augustine and Pensacola, there were few cities. The area was rural and populated by frontier farmers.
In the late-1800s, changes came when railroads began chugging down both coasts. Industrialist Henry Flagler's Florida Easy Coast Railway even made it all the way to Key West. The Great Florida Land Boom, the build-up to World War II, and the space industry also helped turn Florida into one of the nation's most populous states. In 1900, there were about 500,000 residents. Today, there are more than 20 million, almost 351 people per square mile.
Why do people keep coming? Tourism marketing is one reason. Annually, millions visit Orlando's theme parks and the state's 663 miles of white sand beaches. Taxes generated by the billion dollar vacation industry allow Florida to prosper without a personal income tax. Budget-sensitive retirees have flocked to its cities and shorelines.
If you can ignore the hurricanes, the state's climate is relatively mild. Only five other states are sunnier. Florida's system of state universities and community colleges is sizable, and its big cities are meccas for culture and the arts. Sarasota is a good example. Its Ringling Museum Complex contains internationally known art museum, a circus museum, an historic theater, and a 66-acre garden. Museums near Orlando range from a Zora Neale Hurston gallery to a Madame Tussauds.
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