HOW MANY COMMUNITIES can claim they were once home to a thriving tourist attraction complete with an Indian village, cancan dancers and a dolphin show?
That’s right. Southbay Yacht & Racquet Club, an upscale subdivision of 360 residences on the Intracoastal Waterway just south of Blackburn Point Road, was the home of Floridaland from 1964 to 1971. The dolphin show took place daily in what is now a private 175-slip deepwater marina for the use of homeowners only.
Floridaland failed right around the time Disney World became the center of the tourism universe, but souvenirs from the homespun attraction—Floridaland tea cups, postcards, an advertising brochure—are on display in the Southbay clubhouse.
Sharon Lewis of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty has lived in Southbay for more than 10 years, and was both president of the community association and commodore of its yacht club. “I tell people Southbay is a true neighborhood because of the clubhouse,” she says. “We socialize, people care about each other, we constantly are together. People come and don’t want to leave; many are in their second or third homes here. That says everything.”
Indeed, a recent newsletter promoted everything from beginner kayak lessons and yoga classes to a rock ’n’ roll dance party and the Commodore’s Ball.
Lewis says a home in Southbay can be valued as much as $150,000 more than a comparable home across Tamiami Trail. “As soon as a home hits the market it sells,” she says. That’s especially true for the 24 homes directly on the Intracoastal Waterway. Because they weren’t originally built to the current flood elevation rules, “as soon as someone buys one for over a million dollars, they tear it down and build a much larger one,” she says.
Lots of renovation is going on, too. “I have open houses every Sunday there, and we are so excited whenever we see a dumpster in a driveway,” Lewis says.
People of all ages live here, and longtime community association manager Toni Michel says she’s noting a trend: more families with children. Nearby Pine View School for the academically gifted is a big draw. “The school bus stops right here in front of the clubhouse,” says Michel. And the community recently installed a playground and basketball hoops.