Florida’s original inhabitants knew a magical place when they saw one.
Tidy Island, on the northern end of Sarasota Bay, has long been a favorite haunt for waterfront dwellers. Archaeological research, preserved in an onsite museum, has artifacts of aboriginal people who lived there from about 500 B.C to 1000 A.D. Over the ensuing centuries, Indians made the island their home.
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The late 1800s saw the establishment of a small farm and temporary shacks by those who wanted to take advantage of rich fisheries in the bay.
Today the island houses a picturesque, private luxury waterfront community, although few area residents know of its existence. The entrance gate on 86th Street, about a mile south of Cortez Road, is surrounded by lush, tropical foliage. After a small bridge and a sweeping curve, the single roadway turns onto Tidy Island Boulevard, which runs for a mile along the southern portion of the island and its resort-style waterfront residences.
Tidy Island has houses, townhouses and condos — 96 living units altogether — all in attractive, island-style architecture. The large, steeple windows, screened-in porches and open lanais provide spectacular views of Sarasota Bay and Longboat Key. The landscaping is exquisite, with numerous palm trees and exotic plants.
Condos and townhouses range in price from the $200,000s to the $600,000s. The 11 estate homes, occupying 3,000 to 6,000 square feet under air, and are valued from $1 million to $3 million.
When the community was developed in the early 1980s, two thirds of the island’s 240 acres were set aside as a protected nature preserve, offering sanctuary to a variety of animals and birds. The National Wildlife Federation has designated Tidy Island a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
There are raised, wooden nature walks through the mangroves and flourishing tropical wetlands, leading to observation piers, where one can sit and watch the fish and dolphins.
Vittoria Rutigliano, an agent with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, loves the island for its privacy, serenity and appealing resort lifestyle.
Her listing, a 4,944-square-foot house at 84 Tidy Island Blvd., is at the very end of the developed part of the island. It has two-story glass windows, a glass elevator and a 260-degree view from the Ringling Bridge in the south to Anna Maria Island across the bay.
“You can have breakfast on the lanai, have your morning coffee and watch the pelicans swoop down to grab their breakfast,” she says. “In the evenings, the sunsets are spectacular.”
Rutigliano also likes the amenities. The community has are two saltwater swimming pools with hot tubs, two Har-Tru tennis courts and a clubhouse with a fitness center and meeting room for the many social events. The island has several access points to the bay for kayaking, canoeing and wind sailing.
Tidy Island is a pet-friendly community; owners walk their dogs at all hours. There are plenty of walkers and bike riders, too.
All of the 96 waterfront residences are maintenance-free, including the 11 million-dollar homes. Fees cover not only the exquisite landscaping, the road and the 24/7 guarded gate, but also the exterior upkeep of the dwellings — including siding, roofs and windows — as well as flood and hurricane insurance.
“When you buy here, you can have peace of mind that it will be maintained while you travel or are away,” says Rutigliano.
The Tidy Island Condominium Association has kept dues stable even during the recent housing downturn and recession. From 2009 to 2012, dues were not raised at all, and over the past seven years they have increased only 2 percent per year.
Residents are a diverse mix of retirees, working professionals, families and a few renters. With the IMG Academy close by, there are also a few sports families.
They appreciate the easy access to the area’s attractions and amenities. Cortez Fishing Village and Anna Maria Island, with its white sand beaches, are only a five-minute drive away. Several golf courses are nearby. For boaters, the Bradenton Beach Marina, which provides dry storage and valet service, is only five minutes away.
Over the past few months, only five Tidy Island homes have sold, ranging in price from $210,000 to $590,000. Currently, the four active listings include a condominium for $365,000 and three homes, from $1,449,000 to $2,995,000. One sale is pending. The association also has 12 buildable sites available.
“Tidy Island is the best-kept secret in West Bradenton,” says Rutigliano.