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A Brief Introduction to South Florida


South Florida ” is a generic term defining the 3 adjacent counties stacked along the Atlantic coastline: Dade, Broward, & Palm Beach . They are also known as the “tri-county area”. There are of course several other counties in the state, both North and West of the tri-county area. However when someone speaks of “South Florida” they are usually talking in relation to industry or population; subjects devoid of quantity in the tri-county's neighboring counties.


Geographical :

  • Total Area - 58,560 square miles
  • Total land area - 54,136 square miles
  • Total water area - 4,424 square miles
  • Rank among states in total area - 22nd
  • Length north and south - 447 miles (St. Marys River to Key West)
  • Width east and west - 361 miles (Atlantic Ocean to Perdido River)
  • Distance from Pensacola to Key West - 792 miles (by road)
  • Highest Natural Point - 345 feet
  • Geographic Center - 12 miles northwest of Brooksville, Hernando County
  • Coastline - 1,197 statute miles
  • Tidal shoreline (general) - 2,276 statute miles
  • Beaches - 663 miles
  • Longest River - St. Johns, 273 miles
  • Largest Lake - Lake Okeechobee, 700 square miles
  • Largest county - Palm Beach, 2,578 square miles
  • Smallest county - Union, 245 square miles
  • Number of lakes (greater than 10 acres) - about 7,700
  • Number of islands (greater than 10 acres) - about 4,500

Historical facts :

  • First permanent European settlement - 1565, St. Augustine, by Spain
  • Acquired from Spain as a U.S. Territory - 1821
  • Admitted as 27th state of the U.S. - March 3, 1845

Current facts :

  • Capital - Tallahassee
  • Population 2000 - 15,982,378 (Rank 4th)
  • Population 1990 - 12,937,926
  • Population 1980 - 9,739,992
  • Population growth rate 1990-2000 - 23.53%
  • Most populous metropolitan area 2000 - Miami-Ft. Lauderdale: 3,876,380
  • Number of counties - 67
  • Form of government - Governor and cabinet consisting of Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture
  • State sales tax - 6%
  • State income tax - None
  • Legislature - 120 house districts, 40 senate districts, 25 congressional districts


Before 1920 South Florida was mostly wetlands. Massive drainage projects were undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers, which resulted in an impressive water-movement system. This system consists of hundreds of man-made canals and lakes.

Several fast-moving-water canals can actually be navigated by watercraft. Many of the area man-made lakes (drainage water basins) have their water level controlled by massive pumping systems installed underground.


Today South Florida is a teeming metropolis. Viewed from the sky, it is one vast cityscape, five thousand square miles in size, dotted with bodies of water and the occasional undeveloped acreage.

Many people have asked us the simple question of describing South Florida in relation to New York , Chicago and other large-city experiences. Lacking a central industrial hub that those cities do, South Florida is best thought of as a sprawling suburbia. Industry is scattered throughout the tri-county area, rather than concentrated into a few square miles. This creates seamless merging of residential, commercial and light industrial areas.

It is impossible to discern separate cities and towns from the air. Though South Florida boasts over 60 separate municipalities, each is separated by little more than a road or canal. City boundaries are noted by signs “Welcome To …”, which is the only way to know you have driven across a boundary.

The average drive-time from South to North is 2 hours. From West to East is only 26 minutes. No matter where you are in South Florida , you are only 26 minutes from the ocean.


South Florida is a modern metropolis. Buildings over 50 year's old are the exeption rather than the rule.

A South Florida “sky scraper” may be 30 stories high at best. It is not yet a vertical landscape. Indeed, there are only 2 areas in which you can move about these tall buildings: a Dade County area called “Downtown Miami”, and a small two city-block area in Broward known as “Downtown Fort Lauderdale”. Of course, along the beachfront there seems to be a wall of high-rise condominiums, almost cutting off the ocean from the rest of the area.

Still, South Florida lacks the head-tipping awe that New York , Chicago and Boston have on the uninitiated. A beautiful sky is the only reason to look up in South Florida .

Now that South Florida has reached the western boundary for building and development, we will begin to see the vertical growth of the area. Prior to this time there was no need to build ‘up'. South Florida is completely flat, so only the government-controlled boundary protecting the Everglades limits how far west we can develop.

Most homes built prior to 1990 are single story. There are no basements in Florida . Most of South Florida is only a few feet above sea-level, therefore digging into the ground gets to be quite wet work. Aside from this, a few feet beneath the topsoil is a porous limestone shelf that requires dynamite blasting to remove. It is quite expensive, therefore most Florida homes are built on top of a concrete slab poured on top of compacted sand. It is not uncommon for homes to have “settling” cracks, but sinking foundations are extremely rare.

Most homes are built from concrete cinder-block (CBS). Since Florida is a hurricane magnet, it seems important to build houses that cannot lift up, or float away. It has become popular lately to build 2 story houses (which requires less land for more square foot of living space). It is rare however to build the second story from cinder-clock, but to use plasterboard and wood instead.


Due to the lack of road salting, Florida roadsides are well cleaned. You do not have the “dusting” effect coating your car with road grime.

Grass and trees are forever green and lush. Flowering trees and plants are purposefully landscaped along roads and highways. Counties spend millions on road and park cleanup operations. Being a tourist-driven economy, it is important to show the world a clean face. The most notable comment of first-time residents to South Florida is its neatness.


South Florida is home to over five and a half million people. There are over 153,000 employers in the tri-county area.

South Florida has a strong ethnic diversity, creating a rich and varied cultural and commercial community. Restaurants, shops and entertainment celebrate the uniqueness of the multi-cultural environment. There are weekly festivals celebrating the cultural, religious and lifestyle freedoms that South Florida has to offer.

US Census links:





The weather in South Florida is temperate. Winters are windy, with occasional temperature drops into the 60's. It is rare to need more than a sweater for an evening out. We do get occasional cold days (50+) but it is more the exception than the rule.

The changing of Winter into Spring is not noticeable. Spring has a nice cool breeze and a softening sun. However, the breeze lessens daily which makes the sun feel hotter. Summers in South Florida are tough to people not accustomed to wet heat.

The thermometer seldom leaves the mid 90's in summertime. This in itself isn't too bad, but South Florida summers are devoid of breeze (except for ocean exposure).

Additionally, South Florida summers are known for afternoon spot-showers. These are pointless bursts of rain that typically last 15 minutes. They stop as abruptly as they begin, leaving the hot ground covered in a thin coating of water, easily evaporated into the already-humid air. This air can be difficult to breathe for asthmatics.

Autumn in South Florida becomes noticeable in September, when the wind suddenly returns. It is wonderful to be outside again. However, by the end of October you start experiencing strong gusting winds that can make it difficult to hold outdoor activities. October through December sees a lot of overcast days.


Being a “new” area, South Florida has grown & developed around the notion of individual people owning individual transportation. Public transportation in the tri-county area is not adequate, and though they are making strides in expanding it, the fact is it will remain ineffective into the foreseeable future.

South Florida is predominately composed of residential ‘clusters', serviced by scattered (but plentiful) shopping centers. Reliance on automobiles for even simple shopping is a fact of life. The average distance to the nearest grocery store is eight tenths (8/10) of a mile. No one walks to shopping.

The area is serviced by several arterial super highways, with several lesser highways and major roadways branching out into general intersections (see map). Traffic jams during the daily 2 “rush hour” periods generally last 60 to 90 minutes with traffic moving at half pace.


Shopping is plentiful in South Florida . Because the residential areas are so spread out, most chain stores find it necessary to have multiple locations in the same cities. For instance, Dunkin Donuts has stores every 6 thousand feet in any direction in my home area. Quite literally, there are 3 of them within a 5 minute drive from my house. The same hold true for McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, grocery stores (2 complete supermarkets within a 2 minute drive – one to the left, one to the right), and any other particular shopping.

Strip stores (one long building, several individual businesses) line each major road, and even service-related stores such as barbering and auto repair are located every few intersections.

South Florida Shopping Malls ( Address of mall, phone, webpage & link )


Visiting FloridaVisit the Florida State website for information about the state.

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Coryright © 2007 Access USA Realty Inc. | | ( site views)
  Information being provided is for consumers personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. Properties listed by brokerage firms other than Access USA Realty are marked with MLS share. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. All properties are subject to prior sale, change, or withdrawal. Neither listing broker(s) nor Access USA Realty shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints, and shall be held harmless.