PALMETTO -- Shirley Kaye waded comfortably in a pool with the aid of a purple noodle Wednesday afternoon surrounded by a handful of friends. Just beyond them was a view of the water dotted by a few boats.
For the 77-year-old and her friends, it was just another gorgeous, clear day in Tropic Isles, a resident-owned 55-plus community on the shores of Terra Ceia Bay in Palmetto. With 2 1/2 miles of waterfront homes, the neighborhood has direct access to Tampa Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Residents boast there's something for just about everyone -- the neighborhood has co-op shares for purchase and spots for those with RVs.
Shirley Kaye, who has lived here with her husband, Tom Kaye, since 1985, said she loves the pool and hot tub
-- two of numerous amenities in Tropic Isles.
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"I try to be here at 2 o'clock everyday," she said.
That's when she and her friends meet to talk about everything. When they first started gathering in the pool, the retired ladies spoke about restaurants. Now, they swap recipes and chime in on different diets from Mediterranean to Weight Watchers.
"The people are really good," Kaye said of her fellow Tropic Isles residents.
When her husband was in the hospital, they looked out for her, she said.
"They're like family," she said.
Tropic Isles dates to July 1957 when Florida Trailer Parks Inc. purchased a tomato farm and sold shares of stock entitling shareholders to a 99-year-lease on a lot. Through the years, development has changed the neighborhood into what it is today -- homes along neat streets and residents who love to bike and cruise around in golf carts.
There's plenty to do here, said Sharon Schumann, 60, president of the Tropic Isles Activities Committee.
"We have parties and we have dances and you can play cards," the retired chef said. "If you are bored here, it's your own fault."
Tropic Isles events are held at the auditorium. On Monday evenings, there's line dancing; Tuesday nights, there's bingo; at 8 a.m. Saturday, there's coffee hour.
New Tropic Isles residents are provided with a list of activities at the auditorium and Yacht Club, which has meeting rooms, a billiard room and an exercise room with stationary bikes, treadmills and other workout equipment. Outside the center is the remodeled pool and hot tub.
The neighborhood even delivers its own monthly "Tropic Isles Breezes" newsletter to all residents. In its December newsletter, new neighbors are welcomed on the front page and residents are informed of coming events such as Tropic Isles annual Golf Cart Parade on Dec. 14 and a Christmas Eve social.
Schumann sat with Bob Shaw in his back porch Wednesday afternoon. Shaw, 61, is treasurer of the Tropic Isles Board of Directors.
His porch offers a view of the water and his boat, which he jokingly calls "Just A Vacation." Just a vacation from a lot of hard work, he added.
"You can see everything going on out here," Shaw said while looking beyond his porch screen. "You see the people that are moving around, people going out fishing. You can watch the fish jump. A lot of times there are dolphins in there. ... there are manatees in here."
Shaw said manatee calves have been born in the waters surrounding Tropic Isles.
Bob Shaw and his wife, Cindy Shaw, 62, live full-time in Tropic Isles. Originally from Wisconsin, the Shaws said they discovered the neighborhood through a Florida boating magazine ad.
"They had an aerial view of the park, which we still have, " he said. "When you look at us from Google Earth, it's pretty striking how much water access we have. Tropic Isles is really all about the water."
Barbara Curtis, the Tropic Isles broker with New Chapter Real Estate LLC, said the neighborhood is one of the best-kept secrets in Palmetto. She said asking prices fall between $35,000 and $280,000.
"Where can you live with open access to the Gulf of Mexico with no bridges impeding your trip and have your sailboat in your backyard for less than half a million dollars?" she said. "People just don't realize there is such a wonderful community tucked away in Palmetto like that."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.