Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
For decades, Florida was the destination of choice for retirees seeking warm winters and sunny beaches.
But with more and more retirees heading to the deep south and southwestern states, Florida has shed its grey-haired reputation. This tropical state is a great place to start a business, raise a family or just enjoy the Sunshine State’s multicultural lifestyle. But where in the state is the best place for you?
Here’s our take on the 10 best places to live in Florida, so grab your beach towel, step into some flip-flops and head on down.
Think safe, beautiful and clean. Wide streets with palm trees and lots of green space. This a community where you’re more likely to see a bubbling fountain than a soda can on the sidewalk.
This area, rated one of the most prosperous in the U.S. also features excellent schools and easy access to beaches and nearby Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. A single family home here averages $400,382, although there are many available for less.
Median resident age: 36.5 years
Median household income: $64,063
Median house or condo value: $303,100
9. Cape Coral
Head over to the west coast of Florida for the next town on our list of the best places to live in Florida. Nestled just south of Fort Meyers, this is the perfect home for anyone who loves water. Cape Coral has the Gulf of Mexico, several lakes and over 400 miles of canals, many with Gulf access.
Life in Cape Coral is relaxed, with more focus on time spent with friends and family than on anything that could be considered part of the rat race. A single family home here averages about $300,618 — a small price to pay for life in Paradise!
Median resident age: 42.4 years
Median household income: $48,043
Median house or condo value: $164,700
Not all of Florida is about the beaches. In fact if it weren’t for the occasional palm tree, Ocala, a city in North Central Florida, could be mistaken for horse country in Kentucky.
This friendly small city is more Southern than its neighbors to the south like Miami or Orlando. Spanish moss hangs gracefully from trees, thoroughbred horses graze in white-fenced pastures and hometown music drifts from the town square gazebo. Mega-university town Gainesville, home to the University of Florida, is only about an hour away, so innovation, sports and the arts are nearby, too.
A single family home in the Ocala area averages only about $176,313, so life here is far more affordable than in much of the state, too.
Median resident age: 38.2 years
Median household income: $36,011
Median house or condo value: $134,586
Surfing in Florida? Well, it’s not Hawaii, but east-coasters flock to Sebastian inlet to catch a wave. And a fair number stay for the area’s uncrowded relaxed Florida lifestyle. The Sebastian-Vero Beach area offers what south Florida did 30 or 40 years ago — a chance to escape the cold winters and traffic jams up north and live amid tropical beauty and slower pace.
Although this area does have a fair number of retirees, families with children make up the majority of the area’s residents. Single family homes here range from $202,667 in Sebastian to $520,164 in nearby Vero Beach.
Median resident age: 50.1 years
Median household income: $42,178
Median house or condo value: $165,115
Head back to the west coast of Florida for the next city on the list. According to locals, Tampa is Florida’s big city that feels like a small town.
Home to the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens, this city of just over 300,000 offers the best of a college town tinged with the feel of old Cuba, and a good dose of the arts and innovation. Its location on the Gulf of Mexico means water sports, from sailing to swimming, are always close at hand. Single family homes here average $325,276, although costs are even lower outside of Tampa proper.
Median resident age: 34.6 years
Median household income: $41,605
Median house or condo value: $180,800
Start with miles and miles of sugar-white sand. Add in a great mix of old South, Florida tropics and island flair, and you have Crescent Beach.
Located about 45 miles from Jacksonville and Daytona, this small Florida town (population just over 1,300) is big on beutiful views of the Atlantic. It’s also big on costs…at last count, the average single family home was listed at $767,240. But if you have your heart set on this area, nearby St. Augustine offers more affordable housing within driving distance of all that beauty.
Median resident age: 60.8 years
Median household income: $85,455
Median house or condo value: $539,701
4. Mount Dora
The historic Central Florida town of Mount Dora is both exceptionally Florida and absolutely not like anywhere else in the state.
Instead of Florida ranch houses, Mount Dora features historic cottages and fine Victorian architecture. And in place of endless cookie-cutter developments just off highway exits, this town of 13,000 offers residents homes on quaint streets or along Lake Mary. This is the Florida of days now long gone, with a friendly and welcoming attitude of today. People come for the antiques and festivals and stay for the sense of community and hometown.
Housing is still affordable, with single family homes averaging $282,501.
Median resident age: 47.9 years
Median household income: $43,718
Median house or condo value: $199,190
3. Boca Raton
If you long for a beautiful Florida city without the endless ugly signs and tacky strip malls that mar so much of our country, Boca Raton might be the perfect new home for you.
Tough zoning rules keep this city looking like the Spanish-influenced Florida town it was meant to be. And its near-perfect location between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach along the Atlantic coast offers the finishing touches.
Boca (as the locals call it) is a mix of older homes but still lovely homes near the water, and new luxurious developments to the west. Shopping malls, colleges, businesses and restaurants abound, and highways make it easy to be in Miami in under an hour. Homes here are a bit pricier than in some parts of Florida, with an average sale price of $579,197.
Median resident age: 45.4 years
Median household income: $68,254
Median house or condo value: $393,400
When I was a little girl, we went to Sanibel Island. As we walked along the beach collecting shells at low tide, we met a woman who owned a local motel along the beach. “Once you get the Sanibel sand between your toes, you’ll always come back.” She was right. And the growth in this once sleepy Gulf town has proven that more than a few people walked on that sand.
Sanibel is now home to some 7,000 people. It’s the perfect place to call home if you love having the Gulf at your door, magnificent sunsets and a slow and easy lifestyle every day (think vacation-mode, 365 days a year.) The one drawback is the cost of housing. Sanibel’s small size has pushed average home prices up to $820,673 on average.
Median resident age: 65.0 years
Median household income: $81,885
Median house or condo value: $510,341
1. The Florida Keys
There is probably no place that says Florida as much as the Keys. A loose strings of islands stretching from mainland Florida almost to Cuba, the Keys represent the old Florida lifestyle. Prices for single family homes vary widely throughout the Keys, from homes in the millions to modest dwellings under the $200,000 mark. It’s all about the amenities, view and access to open water. And of course, island-inspired food, with great fish, soft shell crabs and the world famous key lime pie made from tart little limes grown only in the Florida Keys.
But would-be residents need to be careful about the Key they choose to call home. Whether you select wild, artsy and crazy Key West, or one of the less populated upper Keys, you’ll know that you are truly living the Florida life.
Median resident age: 44.8-45.8 years
Median household income: $50,638-$55,833
Median house or condo value: $390,856-$443,771
Source: all statistics from city-data.com