As far as dream retirement destinations in America go, perhaps no other state matches up to Florida. Every single day, 1,000 new residents arrive in the sunshine state. Most of those people tend to be retirees who are about to start their lives’ second halves. The reason behind that is pretty obvious. Even during “winter”, the average daily high still hovers around 70 degrees and the mercury doesn’t go below 50 degrees very often. And let’s not forget the thing that gives Florida its nickname, the bright and continuous sunshine. Aside from its fantastic weather, Florida also offers wonderful tax benefits for retirees. Florida has no state income tax and permanent residents are eligible for a homestead exemption of up to $50,000, which lowers their real estate taxes. Seniors may qualify for an additional exemption.
But Florida is a big, diverse state, too, with plenty of pleasant cities and towns on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, or inland (central Florida has lots of lakes, and parts are even hilly). Worried about hurricanes? Hurricane risk on Florida’s west coast is less than on the east coast. If you are considering Florida as a retirement destination, here are the seven best places in the sunshine state for you.
Best Retirement Places in Florida
Kicking off the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is Sarasota. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is a little busy and fast paced. Sarasota on the other hand, is a lot more relaxed. Similar to Tampa, Sarasota also has a colonial Spanish history. Sarasota also has numerous upscale stores and restaurants in the island shopping center of St. Armands Circle. Residents have the Sarasota Memorial Health Care system, which is one of the largest public medical centers in Florida.
Sarasota also features miles and miles of gorgeous white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Waterfront homes tend to be a little expensive (starting around $500,000) but the homes a few miles away from them are more affordable and a lot newer as well. Nature lovers can also enjoy the lush landscapes and subtropical wildlife at the local parks. Sarasota also has a lively and diverse arts scene, which includes a ballet company, art museums and an 80-member orchestra.
2. St. Petersburg
Next on the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is St. Petersburg. It has a variety of homes available for retirees. Home prices here range from $165,000 to $1 million (or more). When you go away from the waterfront on St. Petersburg’s northeast, you will find some wonderful bungalows, Craftsman-style cottages, large ranchers and enough Spanish-influenced design to suggest you’re in Pasadena or Santa Monica. St. Petersburg also has a very artistic downtown which can be explored on foot or on a bike. The larger city of Tampa is just half an hour away. The city also has breathtaking harbor views as well as the Salvador Dali museum. Residents are very close to theaters, concert halls, stadiums, colleges and hospitals, without the density and congestion of Miami or the inflated real estate costs of Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
St. Petersburg extends over 10 miles between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. You can follow a 20-mile beachfront road north to Clearwater, home of the giant Morton Plant Hospital complex and the area’s best-known beaches. The Pinellas Trail is great for exploring the area. Widely regarded as a standout, the trail starts in downtown St. Pete right by Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team.
Next on the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is Venice. Wander around Venice’s historic neighborhoods and you’ll notice two things: You’re never far from the water, and there’s bound to be a park no more than a few blocks away. As you approach the western part of the city, you will be welcomed by palm-tree-lined sidewalks giving way to white-sand beaches and expansive water views. Venice moves at a very slow pace but offers a wide variety of opportunities to retirees. Residents also have the option to enjoy a stroll through the historic district and stop in the numerous shops and restaurants. Every Saturday morning, there’s a farmers market with some great produce. You can also head over to the Venice Theatre or a performance by the Venice Symphony at the Performing Arts Center.
Venice has more than 30 parks, including the 37,000-acre Myakka River State Park. You can kayak or paddleboard along the Intercoastal Waterway, which runs through the city. You can cruise around the town on a cycle or hop on the 10-plus-mile Legacy trail that extends north to Sarasota.
All the snowbirds ensure that the rentals are booked almost a month in advance. Expect to pay $3,000 to $5,000 a month on the island (which is connected to the mainland by three drawbridges). Prices on the mainland are a little lower.
4. Punta Gorda
Next on the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is Punta Gorda. This place knows how to appeal to retired folks–a majority of its population is 65 or older. Life here revolves around 55 miles of canal-front homes as well as numerous retirement communities, restricted to people age 55 and older. Retirees can enjoy golf, along with a Fishermen’s Village waterfront complex with 30 shops and restaurants. The town also has the Harborwalk, which is a section of the 18 miles long bike trails and pathways in the area.
Next on the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is Gainesville. It is bang in the middle of the sunshine state. It’s 75 miles away from both the east and west coasts. That keeps you slightly away from the water but makes it a great place to stay during the hurricane season.
This is the home of the University of Florida, offering many benefits for retirees looking to escape the cold winds and higher cost of living up north. Residents above the age of 60 can enroll in different University of Florida courses for free based on availability. A lot of courses are also offered by the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Oak Hammock, a retirement community affiliated with the University of Florida. The courses aren’t restricted to the residents of the community only.
College sports fans can also cheer for the Florida Gators football and basketball teams. There are a lot of museums and galleries for those who might be interested.
6. St. Augustine
Next on the list of the best places to retire in Florida, is St. Augustine. The city and the surrounding St. John’s county have plenty of other wonderful things aside from some sand and surf. However, if that’s what retirees are looking for, they are well catered for. St. Augustine also features a lot of cultural and historical activities, affordable luxury living, and access to first-class health care. The St. John’s county Atlantic coast also has a stunning 42 miles of sand for the beach enthusiasts. St. Augustine Beach is just a few minutes away from downtown and it is usually packed with people enjoying the catch of the day in numerous restaurants. If a peaceful hammock is more your vibe, chill with the local wildlife on the secluded beaches at the 1,600-acre Anastasia Island State Park.
You can’t walk very far in St. Augustine without a reminder that this is the oldest European-established city in the U.S.—one that houses more than 60 historic sites and attractions, including a town square dating to 1573. However, the city continues to be very hustling and bustling. The pedestrian-only St. George Street is lined with many bistros, boutiques and bars, bustles all day and well into the night. Almost all of those places also have a beautiful live music scene. Retirees can also enjoy wonderful healthcare facilities such as the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus, a five-star hospital that’s about an hour from downtown St. Augustine.
Rounding off our list of the best places to retire in Florida, is Naples. The rapid growth in Naples, which gets a top grade from the American Lung Association for air quality, has been fueled by a torrent of retirees attracted by miles of beaches, gracious homes and giant banyan trees. You don’t have to be retired to like living here–which is raising home prices and cost of living. The 2017-18 Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index ranked the Naples-Marco Island area number one. The index measures residents’ views about health, financial security, community and sense of purpose.
The NCH Healthcare System operates two hospitals, one in north Naples and one downtown. Some of the facilities available include rehabilitation and cardiac, cancer and geriatric care. It’s a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which connects its doctors with Mayo Clinic specialists. The good life offered in Naples comes at a premium however, particularly in Old Naples. Home prices start at about $400,000 for a small condo and $2 million for a single-family home on the beach somewhere in Collier County. However, if you can afford it, the world is your oyster.