The Best Places to Live in Florida

Last updated on December 21st, 2020.

Ah, Florida. The Sunshine State. Just the name sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

Moving to Florida– for retirement, or just a different way of life — is a dream for many. It’s one of America’s most popular moving destinations for work relocations, retirements, and lifestyle changes.

Thanks mostly to it’s warm weather, beautiful beaches, nature and attractions, people flock to Florida from around the United States, Canada, and countries around the world.

People move to Florida every day, despite the many downsides of the state. Many new Florida residents learn that living in Florida wasn’t as idyllic as they might have imagined; the numbers of those “moving out” of Florida are about equal to inbound residents.

Pro’s and Con’s of living in Florida

When most folks move to Florida, they imagine paradise. Beautiful white sand beaches, attractions, and an endless summer of warm, inviting weather. Many of those things are true. But, living in Florida year-round is never the same experience as a brief, fun-filled vacation.

For anyone who’s thinking about moving to Florida, a giant question looms. Where is the best place to live in Florida?

There are many options. The choice of where to live in the state dramatically affects one’s living experience.

Choosing a new home is not easy. It’s a huge decision, with countless variables and things to consider. It’s even more difficult for folks moving to Florida from New York, Canada, or any of the Northern states which produce most of Florida’s snowbird population.

Moving within one’s one region is difficult enough, but moving across a continent is much more complicated, and filled with uncertainty.

It’s not easy to choose a place where you might end up living in for decades. What if you don’t like it? How do you choose a neighborhood, when you’ve never even visited a place?

Things to Consider

There are many factors to consider, among others:

  • Cost of living
  • How safe a place is
  • Job opportunities
  • Housing Costs
  • Quality of life

Finding a perfect balance is difficult; especially in Florida. But, it is possible. And, there are several great cities and regions to choose from.

Where to live in Florida?

When confronted with an impossibly difficult decision, it’s often useful and helpful to narrow one’s options. These questions can help you find the best place to live in Florida for your family’s personal situation.

  • Do you want to live near the water? If yes, you can further narrow your choices down. Would a canal be OK? Or, is a beach-front location non-negotiable? Do you prefer freshwater for fishing? Or, maybe a saltwater bay?
  • Is boating important to you? If so, there are many things to consider as a boat owner.
  • Do you prefer a crowded, city environment with lots of culture? Or, a sleepy farming community with beautiful Spanish moss draped across majestic liveoaks?
  • Is it important that you live in a politically progrssive community? If so, there are definitely parts of the state you will want to avoid!
  • Do you have children? If so, you should pay close attention to the public school situation. Florida has one of the poorest-rated public education systems in the country.
  • Do you have eldery parents? Or, are you elderly yourself? If so, it might be important to consider proximity to medical facilities and a deep pool of doctors to choose from.
  • Are you employed, or will you be job-searching? The employment situation in Florida varies wildly by region. Wages do, too.
  • Are you afraid of hurricanes? If so, you might want to avoid hurricane-prone areas like South East Florida.

Best Places to Live: Tampa

According to many resident surveys, the greater Tampa Bay region ranks as one of the best cities in Florida. This MSA, or metropolitan statistical area, includes many cities, which together form the area known as “Tampa Bay”.

  • Tampa
  • Clearwater
  • Saint Petersburg
  • Sarasota
  • Brandon
  • Bradenton
  • Apollo Beach
  • Many smaller communities

Positives of Tampa Bay

  • A cosmopolitan environment with diverse cultural opportunities
  • Relatively affordable cost of living, when compared to other ocean-front locations.
  • World-class beaches
  • Great sailing, boating and watersports activities

Negatives of Tampa Bay

  • The Tampa Bay area is increasingly unaffordable. Wages are well below the national average, and there is a diminishing number of large employers in the area.
  • Vulnerable to hurricanes: The central gulf coast of Florida has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Due to weather and geography, the Tampa Bay area is less vulnerable to hurricanes than other parts of Florida. But, it is only a matter of time until the next major hurricane hits. When it does, it is likely to cause devastating damage because the region is unprepared.

The average annual pay in Tampa is $53,679. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, it had a low unemployment rate of 3.4%, which is respectable for its rather large population of 2.4 million residents.

The region is home to attractive institutions like the University of Southern Florida (USF), the University of Tampa, and other prestigious universities. In the greater Tampa Bay area, there are even more choices; including Stetson Law School, and others.

Employment Opportunities in Tampa

Tampa is growing as a destination for technology entrepreneurs. If you’re looking for a job in the tech industry, Tampa may be worth investigating. You should be aware, though, that even in the relatively higher-paying technology sector, wages in Tampa are significantly below the rest of the country. When compared to technology-focused regions like California’s Bay Area, Tampa’s wages are laughably low.

Tampa is one of the fastest growing cities in Florida, and the U.S. The Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater metropolitan areas checks many boxes. It’s not surprising that many agree it’s one of the best places to live in Florida.

Southwest Florida

Further south along Florida’s gulf coast, Naples and Marco Island, are routinely ranked as some of the best places to live. This region contains of Florida’s places to live. They, along with Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, are known as some of the best places to live in Florida.

When compared to many areas in the United States, Florida’s cost of living is low. In the center of the state, the cost is even lower. Areas on the outskirts of Orlando, like Kissimmee, are attractive to many folks who seek Florida’s warm year-round weather, but without high cost of living or as much direct hurricane risk. If you don’t necessarily need to live on the water, central Florida communities can be nice places to live.