With its combination of natural beauty and man-made attractions, Florida attracts millions of tourists to its shores every year. Beautiful weather, miles of sugar-white beaches, vibrant cities, world-famous amusement and theme parks… if you can think of a feature, attraction, or quality that makes a state great, Florida probably has it. If you’re tempted to make your next trip to the Sunshine State a permanent one, don’t miss our round-up of the 20 very best places to live in Florida in 2020.
20. Fort Myers, Lee County
Fort Myers is a city on the rise: since 2013, the population has grown by 14.42%, bringing with it lots of new investment, new money, and a new sense of prosperity. Housing options are varied, and while the median value is a smidgen over the national average at $185,100, there’s plenty of choice for those in need of either cheaper or more upscale accommodation.
Thanks to its excellent transport links and proximity to Southwest Florida International Airport, getting around is a breeze- although with its score of great beaches and booming restaurant, music and arts scenes, you might never want to leave. Definitely consider Fort Myers when looking for a place to live in Florida.
19. Niceville, Okaloosa County
Nice by name, nice by nature… if you’re thinking of making Okaloosa County your next permanent base, you could do a whole lot worse than the small town of Niceville. The average house price might be a smidgen over the US average at $211,800, but it’s an expense that’s made more than worthwhile by the very healthy (and again, nicely above average) median income of $66,505.
Schools are distinctly above average as well (with a special mention to the excellent test scores and graduation rates of Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College and Niceville Senior High School), while the low crime rate, safe streets, and abundance of local amenities makes it as equally attractive to families as it is to single professionals.
18. Lakeland, Polk County
It’s not often a city can be described as “warm” and “inviting”, but in the case of Lakeland, its more than fitting. Full to the brim with fun activities, and with no shortage of parks, trails, and green spaces, it makes an outstanding spot to raise a family. The low crime rate, clean, safe vibe, and superb position just 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa add to the pretty picture.
17. Naples, Collier County
As towns in Collier County go, Naples is one of the best. The average home price may be a bank-breaking $852,99, but with most households pulling in an average income of $90,507, you’re unlikely to hear too many complaints about the cost of living.
As well as being well served by some superb public schools, residents are blessed with a fantastic array of amenities, not to mention some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida (and a fair few of its top-rated golf courses as well). The crime rate, meanwhile, is low enough to give the town a safe, family-friendly vibe.
16. South Sarasota, Sarasota County
If the idea of small-town living floats your boat, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with South Sarasota. With a population of just 5,265, it’s the kind of small, friendly place that immediately makes you feel at home.
Home prices are a shade over the national average at $360,700, but considering its home to some of the best public schools in Florida, an almost non -existent crime rate, gorgeous scenery, and a job market that’s doing a great job of keeping residents in $70,179 incomes, it’s a price well worth considering.
15. Daytona Beach, Volusia County
If the outdoor lifestyle appeals, Daytona Beach is likely to tick all the boxes. Thanks to its stunning oceanside location, fishing is a major pastime, as is a round of golf on one of the many championship golf courses.
Not to say it’s all nature and sports; for culture vultures, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of theaters, museums, cinemas and performing arts centers to choose from (not to mention every type of restaurant, mall, and market you could ever wish for).
During the peak season, the town can feel a little overwhelmed by tourists, but if you manage to tolerate the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with some very affordable housing options, great schools, and a friendly, diverse community. Not to mention, being near the Atlantic Ocean is a huge plus!
14. Tallahassee, Leon County
Big enough to offer every kind of amusement, attraction, and recreational opportunity you could ever want, Tallahassee is a city in the Sunshine State that’s most definitely on the rise. As one of the state’s major hubs for trade, agriculture, and research, the job market is positively booming.
The restaurant, cultural, and arts scenes are doing likewise, with the result that there’s truly a little something for everyone. Add in some great schools, affordable housing options, and a warm, diverse community, and it’s easy to understand the appeal.
13. Gainesville, Alachua County
With a population of 129,394 and a diverse community of retirees, professionals, students, and families, Gainesville is all things to all people. For the younger crowd, it’s fresh, lively, and full of fun.
For the older generation and families, its calm, safe, and friendly, with as many outdoor recreational opportunities as there are indoor ones. When it comes to affordability, both sides stand to benefit from the very affordable median house price of $147,500, and the equally affordable rental price of $886.
12. Port Orange, Volusia County
Close enough to Daytona Beach to benefit from all its attractions, but far enough away to have its own unique charm, Port Orange is the kind of quiet, pleasant town that makes a superbly attractive option to retirees. With an average home value of just $153,600, it also makes a very decent choice for young, first-time buyers looking to get their foot on the property ladder.
11. Fort Lauderdale, Broward County
With its gorgeous location, Fort Lauderdale draws scores of tourists to its shores every summer. For those who live in the city year-round, the attractions are just as numerous. Depending on where you live in FL, housing prices can be on the higher side (the median sits at around $297,200 for a single-family home).
That said, the city has enough diversity to accommodate those on a much smaller budget: look hard enough, and you’ll find no shortage of reasonably priced options out there. The public schools serving the area are excellent, with establishments like College Academy at Broward College and McFatter Technical College and High School deserving a special mention for their excellent test scores and graduation rates.
The range of world-class restaurants, music venues, and retails outlets, meanwhile, guarantees plenty in the way of entertainment.
10. St. Augustine, St. Johns County
If old-world charm’s your thing, you’ll not be disappointed with the delightfully historic town of St Augustine. As Visit Florida notes, the town, which dates back to 1565, has the distinction of being the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the United States- something that no doubt explains its nickname of the “Nation’s Oldest City."
Even if we leave the history to one side for a moment, there’s still a lot to love about the town, from its rich cultural venues to its surfeit of local businesses, unique little boutiques and cafes, and gorgeous beaches. Best of all, it manages to combine the essence of small-town charm with easy access to the big city thrills of nearby Jacksonville.
9. Melbourne, Brevard County
With an average home value of just $138,800, Melbourne makes a great destination for first-time buyers looking to get their foot on the property ladder. While the crime rate may be the stopper in the works to a higher ranking, there’s enough going on to compensate, including a great selection of top-ranking schools, an abundant supply of restaurants, shops, and bars, more wildlife than you count, and some lovely parks and green spaces.
8. Pensacola, Escambia County
The town of Pensacola has a rich and varied history. At various points in the past, it’s been governed by the British, the Spanish, the French, and the Confederacy. These days, its 100% American, even if it’s still often known as "The City of Five Flags."
While the history of the town is rife wherever you look, it’s also as 21st century as you could want, with just as many shopping malls, cutting edge restaurants, and buzzing nightclubs as there are museums, walking tours, and gorgeously quaint buildings. Best of all, the average home price is a gloriously attainable $155,700.
7. Palm Beach, Broward County
Before we get too much further, we’ll need to address the elephant in the room; namely, Palm Beach’s median home value. With the average single-family home just scraping the million-dollar mark, buying a property in this small town is not something to be taken lightly.
If you do manage to convince your bank manager to cough up the necessary, then welcome to the good life. Just as the weather is always sunny and clement, so are the residents warm and cheery- although considering most are pulling in a median income of $110,961, it’s hardly surprising. Job opportunities are excellent (as that median income more than attests) while the variety of local businesses, shops, and restaurants guarantee plenty by way of rest and relaxation – as, indeed, do the fabulous surrounding beaches.
6. Dunedin, Pinellas County
If affordability is your top priority, you’ll find the median home value in Dunedin (which currently stands at a very reasonable $161,100) hard to fault. Neither will you have much cause for complaint with the quaint, charming downtown and surfeit of parks, malls, breweries, walking trails, and restaurants.
With excellent links into nearby Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, and St. Petersburg, traveling around the wider area is a breeze- although why you’d want to go anywhere when the stunning Clearwater Beach is right on your doorstep is a mystery.
5. Orlando, Orange County
With a population of 269,414, Orlando is a vast, diverse delight of a city. Neighborhoods vary widely, going from the extremely exclusive to the low key and the hipsterish. House prices fluctuate depending on the neighborhood, but a few things apply regardless: great schools, a stunning location with just as much in the way of outdoor leisure opportunities as indoor ones, and an above-average median income and quality of life. Not to mention, it's the theme park capital of the world!
4. Sarasota, Sarasota County
US News ranks the town of Sarasota as the best in Florida. While we don’t necessarily agree with the ranking, it’s hard to dispute this is one seriously attractive town. With its gorgeous beaches and stunning natural scenery, few could fault the idyllic setting. Neither could many complain about its excellent restaurants, flourishing arts and cultural scene, excellent schools, and relaxed, easy-going vibe.
3. Miami, Miami-Dade County
If you’re young, free, and single, Miami is ideal. Despite being packed with beaches and surrounded by natural beauty, it’s the rich urban culture that’s the real draw here.
As Cube Smart notes, Miami has some seriously attractive architecture, not to mention every type of nightclub, bar, shop, and local business you’d care to imagine. Parking and driving around the city can be a pain, but switch your car for a bike (as a lot of residents do) and you’re unlikely to feel the effects. Yes, it’s crowed, and yes, it’s a tourist mecca, but if you can manage the crowds, you’ll find Miami a dream.
2. Tampa, Hillsborough County
Tampa is a captivating melting pot of a city, with a vibrant urban heart and some of the best natural beauty in Florida. With museums, art galleries, performance centers, beaches, and every type of shop, restaurant, nightspot, and bar you can think of, it offers something for everyone.
Giving its size, you’ll encounter a very different lifestyle with every different neighborhood, but there are a few things you can rely on regardless of where you land up; the clemency of the weather, the warmth of the people, and the vibrant, lively spirit that’s as much a feature of the city as the stunning beaches.
1. Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County
If you want green, if you want serene, and if you want the kind of community where you can raise your family in peace, Coral Gables may just be your dream home. With its perfect combination of the residential and the commercial, it offers all the shops and amenities you’ll need, but in the kind of peaceful, uncongested setting that’s perfect for raising kids.
The average house price is a tad expensive at $750,400, but with most households earning in excess of $95k, there’s still plenty of disposable wealth floating around. The easy 20-minute drive to downtown Miami, meanwhile, is sure to please those looking to make the most of the city’s various attractions.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn