Where You Should Retire In Florida Based On Your Interests – TravelAwaits

So, you’re retiring and thinking about moving to Florida. Welcome to you and an estimated 1,000 people a day with the same idea. There are over 21 million Floridians today, compared to 13-million in 1990. It’s a big growth spurt, and it’s not slowing down.

Most new Floridians come for the warm weather and beaches. Plus, Florida has the added advantage of no state income tax. 

Beaches you can find about anywhere. We have over 1,300 miles of coastline. Warm weather depends on your tolerance level in the winter. Areas of north Florida can experience occasional freezing weather. I’ve even seen snow flurries. If that’s too cold for you, look south below the I-4 corridor (Daytona Beach, Orlando, Tampa), where you’ll find a more temperate climate. Winter temperatures there can be cool, and there are usually a few freezing nights each winter. Going all the way to South Florida and the Keys you can find tropical temperatures and no freezes. 

Florida is a big state. There are lots of retirement options. I’ll attempt to break out areas you can consider, based on your interests.

Grayton Beach in Florida
Grayton Beach (Rotorhead 30A Productions / Shutterstock.com)

Retire In The Florida Panhandle (Northwest Florida)

Panhandle beaches are the best! All along the coast, you can find sugar white gypsum sand. My two favorite beaches in the whole state are St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and Grayton Beach. Not only is the sand great, there are high dunes, unusual for Florida. Another advantage is that panhandle beaches are less crowded.

There are a lot of military retirees in the panhandle area, due to military bases at Pensacola Naval Air Station, and Eglin Air Force Base.

All of Florida is in the hurricane belt. Northwest Florida seems more prone than the rest of the state, except perhaps the Keys.

Beach scene in Mexico Beach, north Florida
Photo Credit: Fred Mays

Back To Nature Retirement In North Florida

This is another area with a lot of military retirees, thanks to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, and the Navy Mayport Atlantic fleet port.

There are lots of attractions for sports fans in the area. Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville is home to the Players Championship PGA golf tournament, held at the TPC Sawgrass. The course is famous for its Island Green at the par 3 17th hole. 

Jacksonville is home to the Jaguars of the NFL. In what is billed as the nation’s largest cocktail party, the annual Georgic-Florida college football showdown is held in Jacksonville. The city is home to the NCAA Gator Bowl.

The state capital, Tallahassee, is located in North Florida. The city is also home to Florida State University. 

Gainesville, Florida, is home to the University of Florida. It includes the university’s Shands Hospital, one of the top cancer facilities in the state. 

St. Augustine is the country’s oldest permanent settlement. It’s located on the Atlantic Coast, about an hour south of Jacksonville. 

The inland area of North Florida offers plenty of recreational opportunities, especially for kayaking or canoeing on the many rivers found in the region. 

Surfers at Satellite Beach in Florida
Photo Credit: Fred Mays

Theme Parks And Sports In Central Florida 

In a rapidly growing state, Central Florida is the booming region. Orlando and suburban communities account for most of the growth. The area also includes Daytona Beach and Brevard County, which is referred to as the Space Coast.

Orlando is the theme park center of the universe with Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and a host of smaller attractions. Daytona Beach bills itself as the “World’s Most Famous Beach.” You’ll find stock car racing and motorcycle fans there. The Space Coast is home to the Kennedy Space Center. The Kennedy Visitor’s Complex offers simulated shuttle launch experiences, IMAX movies, and a huge gift shop.

Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Orlando and a haven for tourists. Locals prefer New Smyrna Beach. The wild and undeveloped Canaveral National Seashore is located just north of the Kennedy Space Center. Surfing in Central Florida is considered the best in the state.

The Orlando Magic of the NBA plays in downtown Orlando. The Daytona 500 is held annually in February. The Citrus Bowl is a New Year’s Day tradition in Orlando. There are several PGA events in Central Florida, the largest being the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando. The Orlando Lions, pro soccer, play in a modern, new, stadium in downtown Orlando.

The Ocala National Forest is located north of Orlando. It offers hiking, hunting, and camping. There are numerous campgrounds in the forest. One of the most popular is Juniper Springs, which has a freshwater spring that feeds one of the best kayak runs in the state.

manatee copy Fred Mays
Photo Credit: Fred Mays

Blue Spring State Park in Deland is the winter home of hundreds of manatees, which swim into the warmer springs to escape winter’s cold water temperatures in the St. Johns River.

Orlando has the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, which features traveling Broadway shows and local musical productions. The King Center in Melbourne is a smaller venue that attracts musical concerts and tribute bands. The Peabody Auditorium is home to the Daytona Beach Symphony.

The Winter Park Fine Arts Festival in March is one of the top art festivals in the country.

Orlando and suburbs are becoming increasingly crowded, expensive, and gripped by traffic gridlock. Many retirees are opting for suburban towns like Clermont, Mount Dora, Tavares, and Eustis. 

The largest retirement community in Florida is The Villages, located north of Orlando. It has grown so large that it sprawls into three counties. Golf is a main attraction. The Villages has 50 golf courses, including 12 championship links.

Fisherman casting into the surf, Central Florida coast
Photo Credit: Fred Mays

Tampa Bay And West Central Florida

Locals refer to it as ChampaBay, because of the success of the bay area pro sports teams. It is a booming area, second only to the growth in Central Florida. The immediate bay area covers the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater. Rapid growth is found in three counties north of the bay area… Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus, where real estate is less expensive, and traffic is not as congested.

Pro sports include football, baseball, hockey, and soccer. The bay area is also home to three major league baseball spring training teams…The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Phillies.

Tampa is a growing world-class city, with fine dining restaurants, top-rated hotels, and fine arts attractions. The Gasparilla Art Festival is one of Florida’s finest. The Tampa Performing Arts Center hosts traveling Broadway shows and local productions. 

St. Petersburg was once a sleepy retirement community, but no more. The city has a thriving arts scene, and boutique shopping in the downtown area. The city is home to several museums, including the world-renowned Dali Museum. Street art and murals can be found throughout the city.

Fort DeSoto, a county park at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is perhaps the finest county park in Florida. It features beaches, fishing, camping, and kayak rentals.

Sunset in Bradenton, Florida
Sunset in Bradenton, Florida (CathyRL / Shutterstock.com)

Southwest Florida’s Retirement Haven

South of Tampa Bay, you find more of a subtropical climate. From Tampa Bay to Naples, the area is a major draw for retirees. 

Bradenton is the gateway to Anna Maria Island, one of Florida’s top beaches. Retirees like Bradenton because it is generally more affordable than other towns on the lower Gulf Coast.

Sarasota is the city for art lovers. It is home to the Ringling Museum of Art, the Ringling Arts College, and dozens of independent artist shops. The cost of living and real estate in Sarasota is among the highest on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area is another of the fast growing regions in Florida. Golf and fishing are popular pastimes here for retirees. Sanibel-Captiva Island is a top beach vacation destination. Sanibel is considered one of the best shelling beaches in the world.

Naples-Marco Island is another pricey retirement area. Land for development here is restricted because it borders on the Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve. High-rise hotels and condos line the beaches.

Fishing and golf are big draws. The 10,000 Islands region is a fisherman and kayaker paradise. There is easy access to the Tamiami Trail, a main highway through the heart of the Everglades. Spring training baseball can be found in many cities in this part of Florida.

Miami, Florida (Mia2you / Shutterstock.com)

Florida’s Gold Coast In South Florida

This area is known as the Gold Coast, probably because it takes a lot of gold to live here. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach are the most prominent cities, with lots of ritzy beach towns on the Atlantic Coast. 

High-rise beachfront condos line the coast all along south Florida. You have to go inland to find single-family homes that are affordable. Golf is popular with retirees. There are active art colonies to be found in most communities. 

Miami is home to large immigrant communities like Little Havana, and other neighborhoods populated by immigrants from Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. Each brings its own culture to this melting pot city. 

Sports fans have a lot to choose from in Miami. There are pro teams in football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Several PGA tournaments take place here each year.

Aerial view of the Florida Keys
Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com

Retirement In The Florida Keys

Retirees and tourists are the lifeblood of the Florida Keys. This is a haven for people who lead active lifestyles. Fishing, diving, golf, kayaking are popular attractions to the area. 

A note of caution about the Keys and Miami: low-lying areas are prone to flooding during storm events. Climate change impacts are very real in this part of Florida. It doesn’t take a hurricane or tropical storm, much of the flooding is caused by high tides and heavy local rainfall.

Florida is a great place to retire. You have lots of options. Hopefully, this article helps you decide what part of Florida is best for you.

Want to visit the Sunshine State before settling down? Check out these other Florida articles:

For more on retirement, head to our retirement section.