Moving to Florida? Check out these 10 cities

Mon Mar 07 2022

View of the Jacksonville, Florida skyline from the St. Johns river.

If you like amazing beaches, favorable taxes, and affordable real estate, the Sunshine State may be the place for you. But where in Florida should you call home? We researched cities from the Panhandle to the Keys to find the best places to live in Florida based on features that are on top of most homebuyers’ minds.

How we picked the best places to live in Florida

We’re big fans of just about every place you can live in Florida, so picking the best wasn’t easy. Ultimately, we came up with these five categories to help us choose.

  • Cost of living: A cost of living index compares one area to another based on what people typically spend on basic necessities. Our highest score went to places with an overall cost of living index between 70 and 74. Anything with an index of 115 or higher earned just one point.
  • Housing costs: We gave places more points when the median housing price is below $200,000. Lower scores went to more expensive areas, with a middle range of $300,001 - $330,000.
  • Lifestyle: Our lifestyle score is based on the cultural, recreational, and entertainment opportunities available in each city.
  • Crime: We used data from NeighborhoodScout to assess Florida cities’ crime rates. Rates are based on incidents per 1,000 residents of the city.
  • Schools: For schools, we focused on average test scores based on data from Public School Review.

Cities could earn up to 10 points in each category for a possible 50 points in total. The chart below lists the total for our top 10 best places to live and the score the cities earned in each category.

Top 10 best places to live in Florida

Header Total Cost of living Housing Lifestyle Crime Schools
Jacksonville 34 6 9 9 5 5
Ocala 32 8 8 8 5 3
Tampa 31 4 4 10 7 6
Daytona Beach 30 7 9 10 2 2
Cape Coral 30 4 3 6 10 7
Naples 29 2 1 8 10 8
Pensacola 29 7 8 7 5 2
Fort Myers 29 5 5 8 6 5
Port St. Lucie 29 4 4 7 10 4
Sarasota 23 1 2 8 5 7

1. Jacksonville

Score: 34/50

Like many Florida cities, Jacksonville boasts beautiful beaches where residents can swim, surf and sail. But the opportunities to get outside don’t stop there. The St. Johns River also flows through the city, and the area has the largest urban park system in the country. Add to this a growing job market, a median home price of $274,700, and a cost of living index of 93.5, and it’s easy to see why Jacksonville is one of the best places to live in Florida.

2. Ocala

Score: 32/50

Located in central Florida, Ocala stands out as the only city on our list that isn’t located on the ocean. The result is a different lifestyle than many of its beach town counterparts. Ocala is best known for its equestrian roots, with rolling hills and green pastures dominating the scenery.

Housing costs in Ocala are reasonable. The median home sale is $245,000, and the cost of living index is 83.8. Ocala’s historic district boasts several unique types of homes, including Queen Anne, Tudor, and Mediterranean styles.

3. Tampa

Score: 31/50

Tampa is a sports fan’s dream location. Not only do professional football, baseball, and hockey teams call the city home, but several major league baseball teams hold their spring training camps in the area. While the city is a great place for anyone who loves being on the water, it also offers a lively mix of museums, hot night spots, and family-friendly attractions.

Perhaps the most important qualities are its cost of living index,100.1, and median home cost, $350,000. You should note, however, that the median cost of Tampa home insurance is $2,107, well above the average premium in the US.

4. Daytona Beach

Score: 30/50

There’s more to Daytona Beach than just the Daytona International Speedway, though that is a major attraction for car enthusiasts. Like many people living in Florida, Daytona Beach residents like being outdoors, whether that means fishing, golfing, or just enjoying the beach. However, Daytona Beach balances recreational activities with a vibrant cultural scene that offers several museums and theaters.

Daytona Beach is also a very affordable city. The median home price is $210,500, and the cost of living index is 85.7.

5. Cape Coral

Score: 30/50

Dreaming about owning a home on the waterfront? Then Cape Coral may be the place for you. Not only is the city located on a peninsula, but Cape Coral has more than 400 miles of canals for your enjoyment ﹘ many of which take you to the Gulf of Mexico.

Residents pay for the sights both in terms of median home prices, $380,000, and cost of living index, 103.9. Moreover, Cape Coral is growing, so you want to get established here before home prices begin to rise even more.

6. Naples

Score: 29/50

Fashionistas may want to take a closer look at Naples as many high-end retailers have stores in the area. But if browsing boutiques is not your thing, you might still consider Naples for its fine restaurants, amazing beachfront, or world-class golf.

Living in Naples doesn’t come cheap. As of January 2022, the typical home value in the city is $560,00, and the cost of living is 111.9. That said, Naples is considered safer than 39 percent of all US cities, with a crime rate of 15.54 per 1,000 residents.

7. Pensacola

Score: 30/50

Located in the Florida Panhandle. Pensacola is known for its emerald green water and white sand beaches. The local architecture and cultural activities highlight the city's Spanish and Native American influences, and as do many of the city’s festivals. Plus, Pensacola is home to the National Naval Aviation Museum and the renowned Blue Angels. All of this also comes with a relatively low cost of living index of 87.3 and median home costs of $249,800.

8. Fort Myers

Score: 29/50

Fort Myers is one of the top retirement communities in America, and much of the city's lifestyle reflects an older demographic. However, there are plenty of recreational opportunities for residents of all ages, including fishing, kayaking, hiking, and biking. Moreover, Fort Myers is a fairly affordable city, with a cost of living index of 96.2 and typical home costs of $313,800.

9. Port St. Lucie

Score: 29/50

If chill is your thing but you still want to be close to the bustle of a big city, then you may find that Port St. Lucie is the best place to live. It’s halfway between Miami or Orlando where you can enjoy bars and restaurants by night and amusement parks by day. And you’ll still find people around Port St. Lucie paddleboarding along scenic waterways or playing a few rounds of golf.

Port St. Lucie’s premium location does mean you’ll pay a bit more to live there. Typical home values are around $351,800 and the cost of living index is 100.7.

10. Sarasota

Score: 23/50

The Sarasota-Bradenton metro area may have a population of 750,000, but Sarasota itself counts just over 54,000 residents. As a result, Sarasota feels like a small town with some big-city amenities, including several performing arts venues. The city is also home to several well-known art festivals, ranging from street painting to improv.

The median price for Sarasota homes is high, $464,500, and the cost of living index, 102.7, is slightly higher than several of the other Florida cities on our list. But the combination of outdoor activities, art, and culture make Sarasota a town worth considering for your forever home.

If Florida isn’t your cup of tea, then check out our article on the best places to live in the US!


Related Posts:Keep exploring