#4 Sarasota Florida
The Sarasota Florida area has so much to offer it’s residents that it been making an annual appearance on my best places to retire in Florida list, and on the lists of Major publications. The Sarasota area is one of the larger areas picked for this list but I find it has more of a small town feel than most cities of this size.
The Sarasota area has many distinct areas and that’s what makes the place so interesting. There is dining and shopping on St Armands Circle that rivals upscale offerings anywhere. There are Casey, Longboat and Siesta keys offering incredible beaches and and a variety of island lifestyles from old Florida to luxurious. There’s no need to go all the way to Key West when you can visit Siesta Key Village for refreshments then and walk to the best beach in the world (something Key West doesn’t even come close to having).
Know as the arts and culture capital of Florida you’ll find theater, museums, galleries and celebrities that fly in for the annual Sarasota Film Festival. Many areas of Sarasota are bike/pedestrian friendly including miles with relaxing Gulf of Mexico water views. You’ll find as many recreational opportunities such as biking, hiking, swimming, fishing and combing the beaches for shells and shark’s teeth to keep you healthy and enlightened as anywhere in Florida. Sarasota also has many fine small colleges.
Sarasota is located about a half hour south of Tampa. Real estate prices are a little higher than is typical for Florida but the area has a higher quality of life than most in my opinion. There’s a large variety of high end seven figure properties but there are many nice areas for just a few hundred thousand also. Price conscious retirees can find a similar area that is much more affordable just south of Sarasota in the town of Venice, also a pick for best place to retire in Florida for 2014. Travel to points north by car isn’t the easiest because it takes almost five hours just to get to the I-95 Florida line from Sarasota. Air travel is much easier, Sarasota has it’s own airport and the Tampa St. Petersburg airport is only about a half hour away.
Please note: The Sarasota area has a higher crime rate than the national average. In my opinion, this is mainly because of an area that is easily avoidable, similar to the situation in other areas of Florida and the U.S. I would have no qualms about visiting or moving to Sarasota because of crime.
#3 Gainesville Florida
This is another town I have recommended for years. College towns are making there way onto best places to retire and live lists more frequently now than years ago. Universities can be very positive additions to an area’s economy and overall quality of life, not to mention the educational opportunities they offer retirees who would like to learn something new, like how to oil paint for instance.
In Gainesville you’ll find a large University surrounded by large town with a small town feel. There are more shopping and dining options available than what you would normally find in a town this size, thanks to the roughly 50,000 students living in the town and their parents that visit. The entrepreneurial spirit in Gainesville is strong and many of those retail and restaurant options are other than the chain and big-box options that you can find anywhere.
While many areas of Florida have a higher percentage of retirees, this area has the lowest median resident age in Florida. If you’re looking for a safe inexpensive area where the businesses don’t start closing up after the early-bird specials are over, you love this vibrant energetic town. The public transportation system is probably one of the best in the country because most of the students live off campus. The area has an improving downtown, lots of bike/pedestrian paths, parks and nearby recreational opportunities.
It’s location in the north central portion of Florida puts it about two hours from the I-95 Florida line. One drawback for the jet-set is that it’s over an hour’s drive to any major airport. Real Estate prices are typical for Florida although there are many low priced options, but they may be located in an area of town that has a higher incidence of crime or in condos loaded with students that may keep different hours than would be acceptable to retirees. Overall, the high quality of life in Gainesville make it one of the best places to retire in Florida in 2014 and it will probably remain that way for a long time.
#2 Venice Florida
Venice has been one of my recommended places to live in Florida for years. What’s not to love about an area with a very safe beautiful historic downtown on an island with eclectic shops and dining just minutes to the beach by bike or sandals? The island has miles of paved bike/pedestrian paths that run along the intracoastal waterway and take you to parks and beachs. There are a number of annual festivals held annually for residents who like to get out and enjoy the fresh air and Florida festival food.
The intracoastal waterway separates the island of Venice from the larger mainland portion of the town. Real Estate prices are typical for Florida, but this is another town that offers the rare combination of inexpensive homes and condos in a safe area with beautiful beaches and a great downtown. There is a wide range of home and condo options available including luxurious seven figure properties.
Venice’s location in southwest Florida about 45 minutes south of Tampa makes for a longer trip north when driving. Travel by air is easier thanks to the Sarasota airport just a short drive away and the Tampa airport that can be reached in about 45 minutes. Any trip to evaluate the area should include driving the island portion from end to end, even if you intend to buy on the more affordable mainland. No matter who you are or what you’re looking for, most people will find Venice to be a great place to live in Florida.
#1 St. Augustine Florida
Quaint St Augustine is the oldest town in the U.S. and it’s beautifully preserved historic downtown and buildings serve as a base for the community’s sense of pride and spirit. Residents and tourist alike love the cobblestone streets, colonial Spanish era architecture, shops, restaurants, museums and historical sites.
St. Augustine is located in northwest Florida right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean with miles of beaches. It is a short drive off of I-95, just below Jacksonville Florida, so it’s the shortest trip north by car than any of the other picks for 2014. It’s considered part of the Jacksonville Metro area and that’s where the closest major airport is. Jacksonville is also home of professional sports teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The cost of housing is is typical to slightly higher than typical for Florida. In my opinion, the combination of beaches, recreational areas and opportunities, historic sites, viable historic downtown and easy access to the major city amenities that Jacksonville Florida offers, make this area the best place to retire in Florida in 2014 if you can comfortably afford the slightly higher ticket cost.
Please note: There is an small, easily avoidable area with higher crime rates where real estate prices are lower that is not unlike many cities in the U.S. I would have no qualms about visiting or retiring to St. Augustine because of crime, but I would never buy or rent in a neighborhood with a high crime rate.
Where’s the worst place in Florida to retire in America? According to Grandparents.com it’s Miami. A few years ago Forbes named Miami the most miserable place to live in the U.S.
DISCLOSURE: In the interest of presenting both the the pros and cons of Florida, our next post will be a collection of videos that will show the downsides to living in Florida. The videos are from different people who are not trying to sell you something in Florida. Since millions of people that moved to Florida at great expense ended up spending more just to move out, we feel it’s important to present the whole story. In the mean time, there are four videos (if you haven’t seen them yet) in a comment at the bottom of the page here that will offer a preview.