This has been one of the most challenging lists to complete .
When evaluating cities and towns for our best places lists, the first criteria we check is crime rates. The reasons I make this the #1 quality of life factor we research first is that in over 30 years of selling real estate in multiple states, I’ve never had a buyer say that high crime areas were someplace they’d be interested in looking at. In fact, finding a home in a place as safe or safer than where they were moving from, was what most buyers expressed as a requirement.
So every one of the cities or towns on our best places lists have crime rates lower than the national average based on FBI reporting. We research both property and violent crime rates. The trouble we’ve had with the Jacksonville/North Florida region of Florida is that so many of the cities and towns in this area have high crime rates and don’t qualify for our lists.
There are some small beach towns with low crime rates, but they score low in other quality of life factors and therefore don’t qualify as best for our lists. For instance, in these towns, there’s few or no places to shop. Having a better than average number of restaurants, stores, pubs, etc. for the size of the population is another requirement to qualify for our best places lists. Why? Because what good is spending more money on a home to live in a nice safe area, if you have to leave that low crime area and go to high crime areas every time you want to dine out, go the doctor or grocery store?
There are still places in Florida that offer a high quality of life. They have better than average job opportunities. They have better schools. They have more dining, shopping, recreation and entertainment options for the size of the town than other places in Florida. And yes, you can enjoy all of that in a safer low crime environment. So why would anyone chose to spend a lot of time, money and effort to move 1000 miles, just to live in a town that doesn’t measure up?
There are good reasons to want to live in north Florida/Jacksonville area. Hot humid summer weather only last about 6 months a year in north Florida, compared with places farther south where it can drag on for 9 months or longer. It also takes less time to travel “back home” or for friends and relatives from there to visit you. So if you want to move to this area of Florida and live in a top location that scores high in all or most quality of life factors, here are those places…
So Here They Are, The 3 Best Places to Live In the Jacksonville-North Florida Region
These 3 Towns Are Also the Best Jacksonville Suburbs
In random order…
#1 Fleming Island Florida Population 30,000
Fleming Island Florida is located about a half hour south of downtown Jacksonville Florida. The town is not actually an island and it’s miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, but it is bordered by the St John’s River, Doctors Lake and Black Creek. Boating and fishing are popular activities in this area.
Fleming Island’s crime rates are below the national average according to FBI statistics, a requirement for all places listed as “best” on this website. There are more businesses and services in this area for residents per capita than in most of Florida. The area’s students score significantly higher on tests than students in Florida or the nation as a whole according to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). If you’re thinking of moving or retiring to North Florida, this is one place you’ll want to explore.
#2 Palm Valley Florida Population 22,000
Palm Valley Florida is also one of the best small towns to live in Florida
Palm Valley Florida is also one of the best places to raise a family in Florida
Palm Valley is located about a half hour from downtown Jacksonville heading southeast towards the coast, so employment options are better than average. Palm Valley’s crime rates are about half the national average. Compare that to Florida’s overall crime rate that is considerably higher than the national average and you’ll see why you’ll like be able to enjoy living here without concerns for your safety.
Student test scores in Palm Valley are far higher than both Florida’s and the national average. There are more restaurants, shops, parks, etc. than you’ll find in most similarly sized towns in Florida. Palm Valley is just minutes from Atlantic Ocean beaches. However, being close to the beaches in Florida has trade offs. The closer you live to the beach, the bigger the bite housing will usually take from your income. Palm Valley’s elevation is listed at just 7 ft above sea level. Moving to low lying areas located right near the Atlantic coast means that one may want to consider the effects of hurricanes, flooding and possible evacuations before moving to such areas. But if being near the beach is what you’ve always dreamed of, Palm Valley may be what you’re looking for in North Florida.
#3 Neptune Beach Florida Population 7,000
Neptune Beach is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida about 30 minutes east of Jacksonville. If you live here and want to get out of the house, you’ll find more places to dine, have a drink or shop in Neptune Beach (or just a few blocks north or south of town) than you will in most small towns of similar size in Florida.
The latest FBI reporting on Neptune Beach is mixed. It has a violent crime rate well below the national average. The town’s property crime rate is lower than the national average, but not by much. I must admit, we would normally not consider a town with a crime rate so close to the national average, but we included Neptune Beach because there just weren’t better places to choose from in North Florida. So it’s one of the 3 best, and it does currently meet our qualifications, but please also consider this:
- Most people who move to Florida intend to live there a long time. If the crime rates rise for a few years, will you still feel safe?
- Homes prices in Neptune Beach are not cheap. They’re about twice as much as Florida’s average as of this writing. As crime rates go up in an area, home values tend to go down.
The Best Neighborhoods in Jacksonville Florida
Please Note: Jacksonville Florida’s property and violent crime rates are both significantly higher than the national average. Therefore, the city is not on any of our best places to live or retire lists.
We realize that there may be a compelling reason for someone to live within the Jacksonville Florida city limits. So here are the best neighborhoods in Jacksonville Florida that have low crime rates and other high quality of life factors.
Here are the best Jacksonville neighborhoods (listed in alphabetical order)
- Pickwick Park
- San Marco 3000
Ron Stack “That Best Places Guy”
- Want to be certain if moving to Florida is right for you or your family? You’ll know after reading the Florida Move Guide.