11 Best Southwest Florida Towns

Wondering Where the Best Places to Live or Retire on Southwest Florida’s Beautiful Gulf Coast Are?

  • Southwest Florida has become one of the more popular areas of Florida for people to both relocate and vacation.
  • It’s especially preferred by people moving from Midwest and people 55+ from all over the US when relocating for retirement.
  • This has been one of the easiest regional best place’s lists to to create. There are so many more places with lower crime rates and high quality of life ratings in Southwest Florida, compared to most other regions of Florida.

Here’s a Quick Southwest Florida Pro and Con

Advantages / Pros of living in Southwest Florida

  • The water of the Gulf of Mexico on the southwest coast of Florida is mostly clearer, warmer and calmer than the Atlantic waters along the east coast of Florida.
  • There are lots of cities and towns in Southwest Florida with crime rates lower than the national average, one of the requirements to qualify as a best place on this website.
  • There are highly desirable areas in Southwest Florida where you can buy or build a brand new home for less than anywhere else in the state.

Disadvantages / Cons of living in Southwest Florida

  • Much of Southwest Florida is flat and is just above sea level. This puts many Southwest Florida homes in zones that will require expensive flood insurance in addition to regular homeowner’s insurance to protect against financial loss.
  • Because much of this area is flat and just above sea level, the additional threat of storm surge from hurricanes can result in more disruption from evacuations and damage during the six month hurricane season that lasts from June 1 to November 30 every year.
  • Due to it’s current popularity, the place you choose to move to in Southwest Florida may be a very different place in 5 years due to explosive growth, building and development.

Southwest Florida’s Population is Older (Pro or Con Depending Upon What You’re Looking For)

  • More than half of the 25 oldest counties in the US (by age of the head of household), are located in Florida, including the 12 oldest counties. Four of those oldest counties are in Southwest Florida: Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Sarasota.
  • This may be a plus for senior citizens who would like to mingle with other people their own age. However, younger people, especially those with children or younger singles may find Southwest Florida to be a lot different than where they just moved from.
  • A higher number of older residents may have something to do with the lower crime rates for the area.

Here Are Southwest Florida’s Top Cities and Towns to Move to Today

In alphabetical order…

a banyan tree in bonita springs

A Banyon Tree Common to Southwest Florida in Bonita Springs.

#1 Bonita Springs Florida

Population 50,000

Bonita Springs is located just north of Naples Florida and about a half hour south, driving from Fort Myers. Bonita Springs offers residents and tourist many parks involving islands and beaches such as the Bonita Beach Park, the Barefoot Beach Preserve Park, Little Hickory Island Beach Park, Lovers Key State Park and others. That’s why Bonita is also on our Best Places to Live in Florida for the Beach list.

Bonita Springs may be an ideal place to raise a family in Florida because student test scores here are about 10% higher than the Florida or national average, despite having slightly higher student to teacher ratios. Crime rates are low here and there’s more shopping dining and entertainment options than what you find in most cities this size in Florida.. At the time of this writing, median home prices in Bonita Springs were about 50% higher than Florida’s overall, which is not bad for the high quality of life and beaches this small city offers.

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boats pool homes on canal in cape coral florida

Cape Coral Florida has 100’s of Miles of Canals With Access to the Gulf.

#2 Cape Coral Florida

Population 175,000

  • Cape coral is a best place to raise a family in Florida.
  • Cape Coral is one of the most affordable places to buy a home in Southwest Florida
  • Cape Coral is one of the best places for new construction homes in Southwest Florida.

Cape Coral Florida is located next to and separated from Fort Myers Florida by the Caloosahatchee River. It’s one of the fastest growing areas in Florida due to the still high number of vacant lots that are ready for builders to buy and construct brand new construction homes. Because of this large supply of lots, builders are able to offer brand-new homes sooner in Cape Coral for lower prices than just about anywhere else in Florida.

florida move guide book cover and discription

Cape Coral itself does not have Gulf beaches but you could be laying on the sand listening to the surf with just a short drive. Cape Coral also has hundreds of miles of canals and thousands of waterfront homes with boating access to the river and Gulf of Mexico by boat.

Cape coral is the only city in Florida with over 100,000 people that has crime rates low enough to qualify for our best places to live in Florida lists. The violent crime rate in Cape Coral is just a small fraction of the national average making the city one of the safest places to live in the country. The property crime rate is also substantially lower than the national average. Right across the river in Fort Myers, the violent crime rate is almost 4 times higher than the national average so you won’t see it on any of our lists. High crime rates are just one reason choosing the right place to live or retire in Florida is so important.

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a large osprey bird on the beach estero florida

An Osprey Common to Southwest Florida.

#3 Estero Florida

Population 31,000

as stereo Florida is located on Southwest Florida’s coast about a half hour drive south from Fort Myers. The 10,000 acre Etereo Bay preserve state park is offers all kinds of water sport activities in calm clear warm water such fishing, kayaking and sailboarding. Biking is also popular here.

Estero residents enjoy crime rates that are just a fraction US average. Student test scores here are substantially higher than the national average, even though student to teacher ratios are higher than average. Estero offers a high quality of life but home prices in the area are substantially higher than the median price for Florida and the US.

sunny day fort myers beach sand and gulf view

Palm Trees, Tiki huts and White Sand on Fort Myers Beach

#4 Fort Myers Beach

Population 7,000

Fort Myers Beach is a short distance from the major city that it gets his name from, but there’s a world of difference between the two. Fort Byers Beach has across-the-board high quality of life ratings. It’s one of safest places to live the US. Students here have a test scores.

There are many annual community events to look forward to in Fort Myers Beach such as the American Sand Sculpting Championship, the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club shrimp Festival, Fort Myers Beach Christmas boat Parade, the Taste of the Beach and the Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival.

Fort Myers Beach has more places to dine or get a drink for the size of the town than other places in Florida. Of course it’s just a short drive to Fort Myers when you desire more options or to access a major employment market.

Like all towns Florida with “beach” in the name that offer high quality of life scores, Fort Myers Beach home prices are not cheap. They’re more than double the national and Florida average. But in areas like this where you can walk from many of the homes to the beach, you’re not just buying a home, you’re buying a lifestyle. Most people only dream about living in such a place.

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people on bike path enjoy sunny view of gulf of mexico

People Enjoying a View of the Bay on Marco Island.

#5 Marco Island Florida

Population 18,000

Marco Island is located about a half hour south of Naples Florida. If you love the beach Marco Island is one of the best places to visit or own a home in Florida. Marco Island Florida is easily within the top 10 best places to live in Florida. Quality of life scores are off the chart high.

Student test scores here are among the highest in Florida. There are more shopping and dining options per capita located on this island than similarly sized towns elsewhere in Florida. In a recent year this island town 17,000 people that attracts lots of tourist, had only two reported violent crimes in the entire year. Property crimes here are also just a fraction of the national average, happening at a rate of about 80% lower than the national average. Marco Island would be an excellent place in Florida to call home, but it’s not for everyone because housing cost are more than twice the national and Florida average.

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people walking a pier over the gulf colorful sunset

People Take in Sunset from Naples Pier.

#6 Naples Florida

Population 22,000

Naples Florida is located on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast about an hour drive south of Fort Myers and about two hours from Miami by way of the I-75 also known as Alligator Alley in this part of Florida because it runs through the everglades. Naples is a nature lover’s paradise with easy access to the Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Everglades National Park, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the 10,000 Islands national life wildlife refuge and Picayune Strand State Forest. If that wasn’t enough, Naples also has Gulf of Mexico white sand beaches.

Naples is also a place for upscale dining, shopping and opportunities to enjoy the performing arts, as you might expect in an area where the Median home price is almost $8,000,000 at this writing. Naples Florida is also one of the safest places to live in the United States with to current crime rates far lower than the national average. Violent crime is especially low here. Student test scores here are substantially higher than the national average. Naples is an all around great place to live and worth looking into.

sunny day people pose at tiki bar entrance flanked by palms

Pops Tiki Bar and Grill in Nokomis Florida.

#7 Nokomis Florida

Population 3,500

Nokomis Florida is a small little town located just south of Sarasota Florida. Sarasota Florida is the art and culture center for Southwest Florida. Unfortunately according to FBI reporting its crime rates are higher than the national average and therefore not eligible for any of our best places to live in Florida this.

Nokomis is a mix of old and new. Some sections offer a slice of old Florida complete with restaurants and tiki bars the same as it was decades ago. Crime rates are low here. Student test scores are high and the cost of living is about average for Florida. Housing costs here are lower than Florida and the national average, but that’s influenced by a higher percentage of smaller older cottage type homes and manufactured/mobile homes in the town.

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brand new construction home in north port florida

North Port Florida is One of the Best Places to Buy an Affordable New Construction Home.

#8 North Port Florida

Population 61,000

North Port Florida is located in Southwest Florida less than an hour north from part Fort Myers. High student test scores and lower crime rates and other high quality of life scores make this more affordable place a nice place to live. What’s different about North Port is that it has over 50,000 residents, yet crime rates remain low.

Due to an abundance of vacant lots available to build on, North Port is one of least expensive places in Florida to buy or build a new construction home. The median home price is lower here than the rest of Florida and a higher percentage of the resale homes are newer.

North Port does not have Gulf of Mexico beaches. However it’s just a great place to live in Florida and many of Florida’s best beaches are less than 30 minutes away by car. If you’re one of the many people were moving to Florida and looking for a place to buy a nice home, possibly a brand-new home, for a lower price and in area with good schools and low crime rates, North Port is worth a look.

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wind blows palm trees in the sun in front of florida home

Florida Style Home and Vegetation.

#9 Osprey Florida

Population 7,000

Osprey Florida is located in Southwest Florida about an hour south of Tampa, and just a few minutes south of Sarasota Florida. Osprey Florida is another small town similar to nearby Nokomis in size, which is also on this list, making it easy to check out both places the same day. Osprey Florida residents enjoy high quality of life factors across the board. However unlike its neighbor Nokomis, Osprey’s homes are priced little higher than Florida and the nation as a whole.

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view of boats on florida canal

Punta Gorda has Deep Water Canals Needed for Sailboat Access to the Gulf.

#10 Punta Gorda Florida

Population 18,000

Punta Gorda is located where the Peace and Myakka River’s meet and form Charlotte Harbor, just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s about half hour drive north from Fort Myers Florida. Punta Gorda is on our best places in Florida for boating and fishing and our best places for golfing list.

Punta Gorda has a large riverfront park that offers tennis courts, basketball courts, picnicking and more all with a beautiful relaxing scenic view. Just down from the park is Fisherman’s Wharf, which is now a large shopping and dining area that’s under roof. Numerous annual festivals are held here.

Punta Gorda has lots of waterfront properties ideal for both owners. Many waterfront homes here have deep water sailboat access to the Gulf of Mexico. Like all of our best places, low crime rates and other high quality of life scores make Punta Gorda one of the better places to live in Southwest Florida.

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Condo sunny day view of town and gulg of mexico

Condo with a View of the Blue Water Gulf.

#11 Venice Florida

Population 22,000

Venice Florida is about an hour north of Fort Myers Florida and about an hour south of the Tampa St. Petersburg area. Venice Florida is not just one of the best places to live in Southwest Florida but it’s one of the best in the country overall. Venice has a small historic downtown and parks within walking distance to Gulf of Mexico beaches. There are many miles of bike paths in the area including some that connect to the beaches.

Venice has been named to many of our best places every year, all the way back to the beginning of this website. If you’ll be checking out Southwest Florida while looking for a new place to live you owe it to yourself to take a look at Venice. Make sure you visit the island portion of the city which is separated from the rest by the intercoastal waterway. Venice has everything from multimillion dollar beach and waterfront with boating access homes and condos to mobile homes. The median home price here is slightly higher than the national average, but worth every penny.

Please note: I seem to meet younger people no matter where I go in Florida, but the average age in Venice Florida is older than most other places of the state. The joke here is, “Venice is where my grandparent’s mother and father live.”
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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.

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13 thoughts on “11 Best Southwest Florida Towns”

  1. What about north west Florida. What are the best towns to move to on the gulf?

    • I was going to post a link to an article on the best places to live/retire in the northwest aka panhandle region of Florida, but then realized I neglected to write one like I did for southwest Florida and FL’s other regions. To correct that situation, I hope to have an article published by Monday March 8 2021. I’ll post a link to it here when done. Thanks for the question.
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      Ron Stack “That Best Places Guy” of Zeus Press Inc

      • Want to be certain if moving to Florida is right for you or your family? You’ll know after reading the Florida Move Guide. Avoid expensive mistakes.
  2. Hi Ron,
    My wife and I live in Ft. Lauderdale and been there for 40+ years. Looking at retirement within the next two years and think we want to be on the west coast of Fla….love sunsets! We are also avid boaters and like the Key West ambiance. We think we would like to be between Tampa and Naples. We would like to visit a few different locations to feel them out and then purchase property. Any recommendations?
    Thanks,
    Mark

    • Hello Mark,
      If your looking for a ideal place to retire on the west coast of Florida between Tampa and Naples (Southwest Florida) that has a similar vibe to Key West, take a look at the video of Siesta Key Village in this article and see what you think. It’s under the heading of “Bee Ridge, South Sarasota and Siesta Key Florida”.
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      Ron Stack “That Best Places Guy” of Zeus Press Inc

      • Want to be certain if moving to Florida is right for you or your family? You’ll know after reading the Florida Move Guide. Avoid expensive mistakes.
  3. Wow – I was heading down next week to purchase a condo on a canal either in St. Petes, Punta Gorda or Cape Coral with drop dead views, after months of searching. Now I’m afraid of flooding and coyotes. I’m retirement age, single with a small pooch, artist and musician. From northeast. Where am I going wrong here? Should I just forget Flordia since you all seem to agree it’s heading into the pits….

  4. Sanibel Captiva?

  5. Hello Ron,
    I’ve lived in Venice, Florida from 1982-1999, and now live out of state. The population, development, and traffic has increased exponentially over the years. But I miss the south Florida gulf coast and want to return. In your opinion, which are the safe, conservative towns for a single career woman? With the traffic, I’d choose not to drive, and Sarasota County has a good bus system, and I’d rather rent or buy a small mobile home.

    • Hello Christy,
      Venice still only has a population of 22,000, but like anywhere in Florida that’s desirable, tourists greatly increase the number of people actually in town especially in the winter. Venice is one of the “best of the best” places to live in Florida today with very high quality of life ratings such as lower crime, higher performing schools and great job availability, shopping dining and recreation options, etc. The population has a higher average age which is probably one reason it’s one of the safest places to live in the US which is particularly important if you will be relying on public transportation to get around such as when going to the grocery store or doctor. These other lists may also be of interest to you…

      The most walkable towns in Florida

      The most bikable towns in Florida

      The best places to retire in Florida in 2019

      Good luck Christy
      _____
      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.
      • Is there a better state to relocate to or a better retirement lifestyle for you than moving to Florida? You’ll know after reading How to Retire Happier.
  6. I love Florida and have lived in Florida for 30 years and although I love the hot and humid part of it actually, the mindless overdevelopment and traffic is horrible. The side effect of this is massive flooding for those of us not part of new development and in my town, Sarasota, we actually have developers building homes on toxic land. You can not find jobs here unless you work in tourism or you want to work for a big box store being a cashier. I-75 always has accidents during the season Jan-Easter and it is impossible to drive anywhere in less than 30 minutes.

    If you want to retire here the cheapest home you will find is $400,000 ( and it only cost the builder $80,000 to build) and if you want to live downtown you better have $1M. Our own children must live at home even after college graduation because one bedroom apartment rentals start at $1000. Most of our teachers, nurses and workers can not live in Sarasota so they must live 45 minutes or more away which adds to the traffic. In Sarasota it is only getting worse. My own property is severely flooded, so much so a river flows through my property during the summer as county storm water enters my property. This is happening all over Florida and the governments just keep building. We are one storm away from disaster. DO NOT MOVE HERE. I would move but I can not sell a my house and I have lost over $500,000 in equity. Sarasota just made another ‘best places to retire’. It is beautiful but as a boater you will find it difficult to navigate the bay, the beach on Lido is eroding so bad that the sand is washed out under buildings. The rate of environmental destruction to build $400,000 homes for “all the northerner moving here for their reward in paradise’ is frightening. Coyotes are on the island of Venice eating people’s pets and there are rat problems due to so many dying habitats.

    • Hello Alex,
      Sarasota in Southwest Florida, is not on any of our best places to live or retire lists. There are places I’ve enjoyed visiting in Sarasota like Siesta Key Village and Beach and a certain restaurant on St Armands, but crime rates far higher than the national average disqualify the city because crime is the first thing we research. Crime rates below the national average as reported from info derived from FBI reporting is required.

      I’m sorry to hear about the flooding and how it has affected your home value and ability to sell and get out as many others have done. I know it won’t help you, but the Florida Move Guide thoroughly covers the effects of Florida’s explosive growth and building, what to look for when shopping for a home, and what to avoid to help prevent expensive mistakes. Thanks for sharing your story.
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      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.
      • Is there a better state to relocate to or a better retirement lifestyle for you than moving to Florida? You’ll know after reading How to Retire Happier.
  7. We moved to Cape Coral Florida in1979. The town was very small, everyone knew everyone, the waters we’re pristine and full of life, and the cost of living was more then affordable. Today our town is way over grown, you are lucky to bump into someone you know, our water is so polluted some days you can’t even step in it, with little life left in it, and the cost of living whether buying or renting is ridiculously high. It is nothing like it was. Not a good place to live anymore. We are moving out.

    • Hello K.B.
      Believe it or not, Cape Coral is one of the best places to live On Southwest Florida’s Gulf coast, but I know exactly how you feel. People moving to Florida today, choose a place based on what it looks like right now. The Florida Move Guide covers what might happen to their selected slice of “paradise” within a relatively short time after they move in. At least if you own a home, getting out now means you may sell and cash in near the top of the market before the next downturn and drop in values. How to Retire Happier has a long chapter that rates all states on quality of life factors and covers some of the best towns located in the top ten highest rated states. Good luck on choosing your next location.
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      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.
      • Is there a better state to relocate to or a better retirement lifestyle for you than moving to Florida? You’ll know after reading How to Retire Happier.
  8. We now live in New Port Richey, both 75 years almost young and have adopted our grandson who is now 10 going into the 5th grade next year. We now have a stucco home and high HOA and living expenses. We would like to have a more Florida type home with porch, somewhat like a “Key West” type of of home and at the same time have access to a good school system for our son. Close to VA would be great. I now go to Haley in Temple Terrace.

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