With its mild winters, 1,350 miles of coastline and relatively affordable real estate, the Sunshine State makes a strong case as a destination worth retiring to. Moreover, it can be easier to stretch your money in Florida, which has no state tax—meaning no state tax on social security benefits, pensions, 401(k)s and other retirement income—and no inheritance or estate tax. City to city, each offers a different mix of culture, leisure activities and amenities for seniors. Here are our top picks for where to relocate to enjoy the good life.
Naples seems to be synonymous with retirement, starting with the median age of 66. This western-coast city offers much by way of leisure, from 80 championship golf courses to a vibrant downtown with ample shops amid the Mediterranean architecture. Of course, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico stay warm—dipping to 67 degrees F in January—and the sunsets and powdery white sand hold a tropical allure. As far as 55+ communities, the largest is Valencia Trails, with a 42,000-square-foot clubhouse and home prices starting in the $300,000s.
New Smyrna Beach
This Atlantic Ocean beach town an hour outside Orlando is thick with charm and quirk, thanks to a community of artists and indie businesses, such as Third Wave Café and Wine Bar with a tropical back patio seemingly belonging to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, or Bali, Indonesia. Residents here subscribe to a largely outdoor lifestyle that includes not just the ocean, but also beachside dog parks and multi-use parks with trails, such as Smyrna Dunes Park. The biggest retirement community in the area is Venetian Bay, where homes can still be had in the high $200,000s.
Another town that skews older, Vero Beach, a city of 20,000 people on the Atlantic coast 2.5 hours north of Miami by car, has an average age of 53.4 years. The downtown area has yet to experience revitalization and a surge of development, but on the oceanside stretch, you’ll find coffee shops, the Gloria-Estefan-owned Costa d’Este upscale resort and spa as well as The Ocean Drive Farmers Market. Vero is also home to 23 golf courses, plus ample piers, boardwalks and trails for hiking and biking. The median home price is $315,000 and older residents also have a variety of retirement communities to chose from, including the Isles of Vero Beach, Atria Villages of Windsor and the assisted-living ACTS Retirement Life Community.
If your retirement dreams include boating and having the grandkids call you Cappy, then consider Cape Coral, part of the greater Fort Myers area. This city of 184,000 has been dubbed the Waterfront Wonderland thanks to its 400 miles of navigable waterway, many created by real estate developers to allow more residents boat access to the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico. Boaters, anglers, paddlers and birders will also appreciate how much coastal land has been protected as green space, including the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve and the island of Cayo Costa. The laid-back islands of Sanibel and Captiva, considered by some to be home to the best white sand beaches in the state, are also within an hour’s drive. With median home prices of $385,000, Cape Coral isn’t the cheapest city in Florida to retire but comes with commensurate perks.
Perhaps the biggest reason to move to Orlando is the guarantee that you’ll see the grandkids often thanks to ‘the parks:’ Disney, Universal and Sea World. Orlando also claims one of the more extensive and proficient hospital networks, primarily run by AdventHealth Orlando and Orlando Health. Its urban perks also include the state’s best public transportation system, second only to Miami. In addition to the bus system, the city’s SunRail commuter line runs north-south, connecting Deltona with Kissimmee. The City Beautiful also offers 25 golf courses, a half dozen malls and outlet malls, plus a science museum, art museum, philharmonic and, of course, the Amway Center, hosting the Orlando Magic as well as stadium-worthy concerts.
Tampa, the state’s third-largest city, offers a desirable mix of city living as well as quick access to Gulf of Mexico beaches. Its neighborhoods are connected to downtown via the state’s third-best public transit system. Tampa also offers high-standard medical care thanks to Tampa General Hospital and the Moffitt Cancer Center, the best in the state. You’ll also find a zoo, aquarium, theme parks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team as well as a handful of museums, such as the nearby Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Come dusk, the city stays buzzing, from the upscale bars and restaurants of Hyde Park to the breweries of historic Ybor City. All this can be had for a median home price of $354,100.
Sarasota manages to be both a low-key beach town and a city with lots going on: The white sands of Siesta Key Beach are just 20 minutes from Sarasota downtown. Within the greater city, you’ll find the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the Sarasota Opera House, the Artist Colony at Towles Court with galleries and artist studios, and the active indie movie scene backed by the Sarasota Film Society. Outdoorsy types will appreciate that the city is also home to a significant boating community, 29 golf courses as well as the Myakka River State Park, with 58 miles of water ideal for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Sarasota is also home to The Lakewood Ranch mega-community, a collection of more than 20 smaller communities that range in amenities and cost (starting in the $300,000s). Community offerings can include tennis, golf, pickleball and a pool. Lakewood excels not only for its ability to accommodate many incomes but also for its active calendar, packed with the Sunday Farmers’ Market, yoga in their park and outings to local attractions, including the Sarasota Polo Club.