These Are the 4 Best Places to Live in Florida
Florida isn't just one of the most meme-able states in America. It's also one of the most livable places. And after the pandemic made working from home a possibility for more people, they began moving to Florida in droves.
Who wouldn't want to live with nonexistent winters, great food and gorgeous beaches? Of course, this has meant that popular spots like Miami and Tampa have seen some dramatic jumps in housing prices.
But don't worry. There are still some places where you can live your dreams of tropical days eating Cuban sandwiches without going broke. These are the four best places to live in Florida, and they rank among the places to live in the U.S.
How the Ranking Was Determined
We have based the livability ranking on the U.S. News and World Report's Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023. The annual ranking takes into account numerous factors to come up with a list of 150 cities. According to the report, "a place had to have good value, be a desirable place to live, have a strong job market and a high quality of life" to make the cut.
After analyzing the report, we've taken the four Florida cities that made it into the top 30 of U.S. cities overall. We considered the report's ranking and scores for the cities and also added our own editorial input, based on the experience of our staff writer (me), who lives in the state.
Take it from a local and consider moving to these awesome places in Florida.
U.S. News ranking: 9
Quality of life: 7.0
Overall score: 6.7
*Value, quality of life, and overall score are from the U.S. News and World's Report rankings, based on their analysis of public data and user opinions.
Bottom Line: Sarasota
Sarasota comes in at number nine in the overall list of livable cities. We aren't surprised to see it do so well, especially because we lived there for almost half a decade and are well-acquainted with its charms.
The city is known to the outside world as a sleepy town where retired northerners come to spend the winter. And the stereotype is definitely true. Snowbirds flock here when the weather gets cold. What doesn't get advertised as much, however, is that Sarasota is also a college town, with New College of Florida, the Ringling College of Art and Design, and another four secondary education institutions.
Both snowbirds and college students love cultural events, so Sarasota has a constant roster of plays, concerts, art shows, plays and performances happening. You will also be able to visit institutions like the Ringling Museum, which has an impressive art collection that spans from ancient times to the current century and includes works by Peter Paul Reubens and Marcel Duchamp.
In terms of food, you can expect both variety and quality. From Peruvian to Thai to American to Spanish, you'll find it all Downtown, on Main Street or Saint Armand's, along with boutique shops and bars.
Of course, the real reason to move to Sarasota is the beach. Siesta Key constantly ranks amongst the most beautiful in the country. The flour-like sand is so soft that you'll have the urge to eat it and the water in the Gulf of Mexico is clear and warm. At sunset, groups of dolphins often come close to the shore and bioluminescence happens seasonally.
As someone who lived there for a long time, Sarasota deserves to be in the top 10 best cities in the U.S.
U.S. News ranking: 12 (out of 30)
Quality of life: 7.4
Overall score: 6.6
Bottom Line: Naples
About two hours south of Sarasota, you'll find Naples, which ranks at number 12 on the overall list.
Another town in the Gulf of Mexico, Naples didn't make it into the top 10 because it isn't as affordable as the other three cities on here. Unless you're bringing in a considerable amount of money home, you won't be able to buy a home right on the beach. But condos are attainable, and it is entirely possible to find a decent-ish value on homes that are a 10-15 minute drive to the beach. And we definitely prefer that to living in a shoebox in New York City.
We'll let you in on a Florida secret: Naples is where people from Miami go on vacation. The city doesn't have as much to do as Sarasota, but it is a perfect midway point between Tampa and Miami, which is what draws so many business people to it — either permanently or as a place to spend long workcations. It is also smaller and quieter, which is why people from the big cities come here for vacation.
If you make the move to Naples, you can expect summers to be extremely busy with tourists and winters to be filled with snowbirds. But the latter stay for enough months to actually contribute to the community. In the offseasons, however, you can enjoy a taste of Florida like it used to be before everyone realized it's an awesome place to live.
U.S. News ranking: 20 (out of 30)
Quality of life: 7.0
Overall score: 6.5
Bottom Line: Melbourne
Many people have never heard of Melbourne, which is surprising given its proximity to one of Florida's darlings, Orlando.
One of the major appeals of Melbourne is that it's only an hour away from Mickey's backyard. And if you move to Florida, that means that you get the discounted resident prices for many of the theme parks like Islands of Adventure (where you'll find Harry Potter World) and Disneyland.
But Melbourne — which ranks No. 20 overall — has charms of its own outside of its connection to theme parks. The biggest one is, again, the beach. Located on Florida's Space Coast and Cape Canaveral, you will be able to see space shuttle launches or take your kids to the educational Kennedy Space Station.
Better yet, the city has managed to keep its market from skyrocketing. That doesn't mean it's necessarily cheap, but it's reasonable for real estate next to the beach. There is also proximity to nature, including several state parks and lakes. This combines to earn Melbourne a solid 7 in quality of life.
U.S. News ranking: 24 (out of 30)
Quality of life: 6.7
Overall score: 6.5
Bottom Line: Jacksonville
Coming in at No.24, Jacksonville is far from the messy stereotype movies would have you believe. OK, yes, there are a lot of drunk people who come to party at the beach, which sometimes makes this city seem like it's trying to imitate its cooler older cousin, Miami.
But those are things residents don't usually deal with since they don't go to the tourist beaches anyways. And what movies don't typically show are the numerous trails and kayaking routes that residents enjoy quite frequently. Plus, it's right on the border with Georgia, so if you ever feel like leaving on a road trip, you won't have to drive eight hours before crossing a state line.
The main downside to Jacksonville is that winters do get colder than in the rest of the state. Though we're saying that from a South Florida perspective — if you enjoy cooler temperatures, then this is a definite plus.
Another downside is that the business and job markets aren't as developed as in other places in Florida. But that is rapidly changing as more companies look to relocate to the Sunshine State for its tax laws.
Right now, the real estate market is still reasonable and affordable. But if Jacksonville follows the path of other Florida cities, it won't stay that way for long. And that's just another reason to consider moving here sooner rather than later.