The Best Places to Live in Florida

See how the most populous metro areas in the Sunshine State compare to each other.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Sept. 16, 2019, at 3:19 p.m.

The Best Places to Live in Florida

Slideshow

Where in Florida is the best place for you?

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If you’re a fan of warm weather, sandy beaches and plenty of sunny days, Florida probably sounds like a great place to live. But it’s a big state, complete with coastal cities, sprawling, landlocked towns and areas dotted with lakes and canals. That's why it takes some consideration to determine what part of Florida is best for you. Florida is also the third-most populous state in the country, and 11 places in the state are among the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. We’ve compiled the details from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings, which factor in desirability, affordability, access to quality health care and more, to help you decide which major metro area in the Sunshine State is right for you.

Updated on Sept. 16, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

11. Miami

11. Miami

Leaving for the Caribbean from Miami International Airport passing over Miami and Biscayne Bay.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 113
Metro Population: 6,019,790
Median Home Price: $247,113
Median Annual Salary: $46,860

The most populous metro area in Florida, Miami sits at the state’s southern tip and is a major tourist destination for its year-round hot weather, vibrant culture and lively nightlife. The Magic City’s desirability is evident in its growth, as the Miami metro area grew by more than 3.9% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, residents spend more than 31.08% of the median household income on housing expenses, including mortgage payments, rent and property taxes. Only San Juan, Puerto Rico, is more expensive to live in among the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Miami.

10. Daytona Beach

10. Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach skyline aerial view.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 99
Metro Population: 623,675
Median Home Price: $192,817
Median Annual Salary: $38,710

Daytona Beach has a population about one-tenth the size of Miami, but that may not be the case for long. Between 2013 and 2017, Daytona Beach grew by nearly 10.35% solely from net migration. Many people who are attracted to this spot on the Atlantic coast are retirees, as the median age in the Daytona Beach metro area is over 47. But the biggest factor contributing to its rank at No. 99 on the Best Places to Live list is the cost of living. Daytona Beach residents spend 27.84% of the median household income on housing, compared to the median 23.58% of all the spots on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Daytona Beach.

9. Port St. Lucie

9. Port St. Lucie

The Crosstown Parkway Extension Project is a new bridge crossing the North Fork of the St. Lucie River in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Construction is expected to be completed by November of 2019.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 78
Metro Population: 454,482
Median Home Price: $211,083
Median Annual Salary: $42,500

Port St. Lucie is growing slightly slower than Daytona Beach, seeing a 10.24% jump from 2013 to 2017 based on net migration. Of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, Port St. Lucie also ranks 14th in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which measures residents’ satisfaction with where they live, their physical health and the area’s economic stability. However, like many Florida metro areas, the cost of living is considered prohibitive for many residents. More than 27.5% of the median household income in Port St. Lucie is spent on housing costs, making it the 11th-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Port St. Lucie.

8. Orlando

8. Orlando

Sunset on the Boardwalk - Disneyworld

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 2,390,859
Median Home Price: $233,050
Median Annual Salary: $44,410

Home of Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando draws tourists year-round thanks to its theme parks and warm weather, despite not being located on the coast. But it’s not just visitors coming to Orlando, as the metro area has grown by 9.28% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Orlando has no shortage of jobs, but the median annual salary, at $44,410, is still more than $6,000 below the national median of $50,620, which contributes to its relatively high cost of living.

Learn more about Orlando.

7. Lakeland

7. Lakeland

Downtown Lakeland, Florida, US

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 59
Metro Population: 652,256
Median Home Price: $171,967
Median Annual Salary: $40,560

Just inland from Tampa is Lakeland, which isn’t coastal but is appropriately named for the lakes that dot the area. Lakeland ranks sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas for its low rates of murder and property crime – and is the safest Florida metro area on this list. Additionally, Lakeland has grown by about 9.91% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone. Lakeland’s job market, however, appears to struggle to meet demand, with an unemployment rate of 4%.

Learn more about Lakeland.

6. Tampa

6. Tampa

Skyline of Downtown Tampa, Florida, US

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 2,978,209
Median Home Price: $199,717
Median Annual Salary: $46,080

Ranking No. 56 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Tampa is experiencing a similar population boom to most other places in Florida, having grown by 7.93% from 2013 to 2017 due to net migration. Located on Tampa Bay, which is connected to the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa draws many retirees to its shores and has a median age 42. The Big Guava, as Tampa is known, is slightly more affordable than many other Florida metro areas, but residents still spend more than 25.53% of the median household income on housing.

Learn more about Tampa.

5. Jacksonville

5. Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline on St. Johns River.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 42
Metro Population: 1,447,884
Median Home Price: $174,658
Median Annual Salary: $45,760

Located near Florida’s border with Georgia along the Atlantic coast, Jacksonville ranks No. 42 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Jacksonville ranks 14th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students, based on information from the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings. With a population closing in on 1.5 million people, the Jacksonville area grew by just over 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Jacksonville.

4. Pensacola

4. Pensacola

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 37
Metro Population: 476,702
Median Home Price: $175,875
Median Annual Salary: $41,200

The only Florida panhandle metro area on the list, Pensacola sees less growth due to net migration than many other metro areas in Florida. But it’s the 15th-most desirable spot out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., according to a SurveyMonkey analysis of 2,000 people throughout the country who were asked where they would prefer to live. And its location farther from Florida hot spots that draw the most tourists helps keep the cost of living down, with residents spending just 23.79% of median household income on housing.

Learn more about Pensacola.

3. Fort Myers

3. Fort Myers

Florida Fort Myers colorful facades and palm trees in USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 35
Metro Population: 700,165
Median Home Price: $219,200
Median Annual Salary: $41,380

While Fort Myers ranks No. 35 on the overall Best Places to Live list, it ranks No. 2 on the Best Places to Retire list. It’s no surprise that Fort Myers is a popular retirement destination, with its median resident age of 47.8 years. Fort Myers is also growing at a fast clip – by 14.42% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration – and it is the second-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 spots on the Best Places to Live list, after Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Learn more about Fort Myers.

2. Melbourne

2. Melbourne

Cumulous nimbus cloud as background for a beautiful day at the beach in Florida.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 568,183
Median Home Price: $198,425
Median Annual Salary: $48,240

Ranking No. 25 on the Best Places to Live list, Melbourne is the second-best metro area in Florida. Melbourne’s high school students rank fourth out of the 125 most populous metro areas for college readiness, with only San Jose, California, Miami and Reno, Nevada, ranking higher. Like everywhere else in the Sunshine State, Melbourne is growing rapidly based on net migration, with a population growth of 8.74% between 2013 and 2017. The median age of residents in Melbourne is 47.1 years.

Learn more about Melbourne.

1. Sarasota

1. Sarasota

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 18
Metro Population: 768,381
Median Home Price: $237,260
Median Annual Salary: $42,680

Ranking No. 18 in Best Places to Live and No. 3 in Best Places to Retire, Sarasota has a median age over 51. Retired or not, the area has plenty of new residents, as Sarasota grew by 13.1% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Additionally, Sarasota ranks second out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Living in Sarasota is pricey, however. Residents spend 25.51% of the median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Sarasota.

The Best Places to Live in Florida include:

The Best Places to Live in Florida include:

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  • Sarasota.
  • Melbourne.
  • Fort Myers.
  • Pensacola.
  • Jacksonville.
  • Tampa.
  • Lakeland.
  • Orlando.
  • Port St. Lucie.
  • Daytona Beach.
  • Miami.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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