The Best Places to Live in Florida in 2020

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

U.S. News & World Report

The Best Places to Live in Florida in 2020

Sunrise in Jacksonville, Florida
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Where in Florida is the best place for you?

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 with coastal cities, sprawling, landlocked towns and areas dotted with lakes and canals. For that reason, you'll want to consider all your options when searching for the right place to live in Florida. Fourteen of 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. are located in the Sunshine State, so you have plenty of options. 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 is right for you. Read on for the Best Places to Live in Florida, counting down to the top spot.

Next:Miami
Panoramic high view of South Beach at Miami South Pointe Park with high skyscrapers and a blue sunny summer sky, Florida, USA.
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Miami

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 127
Metro Population: 6,070,944
Median Home Price: $247,112
Average Annual Salary: $48,240

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 3.1% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, residents spend as much as 30.74% of the median household income on housing expenses, including mortgage payments, rent and property taxes. Only San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a more expensive place to live among the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Next:

Where in Florida is the best place for you?

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 with coastal cities, sprawling, landlocked towns and areas dotted with lakes and canals. For that reason, you'll want to consider all your options when searching for the right place to live in Florida. Fourteen of 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. are located in the Sunshine State, so you have plenty of options. 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 is right for you. Read on for the Best Places to Live in Florida, counting down to the top spot.

Miami

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 127
Metro Population: 6,070,944
Median Home Price: $247,112
Average Annual Salary: $48,240

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 3.1% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, residents spend as much as 30.74% of the median household income on housing expenses, including mortgage payments, rent and property taxes. Only San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a more expensive place to live among the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Tallahassee

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 114
Metro Population: 380,101
Median Home Price: $178,308
Average Annual Salary: $45,340

While Tallahassee doesn’t necessarily attract the same volume of tourists as other parts of the state, its position as the capital of Florida makes it a key place for people looking to make major career moves. High school students in Tallahassee rank eighth for college readiness among those in the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools ranking. Unfortunately, Tallahassee’s relatively high cost of living contributes to its spot at No. 114 on the overall Best Places to Live list – residents spend 25.45% of the median household income on housing.

Daytona Beach

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 634,773
Median Home Price: $201,817
Average Annual Salary: $39,790

Daytona Beach has a population about one-tenth the size of Miami, but that may not be the case for long. Between 2014 and 2018, Daytona Beach grew by 9.1% 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. 74 on the Best Places to Live list is the cost of living. Daytona Beach residents spend 27.01% of the median household income on housing, compared to the median 23.35% for all the metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

Port St. Lucie

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 73
Metro Population: 463,172
Median Home Price: $221,758
Average Annual Salary: $44,070

Port St. Lucie is growing slightly slower than Daytona Beach, seeing an 8.74% jump in population from 2014 to 2018 based on net migration. Of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, Port St. Lucie also ranks 11th in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which measures residents’ satisfaction with where they live, their physical health and the area’s economic stability. However, like a lot of Florida metro areas, the cost of living is considered prohibitive for many residents. More than 26.8% of the median household income in Port St. Lucie is spent on housing costs, making it the 17th-most expensive place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Ocala

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 69
Metro Population: 348,371
Median Home Price: $152,442
Average Annual Salary: $38,690

At No. 69 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Ocala is the smallest of the 14 Florida metro areas included, with 348,371 residents. Similar to many other Florida metro areas, Ocala’s highest score for Best Places to Live is based on its population growth, having seen an increase of 9.18% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration. Many new residents are retirees, as the median age for the metro area is 48.6, which makes sense as the central Florida spot ranks No. 6 on the Best Places to Retire list.

Lakeland

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 61
Metro Population: 668,671
Median Home Price: $181,533
Average Annual Salary: $42,090

Lakeland isn’t a coastal metro area, but it is appropriately named for the lakes that dot the area. Lakeland ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its population growth due to net migration, having increased by 8.91% between 2014 and 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But salaries are relatively low in Lakeland, which has an average annual salary of $42,090, compared to the national average of $51,960.

Fort Myers

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 58
Metro Population: 718,679
Median Home Price: $226,825
Average Annual Salary: $43,000

While Fort Myers ranks No. 58 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 48.1 years. Fort Myers is also growing at a fast clip – by 11.61% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration – and it is the second-fastest growing metro area out of the 150 spots on the Best Places to Live list, after only Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Orlando

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 48
Metro Population: 2,450,261
Median Home Price: $245,483
Average Annual Salary: $44,930

Jumping 15 spots from the Best Places to Live list in 2019, Orlando ranks No. 48 out of the 150 metro areas on the list, in large part due to the many people moving to the area and its reputation as a desirable place to live among U.S. residents. Home of Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando draws tourists year-round, thanks to its theme parks and warm weather. But it’s not just visitors coming to Orlando, as the metro area has grown by 7.69% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Jacksonville

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 43
Metro Population: 1,475,386
Median Home Price: $200,000
Average Annual Salary: $46,920

Located near Florida’s border with Georgia along the Atlantic coast, Jacksonville ranks No. 43 on the overall Best Places to Live list. In addition, the area ranks 13th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students. With a population of nearly 1.5 million people, the Jacksonville area grew by a little over 6% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Pensacola

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 37
Metro Population: 481,964
Median Home Price: $186,467
Average Annual Salary: $42,490

This panhandle metro area sees less growth due to net migration than many other metro areas in Florida, though it remains an ideal place to move for many people. It’s the 20th-most desirable spot out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., according to a SurveyMonkey analysis of about 3,000 people throughout the country who were asked where they would prefer to live. And its location farther from other Florida hot spots that draw the most tourists helps keep the cost of living down, with residents spending just 23.37% of the median household income on housing.

Tampa

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 3,030,047
Median Home Price: $214,258
Average Annual Salary: $47,750

Ranking No. 36 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Tampa is experiencing a population boom like many other places in Florida, having grown by 7.07% from 2014 to 2018 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 of 42. The Big Guava, as Tampa is known, is slightly more affordable than many other Florida metro areas, but residents still spend more than 25.19% of the median household income on housing.

Melbourne

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 28
Metro Population: 576,808
Median Home Price: $207,417
Average Annual Salary: $48,940

Ranking No. 28 on the Best Places to Live list, Melbourne is the third-highest ranking metro area in Florida. Melbourne’s high school students rank fifth out of those in the 150 most populous metro areas for college readiness, with only Boulder, Colorado; San Jose, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and McAllen, Texas, ranking higher. Like everywhere else in the Sunshine State, Melbourne is growing rapidly based on net migration, with a population growth of 7.89% between 2014 and 2018. The median age of residents in Melbourne is 47.2 years.

Sarasota

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 16
Metro Population: 785,997
Median Home Price: $227,754
Average Annual Salary: $44,230

Ranking No. 16 in Best Places to Live and No. 1 in Best Places to Retire, Sarasota has a median age over 52. Retired or not, the area has plenty of new residents, as Sarasota grew by 10.85% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration. Additionally, Sarasota ranks ninth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. Living in Sarasota can be pricey, however. Residents spend 25.23% of the median household income on housing costs.

Naples

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 363,922
Median Home Price: $326,900
Average Annual Salary: $46,290

This smaller metro area in on the Gulf Coast is the No. 1 spot among Florida places included in the Best Places to Live ranking, scoring highest for its net migration and desirability. In addition, Naples takes the No. 1 spot out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, with Naples residents reporting an overall feeling of being happy and having pride in their community. On the Best Places to Retire list, Naples ranks No. 4.

Here are the 14 Best Places to Live in Florida:

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

See rankings.

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Updated on Oct. 22, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.