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 |Jan. 18, 2019, at 11:26 a.m.

The Best Places to Live in Florida

Slideshow

Where in Florida is the best place for you?

A serene sunrise at Melbourne Beach

(Getty Images)

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 fall under 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.

Miami

Miami

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

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 110
Metro Population: 5,926,955
Median Home Value: $244,600
Median Annual Salary: $46,160

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 4.4 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone. However, residents spend more than 38 percent of the median household income on housing expenses, including mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities. Only San Juan, Puerto Rico, is more expensive to live in for residents among the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach skyline aerial view.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 94
Metro Population: 613,723
Median Home Value: $164,069
Median Annual Salary: $38,010

Daytona Beach has a population about one-tenth the size of Miami, but that may not be the case for long. Between 2012 and 2016, Daytona Beach grew by nearly 9 percent 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. 94 on the Best Places to Live list is the cost of living. Daytona Beach residents spend 33.25 percent of the median household income on housing, compared to the average 28.72 percent among all the places on the Best Places to Live list.

Port St. Lucie

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.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 79
Metro Population: 446,728
Median Home Value: $179,058
Median Annual Salary: $41,120

Port St. Lucie is growing slightly faster than Daytona Beach, seeing a 9.1 percent growth from 2012 to 2016 based on net migration. Of the 125 places on the Best Places to Live list, Port St. Lucie also ranks 20th 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 34.4 percent of the median household income in Port St. Lucie is spent on housing costs, making it the eighth-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Orlando

Orlando

Sunset on the Boardwalk - Disneyworld

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 78
Metro Population: 2,328,508
Median Home Value: $213,717
Median Annual Salary: $43,060

Home of Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando draws tourists year-round for 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 9.14 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration. Orlando offers no shortage of jobs, but the median annual salary, at $43,060, is still more than $6,000 below the national average of $49,630, which contributes to its relatively high cost of living.

Tampa

Tampa

Skyline of Downtown Tampa, Florida, US

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 75
Metro Population: 2,927,714
Median Home Value: $183,592
Median Annual Salary: $45,510

Ranking No. 75 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Tampa is experiencing a similar population boom to most other places in Florida, having grown by 6.67 percent from 2012 to 2016 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 32 percent of the median household income on housing.

Lakeland

Lakeland

Downtown Lakeland, Florida, US

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 71
Metro Population: 637,691
Median Home Value: $160,583
Median Annual Salary: $40,180

Just inland from Tampa is Lakeland, which isn’t coastal but is appropriately named for the lakes that dot the area. Lakeland ranks 19th – just above Port St. Lucie – of the 125 most populous metro areas on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Additionally, Lakeland has grown by about 7.75 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone. Lakeland’s job market, however, appears to struggle to meet demand, with an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

Pensacola

Pensacola

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 53
Metro Population: 473,477
Median Home Value: $158,513
Median Annual Salary: $40,220

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 28th-most desirable spot out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., according to a Google Consumer Survey of 2,000 people throughout the country. And its location farther from Florida hot spots that draw the most tourists helps keep down the cost of living, with residents spending just 28.64 percent of the median household income on housing.

Jacksonville

Jacksonville

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

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 44
Metro Population: 1,424,097
Median Home Value: $184,508
Median Annual Salary: $45,140

Located near Florida’s border with Georgia along the Atlantic coast, Jacksonville ranks No. 44 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Jacksonville ranks sixth 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 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration.

Fort Myers

Fort Myers

Florida Fort Myers colorful facades and palm trees in USA

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 41
Metro Population: 680,970
Median Home Value: $210,133
Median Annual Salary: $40,420

While Fort Myers ranks No. 41 in 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 47.3 years. Fort Myers is also growing at a shocking rate – by 14.16 percent between 2012 and 2016 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.

Sarasota

Sarasota

Going toward Downtown Sarasota from from the Ringling Bridge

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 34
Metro Population: 751,422
Median Home Value: $224,613
Median Annual Salary: $41,870

Ranking No. 34 in Best Places to Live and No. 3 in Best Places to Retire, Sarasota has a median age of over 51. Retired or not, the area has plenty of new residents, as Sarasota grew by 12.42 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration. Additionally, Sarasota ranks sixth 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 31.72 percent of the median household income on housing costs.

Melbourne

Melbourne

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 29
Metro Population: 560,683
Median Home Value: $163,042
Median Annual Salary: $46,520

Ranking No. 29 on the Best Places to Live list, Melbourne is the top metro area in Florida. Melbourne’s high school students rank second out of the 125 most populous metro areas for college readiness, with only San Jose, California, ranking higher. Like everywhere else in the Sunshine State, Melbourne is growing rapidly based on net migration, with a population growth of 7.19 percent between 2012 and 2016.

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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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