The 30 Best Places To Retire in Florida on the Water

With more than 230 days of sun per year and the warmest winters in the country, Florida is a retiree’s dream. If you’re fantasizing about a retirement home by the sea, you’re in luck – Florida has the second-longest coastline in the United States. With 1,350 miles of waterfront paradise at your disposal, it’s a breeze to find a town that suits your style.

Are you a fan of flip-flops and quiet beaches? Check out the laid-back beach towns on Sanibel Island or the Florida Keys.

Do you prefer chic cocktails and evenings at the symphony? Bustling oceanside cities like Miami and Palm Beach have urban amenities to spare.

Nearly one-fifth of Florida’s population is 65 or older, which means that the state has a robust infrastructure for retirees. The best places to retire in Florida on the water offer excellent tax breaks, accessible healthcare, and plenty of activities. Select a state college town, and you can even take classes for free.

Housing options are also varied; make new friends in a planned retirement community or welcome your grandkids to a cozy beachfront bungalow. No matter which of these cities you choose, the water is never far away.

Table of Contents

1. Fort Myers

Fort Myers is consistently rated as one of the best places to retire in Florida, and it’s easy to see why. The cost of living is affordable, and there are plenty of retirement communities to choose from. Plus, the temperature rarely drops below 55 degrees.

With just 80,000 residents, Fort Myers offers the amenities of a bigger city with the familiar feeling of a small town. The vibe is laid-back, but there are plenty of millennials and young families around to keep things interesting.

Life in Fort Myers revolves around the great outdoors. Enjoy the lively vibe while you fish from the pier, soak up the sun at Fort Myers Beach, or relax with 18 holes on one of the local golf courses. The city also has a thriving arts scene, a Minor League baseball team, and an excellent assortment of restaurants.

2. Sarasota

If your dream retirement revolves around the beach, Sarasota is the place for you. It’s home to six barrier islands, each boasting impeccable snow-white sand. Head straight to Siesta Key Beach, which is one of the top-rated stretches of sand in the United States.

Even away from the sparkling turquoise water, this small city has lots to offer. The restaurant scene is exceptional, and the walkable downtown area is packed with unique boutiques. If you’re in the mood for culture, visit the Ringling Museum or the Sarasota Art Museum.

Despite its consistent growth, Sarasota maintains a relaxed, small-town feeling. You’ll feel right at home, whether you’re kayaking through the mangroves or attending one of the city’s many festivals and events.

3. Port St. Lucie

Laid-back Port St. Lucie is popular with retirees seeking peace and quiet. The pace of life is slow, and residents are friendly and welcoming. The town has a thriving tourist sector, but it’s nowhere near as busy as the larger cities to the south.

Port St. Lucie is a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts. Work on your skills on the city’s 15+ golf courses, paddle the Intracoastal, or explore the pristine beaches. Port St. Lucie is especially popular for baseball fans, who flock to Clover Park each year to watch the New York Mets’ spring training.

One of the biggest reasons to retire in Port St. Lucie is the low cost of living. Healthcare is affordable and readily available, and housing prices are considerably lower than many other popular retirement areas in Florida.

4. Naples

Naples isn’t just one of the best places in Florida to retire on the water – it’s one of the best places to retire in the United States. This glitzy waterfront city has a booming economy and a variety of resort-style 55+ retirement communities.

If you’re interested in upscale shopping, Naples is hard to beat. Elegant shopping areas are scattered throughout the city, and the historic downtown is home to an array of independent designer boutiques. Refuel with a meal at one of the city’s many high-end restaurants after a successful day of shopping.

Naples calls itself the “Golf Capital of the World,” and for good reason – there are 90 golf courses in the vicinity. When you’re not hitting the links, head down to the water to experience the city’s breathtaking sugar-sand beaches.

5. Sanibel Island

The moment you drive over the causeway to Sanibel Island you’ll feel relaxation setting in. Things move slowly here, and locals greet each other by name. If you’re in search of a small retirement town with a strong sense of community, this is it.

Nature lovers come to Sanibel Island for its quiet beaches and extensive bike trails. Don’t miss the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which protects more than 6,400 acres of pristine Florida wilderness. The refuge is open for paddling, hiking, biking, birdwatching, boating, and wildlife watching.

Sanibel Island stretches for just over 17 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Although space is limited, you’ll find a nice selection of condos and single-family homes.

6. St. Augustine

History, sunshine, architecture – beautiful St. Augustine has it all. Spanish explorers built the first settlement in 1565, and this lineage is still visible in the city’s spectacular colonial buildings. Strolling along the cobblestone streets, it’s easy to imagine that you’re in Seville or Barcelona.

Today, St. Augustine is one of Florida’s top cultural hubs. The Ancient City is home to professional theaters and the St. Augustine Orchestra, and you can find live music any night of the week. Institutions like the Lightner Museum and the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center host events and lectures throughout the year.

St. Augustine might look like Spain, but the delights of Florida are right at your fingertips. More than 42 miles of beaches lie just east of downtown, and Anastasia State Park offers a beautiful wilderness escape. Here, you’re never far from great surfing, paddling, biking, and sunbathing.

7. Palm Beach

Palm Beach makes it easy to enjoy the Florida sunshine. This glittering city offers 50 miles of beaches and more than 80 parks. Pack your clubs – there are 100 golf courses within a 20-mile radius.

If you’re not ready to slow down in retirement, bustling Palm Beach is a great fit. The city hosts a full lineup of festivals and events, including the Holiday Boat Parade and the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival. The Flagler Museum and the Kravitz Center anchor the impressive local cultural scene.

When it’s time to search for a retirement home, you’ll find a diverse real estate market. Palm Beach offers modest condos, sprawling waterfront homes, and everything in between.

8. Ponte Vedra Beach

Ponte Vedra Beach sits just 25 miles north of St. Augustine, but it feels like a different world. This upscale resort town is all about luxury living. Enjoy your retirement in a sleek condo overlooking the ocean or enjoy the activities and social life at one of the area’s prestigious 55+ communities.

No matter where you live, Ponte Vedra’s exclusive lifestyle beckons. Work on your long game at the award-winning TPC Sawgrass, the home of THE PLAYERS Championship. If golf isn’t your thing, the city is packed with waterfront spas, five-star restaurants, and outstanding tennis facilities.

When you’re ready for adventure, Ponte Vedra’s impeccably maintained beaches await. The Intracoastal is nearby, offering exceptional fishing, boating, and paddle sports.

9. Venice

Tucked on the western shores of Florida between Fort Myers and Sarasota, Venice is a haven for retirees. This compact city is off the main tourist trail, so it has a true sense of community.

You don’t have to go far to enjoy Venice’s relaxed, sunny vibe. Local homes are a stone’s throw from an excellent trail network, an abundance of parks, and 14 miles of beaches. Start your day on the gorgeous Venice Fishing Pier, where locals come to socialize and fish for redfish and snapper.

With its warm winters, Venice offers year-round fun. Take up bird watching; relax at a downtown sidewalk cafe; or kayak through the many inland waterways. The city buzzes with excitement in February and March when the Atlanta Braves come to town for spring training.

10. The Florida Keys

Realize your dream of a tropical island retirement on the Florida Keys. With consistently balmy weather and a laid-back beach lifestyle, these idyllic islands are the perfect place to relax.

The ocean is never far away in the Keys, creating endless opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, and snorkeling. For nature and history, head to Dry Tortugas National Park, Indian Key State Park, or Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. In town, the Keys offer a vibrant and welcoming calendar of festivals, musical performances, and food and wine events.

You won’t find planned retirement communities in the Keys, but that’s part of the island charm. Settle into an adorable bungalow or a luxury condo, and you’ll be part of the island life in no time.

11. Pensacola

Located on the western side of the Florida panhandle, Pensacola isn’t a run-of-the-mill retirement destination. Home to two colleges, a military base, and a steady stream of tourists, this compact city is eclectic and energetic.

In a state known for its beaches, Pensacola stands out. The nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore houses 150 miles of undeveloped beaches and dazzling green water, and amaze of inland waterways offers world-class kayaking and fishing.

Come for the affordable prices and stay for the social life – nearly one-quarter of Pensacola’s population is 60 or older. The cool winters make for a nice change of pace, especially if you’re accustomed to four distinct seasons.

12. The Villages

While not by the ocean, retirement is anything but boring in The Villages. This sprawling 55+ community is home to more than 100,000 people, each looking for an active lifestyle. With more than 2,700 social clubs, 54 golf courses, and a full lineup of activities, you can try something new every day of the week.

Every home in The Villages is close to Florida’s beautiful inland lakes. Lake Miona attracts water skiers, while peaceful Lake Sumter welcomes kayaks and canoes. If you’re an angler, join locals in fishing for bluegill and bass.

Since The Villages is designed specifically for retirees, everything you need is close by. Each planned community is a quick golf-cart ride from shopping, dining, entertainment, and healthcare. Add in the buzzing social scene and perfect weather, and you have the recipe for a dream retirement.

13. Vero Beach

Vero Beach is removed from the usual Florida tourist trail, and that’s how locals like it. Located on a quiet strip of sand between West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach, this community provides upscale amenities and a relaxed beach-town atmosphere.

You won’t find slick high-rises here – Vero Beach residents prefer single-family homes and low-slung condos. In fact, the local government limits building heights to preserve the city’s historic charm.

Though it’s small, Vero Beach is home to a friendly and vibrant arts scene. Residents come out in droves to support the local theater guild and concert association. During the day, stay busy with golf, fishing, shopping, and paddle sports.

I-95 sits a few miles west, offering access to Florida’s Atlantic coast. When the grandkids come to visit, the Orlando International Airport and the Palm Beach International Airport offer easy connections.

14. Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach feels like a small town, but it offers big-city amenities: an international airport, multiple colleges, great museums, and state-of-the-art healthcare. Local arts groups host theater, art, and musical events throughout the year.

The spectacular Daytona Beach waterfront is the stuff of legends. Spend leisurely days relaxing on the sand or enjoy the energy on the boardwalk and the pier. A variety of condo buildings line the ocean and Intracoastal, so a waterfront retirement is within reach.

Daytona Beach has a booming motorsports scene – events like Bike Week draw thousands of motorcyclists each year. If you’re a racing fan, check out the Daytona International Speedway and the NASCAR Daytona 500.

15. Jacksonville

As the biggest city in Florida, Jacksonville has something for everyone. Retirement here comes with serious perks – great shopping, dining, culture, and entertainment. The 850,000-person population is spread out over a large area, so neighborhoods never feel crowded.

Living in the city doesn’t mean you need to give up on the great outdoors, either. Established on the St. Johns River, Jacksonville offers 80,000 acres of parks, 22 miles of beaches, and more than 40 miles of inland waterways. Since the climate is relatively mild, it’s easy to get outside year-round.

In comparison to other major Florida cities, Jacksonville offers a low cost of living. Housing and healthcare especially are affordable, so you can get more for your money.

16. St. Petersburg

Water is everywhere in St. Petersburg. The city sits on a peninsula in the protected waters of Tampa Bay, making it one of Florida’s best boating destinations. To the west, kayakers glide through the canals and mangrove islands of the Boca Ciega Bay Aquatic Preserve.

St. Petersburg is a fun spot for an active retirement. The diverse population has given rise to a large theater scene, innovative art galleries, and a range of exciting restaurants and the concentrated downtown area is walkable and friendly.

Get active on the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a multi-use path that runs for 38 miles along the western side of the peninsula. When you’re in the mood for sun and sand, the stunning St. Pete Beach is just a few minutes away.

17. Clearwater

Located just north of St. Petersburg, Clearwater is another wonderful west-Florida retirement spot. Boasting more than 360 annual days of sunshine and one of the best beaches in the United States, this cheerful city offers a year-round vacation vibe.

There’s always something happening in Clearwater. Watch the Philadelphia Phillies spring training one night and attend a Florida Orchestra concert the next. A constant stream of food festivals, boat parades, concerts, and street fairs attracts locals and tourists alike.

Take advantage of the sunny weather with golf, sailing, and sunbathing. For nature lovers, the fantastic Moccasin Lake Nature Center and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium can’t be beaten.

18. Tampa

Tampa sits just across the bay from St. Petersburg and Clearwater, offering an urban lifestyle with easy beach access. One of the biggest cities in Florida, this cheerful metropolis is packed with restaurants, shopping, and cultural venues.

Housing options in Tampa offer plenty of variety. Walk to the opera from your chic downtown loft, or enjoy the activities in a retirement community like Valencia Del Sol. A network of rivers and canals wind through the city, so waterfront properties are plentiful.

Traveling to and from Tampa is a breeze, thanks to the city’s well-connected international airport and Amtrak station. When the grandkids come to visit, attractions like Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Bay History Center are sure to be a big hit. If you miss winter weather, cool down at a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game.

19. Melbourne

If you’re searching for an affordable place to retire on the water in Florida, Melbourne is worth a look. Tucked away on the southern end of the Space Coast, this 80,000-person city has a diverse population and a gorgeous location on the Atlantic Ocean.

Don’t let the low cost of living fool you – Melbourne has plenty to offer residents. From the colorful murals and galleries in the Eau Gallie Arts District to the peaceful wilderness of the Indian River Lagoon, there’s always something new to see.

In the revitalized downtown area, busy shops and restaurants sit steps from a picturesque marina. Within a 10-mile radius, you’ll find zoos, botanical gardens, historic sites, and nature preserves. Residents take advantage of it all, so you’ll see familiar faces everywhere you go.

20. Winter Garden

Nestled on the shores of beautiful Lake Apopka, Winter Garden is one of the most unique places to retire in Florida. Surrounded by rolling hills and hundreds of lakes, this small town is lush and green all year long.

Outdoor activity in Winter Garden revolves around the Lake Apopka Loop Trail and the West Orange Trail. At any given time, you’ll pass triathletes in training, families with kids, and passionate birdwatchers. When you’re craving a wilderness escape, the Lake Apopka North Shore preserve offers 20,000 acres of peaceful trails and water access.

The small downtown area is the heart of the community in Winter Garden. Neighbors greet you at the weekend farmers market, and the entire town comes out for seasonal festivals. The theme parks of Orlando are just 15 miles away, making for exciting day trips when the family comes to visit.

21. St. Cloud

St. Cloud has been a popular retirement community for more than 100 years. In the 1900s, the Seminole Land & Investment Company offered low-cost land to veterans of the Civil War.

Today, the Friendly Soldier City still attracts retirees looking for a small-town atmosphere and lakefront properties. Downtown is quiet and peaceful, with a selection of casual restaurants and shops. Walk over to East Lake Tohopekaliga – or East Lake Toho, as the locals call it – for fishing, boating, and waterfront parks.

There’s nothing fast-paced about St. Cloud, but that’s a big part of its appeal. Plus, with Orlando just 30 miles north, you’re never far from culture, shopping, and entertainment.

22. New Smyrna Beach

Strolling through the downtown area of New Smyrna Beach is like stepping back in time. Quaint buildings line quiet streets, and residents gather in cozy cafes under the palm trees. Closer to the ocean, candy-colored wooden houses enhance the old-world aesthetic.

If you’re looking to retire in a laid-back beach town, New Smyrna Beach is a wonderful choice. Flip-flops are the footwear of choice, and there’s a surfer everywhere you look. Residents’ passion for the arts is apparent in the independent galleries on every corner.

Whether or not you decide to try New Smyrna Beach’s famous waves, the 17-mile beach is a lovely place for walking and sunbathing. The Indian River runs along the other side of town, drawing kayakers and wildlife-watchers to the massive Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve. For fishing and hiking, head a few miles north to Smyrna Dunes Park.

23. Miami

Retire in the heart of the action in beautiful Miami. This glittering city is known for its clubs and beaches, but there’s so much more to enjoy.

If you’re a cultural connoisseur, admire the world-class talent at the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet. Art enthusiasts come from all over the world for Art Basel and the Wynwood Walls, and there are more than 15 museums to keep you busy.

Miami’s food scene is one of the most exciting in the country. Influenced by the diverse population, it welcomes celebrity sushi chefs and fan-favorite food trucks alike. On Calle Ocho, you’ll find the best Cuban food and coffee in the United States.

With its varied real estate offerings, Miami has a home for every type of retiree. Choose from planned communities, luxury condos, and classic, single-story homes. If you have a boat, check out properties with private docks on the Miami River.

24. Fort Lauderdale

Set just 30 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale offers a quieter version of the South Florida lifestyle. Housing is more affordable and easier to find, which makes it an attractive spot for retirees.

Waterfront properties are plentiful in Fort Lauderdale. The “Venice of America” is home to a 165-mile network of canals, many lined with private residences. If you prefer to wake up next to the white-sand beaches of the Atlantic, there are condos aplenty.

Fishing is a popular pastime in Fort Lauderdale. Use the well-developed public transportation network to reach the piers, jetties, and shore-fishing spots. Nearby, the Fort Lauderdale International Airport connects you to the U.S. and the world.

25. Fort Pierce

If you’re looking for an affordable place to retire by the water, head straight to Fort Pierce. This modest town is tucked between Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach on the Indian River Lagoon.

Fort Pierce is an up-and-coming coastal town – the local government is actively revitalizing the downtown area. Attractions like the National Navy SEAL Museum, the St. Lucie County Aquarium, and the AE Backus Museum welcome residents and tourists.

The real draw of Fort Pierce is the natural environment. Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and Fort Pierce Inlet State Recreation Area are among the most beautiful outdoor areas in the state. In the mornings, nearby Jetty Park buzzes with anglers hoping to reel in a snapper.

26. Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs is a small, quirky community on the Gulf of Mexico. The “Sponge Capital of the World,” the area has a rich seafaring heritage and a busy marina. Excellent Greek restaurants lining Dodecanese Boulevard are a testament to the area’s cultural heritage.

Away from the sponge docks, Fred Howard Park and Anclote Key Preserve State Park provide access to impossibly clear waters and sparkling white beaches. Beautiful waterfront homes line the tributaries and bayous on the Anclote River.

Tarpon Springs is the northern terminus of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a paved path that runs all the way to St. Petersburg. If biking and walking aren’t your thing, nearby Lake Tarpon offers some of the best bass fishing in the state.

27. Punta Gorda

Sip your morning coffee on a private dock when you retire in Punta Gorda. You won’t be alone – more than half of the population is 65 years or older. Retirees come from far and wide to live next to the Peace River and the city’s many canals.

The Old-World charm is strong in Punta Gorda. Palm trees line brick sidewalks, and residents enjoy the sea breeze on shaded porches. Ponce De Leon Park and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park protect the harbor from development.

With its calm harbor and intricate waterways, Punta Gorda is overflowing with boating opportunities. Do you want to spend your retirement on the golf course? Check out one of the gated golf communities in the area.

28. Titusville

Feel like a part of the U.S. space program when you retire in Titusville. The nearby Kennedy Space Center brings in a steady stream of engineers, scientists, and tech professionals. Rocket launches are a way of life.

Titusville is surrounded by conservation areas and wildlife refuges that offer endless outdoor adventures. Glide across bioluminescent bays, kayak through mangroves, and watch the manatees in the winter. The remarkable Canaveral National Seashore boasts miles of wild and wonderful beaches.

Despite its high-tech industry, Titusville is a small town at heart. It’s the kind of place where mom-and-pop restaurants reign supreme and the local community theater is the talk of the town. It doesn’t take long to become a part of the fun.

29. Boca Raton

Boca Raton

Luxurious and packed with amenities, Boca Raton is among the most upscale retirement areas in Florida. Spend your days playing golf or tennis or enjoy the downtown shopping and dining.

Boca, as the locals call it, is known for its luxurious waterfront properties. From your front door, it’s a quick walk to the beach at Spanish River Park or Red Reef Park. Away from the beach, a wealth of stunning Mediterranean-inspired homes offer space for visiting family.

In the evenings, Boca residents take advantage of the city’s exceptional cultural offerings. Theaters, art museums, and live-music venues host both traditional and innovative works every month of the year.

30. Winter Haven

Take a look at the map, and you’ll see why Winter Haven is one of the best places to retire on the water. This Central-Florida town isn’t called the Chain of Lakes City for nothing – there are a whopping 50 lakes for residents to enjoy.

Settle into lake life with kayaking, fishing, and watersports. After a day on the water, Winter Haven’s cozy restaurants and craft breweries await. Two Major League Baseball teams conduct spring training in the area: the Cleveland Guardians and the Detroit Tigers.

Winter Haven is small but comfortable. The friendly cultural scene is anchored by Theatre Winter Haven, and nearby Lakeland offers music, art, and museums.