Wondering where are the best places to live on the Gulf Coast of Florida?
Florida is a fantastic place to live. The weather is amazing, the people are friendly, and the cost of living is generally pretty good.
The Gulf Coast offers something a little extra, like world-class beaches, crystal clear water, and lots of nature and wildlife. Whether you are a retiree, a young professional, or a family, you can find your home in this slice of paradise. Some factors that influence the list of the best places to live are home costs, crime rates, things to do, the education system, and the job market.
Note: The median home price in Florida in 2021 was $382,000, which is $3,000 less than the national average, which means there are lots of cheap places to live in Florida including on the Gulf Coast.
We have rounded up the top 20 cities to live in on the Gulf Coast of Florida (including near the beach in Florida). This list is categorized in alphabetical order.
20 Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida
Median Home Price: $765,000
Southern Living calls Alys Beach the “perfect beach town” for a reason. It is secluded, relaxing, and luxurious. You can find plenty of art and nature activities. However, this quiet luxury does come at a price, and homes in this area are very expensive.
The population is quite small, but the community is active. There is some stunning architecture, with some homes going into the multi-millions.
Median Home Price: $250,728
Country Living Magazine named Apalachicola one of the best small towns to live in Florida. The town is very small, but if you are looking to join a close-knit group of people, then this is the place for you. 17 miles of white sandy beaches are typically uncrowded, which is uncommon for anywhere on the gulf coast. This area is often referred to as the Forgotten Coast, which is aptly named because it has not been overrun by tourists, hotels, and shopping.
Apalachicola is relatively untouched apart from locals, which is what makes it so unique.
Median Home Price: $550,000
Bonita Springs is a small city nestled between Fort Myers and Naples. It is considered one of the top places to live in Florida, as it has beautiful beaches but is less expensive than other cities like Naples. Many homeowners live in Bonita Springs full time, so if you are looking for a community feel, then this is the place for you. You can find plenty of fishing and other outdoor activities here.
Bonita Springs has a relatively temperate climate, with year-round average highs coming in between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the city is great for families, it is especially popular with retirees. It consistently ranks as one of the best places in the country to retire.
There is not much crime to worry about, but you are at risk for hurricanes, as you are anywhere in Southwest Florida. Flooding can be a major issue, so be sure to look at flood maps when looking for a home to purchase.
Median Home Price: $410,000
Cape Coral is an excellent and relatively inexpensive place to live in Florida. Cape Coral is located just outside of Fort Myers on the west coast of the state and offers a wide variety of free outdoor activities like beaches and trails.
The median home price is less than or comparable to many other cities on this list, and the overall cost of living is pretty low. It is often considered one of the best places in Florida to retire, but also offers a strong job market for younger families or those that want to switch careers. There are lots to do throughout the year, and you might even be lucky enough to get a house on the water.
Cape Coral has recently been named the 6th most popular place to move, so you are in good company if you are considering the jump to the coast.
Median Home Price: $299,900
Crystal River is known as the Home of the Manatee, as there is a manatee refuge in Kings Bay, which is the largest in the United States. The entire town is only about 6.8 square miles. Nearby, you can find the Crystal River Preserve State Park. One of the best parts of living in Crystal River is the ability to do just about any sport imaginable, like kayaking, boating, waterskiing, and diving.
Crystal River is also the fisherman’s paradise with visitors from around the world enjoying the pristine waterways. Although it is small, Crystal River has plenty of restaurants and bars to keep you entertained, and is a great place to live.
Median Home Price: $630,536
Just like any city, living in Destin comes with plenty of pros and cons. You have a thriving and diverse economy with plenty of job opportunities. You can also enjoy the beautiful weather all year long. The school system is fantastic, which makes it enticing for families.
However, there are not any great hospitals nearby and traffic can be very overwhelming. Destin is one of the most popular beaches in Florida and is a common spring break destination for college students.
Median Home Price: $428,000
Dunedin, Florida is located just north of Clearwater in Tampa Bay. Here, you have a great mix of urban and suburban, with easy access to the massive Tampa area while still getting a small-town feel.
There is a barrier island just off of Dunedin that is home to over four miles of white sandy beaches. With year-round temperatures staying warm, you can take full advantage of the crystal clear gulf water.
You can find some great restaurants, bars, and cafes throughout the city. Crime rates are low, which is always something to consider when choosing a new city to live in. Traffic can get pretty dense, especially during tourist seasons. Public transportation is limited, so you will likely need a car to get around. There are plenty of trails to get exercise in throughout the year.
Fort Myers Beach
Median Home Price: $345,000
Fort Myers Beach has lots of white sandy beaches and a great atmosphere to live in. Many people choose to retire or vacation here, but the city does have access to a great education system if you are a young family considering making the move. It was recently voted one of the best places to live by the beach in the whole country, which includes places like Hawaii and California.
Just like many other cities on the gulf, Fort Myers is home to a variety of outdoor and water sports that are so essential to an active lifestyle.
Fort Walton Beach
Median Home Price: $278,000
Fort Walton Beach is right in the middle of Pensacola and Panama City Beach, so you get easy access to two excellent areas. You can get more houses for your dollar than you can in many other areas of Florida while still enjoying the no state income tax.
You can also enjoy Okaloosa Island, which offers undeveloped and clean beaches. Fort Walton Beach typically ranks quite well for education, crime, and diversity, which is relatively uncommon for a city of this size. You can enjoy plenty of community events and activities throughout the year.
Median Home Price: $2,900,000
This island is only accessible by boat or water taxi as there is no bridge connecting it to the mainland. The cost of living here is very expensive, but that is because it is so exclusive and secluded. It was voted as one of the top 10 cities in the country for a second home. You could even be neighbors with President Bush and his family, as they are known to spend time in Boca Grande, the largest city on the island.
Island living is very isolating, which is fantastic for some but not the best for others. If you are looking for privacy and tranquility and have money to spare, Gasparilla Island is sure to be your paradise.
Median Home Price: $1,100,000
Marco Island consistently ranks as one of the top beach towns in the country and also one of the greatest education systems. Although the cost of living is quite high, it comes with many amenities you might be looking for. Retirees have many opportunities to socialize with fellow retirees. It certainly feels like an island and has a slow pace about it.
Living on Marco Island feels like you are on a vacation day in and day out, which is a wonderful way to live.
Median Home Price: $598,500
Naples is probably one of the most common and talked about retiree spots in Florida and is home to many wealthy and powerful people. Between the great healthcare system, the active way of life that many residents adopt, and the great weather, Naples is often voted as one of the healthiest cities in the entire country.
Home prices in this suburban paradise are high and so are the HOA fees. You certainly need plenty of savings or investments to make life in Naples work, but it is worth it if you can. You can find lots of golf courses and outdoor sports throughout the city.
You do not have to worry about crime nearly at all in Naples, as it is a very safe place to live. Tourists are common but not nearly as common as in some other major metropolitan areas. Overall, it is quiet and laid back. One of the best beach towns to live in Florida
Median Home Price: $453,281
Just like its name implies, Niceville is a very nice place to live. Just 20 minutes away from Destin, you have everything you need right at your fingertips. It was ranked the 9th livable place in all of Florida, and boasts a graduation rate 8% higher than the national average. It is also the safest city in all of Florida, which is comforting to families that want to relocate. Most of the panhandle of Florida is relatively rural, but Niceville is one of the most populated cities in the area.
Niceville is starting to grow, so now is a great time to get in while you can. Amenities are being added just about every day, so it would be excellent to have your voice heard and contribute to the growth of this amazing town. For sure one of the best places to live on the gulf coast of Florida.
Median Home Price: $286,500
Pensacola is considered one of the best places to raise a family in Florida and is a piece of one of the largest metropolitan areas on the west coast. The vibe here is very laid back and easygoing, which is especially great if you are relocating from a high-stress environment.
You can find plenty of employment opportunities in a variety of industries, as well as a decent housing market. Crime is higher in Pensacola than in other areas on the coast but is still relatively low. The area is frequently hit by hurricanes, but this is common for pretty much anywhere on the gulf coast.
Median Home Price: $460,000
Sarasota was voted as the best place to live in the US for retirees in 2020, and there is a reason. Not only can you find excellent beaches, but there are plenty of restaurants and shopping to keep you busy all year long. You can find sunshine all year long and it is often considered that Sarasota has some of the best beaches in the world. Sarasota is a great place to own a boat and is relatively affordable.
Due to the more mature population, you can find top-notch healthcare that is pretty uncommon for cities of this size. The education system makes the city equally enticing for younger families.
Median Home Price: $995,000
Siesta Key is a barrier island just off the coast of Sarasota, Florida. The unemployment rate is low and the average income rate is high, which is exactly what you want to see in a potential city. Although the cost of living is also high, it seems pretty affordable compared to the average income.
Crime in Siesta Key is 65% below the national average, so you do not have to worry. It is frequently voted as one of the best beaches in the country. The median age is 67 among residents, so it seems to be an excellent place to retire. You can find coral reefs and shallow waters that are perfect for snorkeling. One of the best places to live in Florida’s west coast for sure.
Median Home Price: $385,400
Another city in the Tampa Bay area is St. Petersburg, which has plenty to offer on its own. Living in this part of Florida means you have easy access to all the amenities that the sister cities offer. You will have to deal with tourists pretty much all year, but it is worth it when you see the white sandy beaches.
One thing we love about St. Petersburg is how renter-friendly it is. If you are not ready to settle down and buy a home in the area, there are plenty of condos and apartments that let you test drive living there while also avoiding property taxes.
There is virtually no public transportation in St. Petersburg, so cars are essential. However, gas prices are typically lower than the national average, so it evens out. You can find world-class museums within a short drive, as well as all sorts of festivals. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you will be happy to know that St. Petersburg hosts the largest pride event in the whole state.
Median Home Price: $257,500
Not only is Tallahassee the capital of the great state of Florida, but it is a vibrant college town that is as eclectic as they come. The city is conveniently situated to easily visit both Alabama and Georgia, as well as popular beaches like Destin or Panama City Beach.
There are more than 88 parks throughout the city. Combine that with an excellent education system, and a low cost of living, and Tallahassee becomes even more enticing for families.
It is important to note that it has one of the higher crime rates on this list and is frequently in the path of hurricanes.
However, do not let these things deter you from this excellent city. The job market is doing well and gas prices are typically lower in Tallahassee than in other cities around the country. There are plenty of things to do throughout the year and many young professionals call the city home.
Median Home Price: $380,000
Tampa is one of the best places to live in all of Florida, not just the west coast. Not only is it a thriving metropolitan center, but it also has easy access to excellent beaches and a relaxed way of life. There are many different neighborhoods throughout the city that have their unique vibe to bring to the table. You can also call one of the many suburbs of Tampa home for cheaper houses with easy commutes into the city.
Tampa has the 8th largest school district in the entire country, so you can rest assured knowing that your child has access to everything they might need to thrive. If you hate eating at chains, you will have plenty of options for locally-owned restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines.
One of the best things about Tampa is that it is virtually impossible to get bored. You can find plenty of trails, parks, outdoor sports, and fishing throughout the year. You can also visit the zoo or Busch Gardens for family fun, or check out one of the many music or food festivals that occur each month. The city also has its very own NHL, NFL, and MLB team, so you can represent pride in your new home with ease.
Median Home Price: $436,500
Venice is home to over 14 miles of sandy beaches, so there is no worry about finding a relaxing spot to soak in some rays. If you like to be outdoors, you’re in luck – Venice is filled with some excellent parks and hiking trails that let you experience wonderful nature throughout the year. You can also find plenty of watersports like kayaking to add a little bit of variety.
Although Venice is a very small town, there is an excellent community feel to the area. People like to get to know one another and help each other out when they need it. If you want to get plugged into a network of friendly people, Venice could be the right choice for you. You can find plenty of great restaurants in this small town that serve some of the best fresh seafood you have ever eaten.
Venice is a great place for retirees, as the median age is 69 years old. That isn’t to say it won’t make a great home for younger people, too. Keep in mind that it gets quite hot and humid throughout the summer, but the benefit of enduring the summer months is enjoying the warm winter months. One of the best places to live in Florida near the beach.
The bottom line – Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida
No matter where you choose to live on the Gulf Coast, you will have access to beautiful beaches and an excellent culture. Without stopping, you could drive the entire gulf coast of Florida from top to bottom in around 12 or 13 hours, so each of the cities on this list is pretty close together.
This means that you are never more than a few hours away from an attraction that you love. If you are a retiree or a remote worker that has flexibility on where they live, take a road trip down the west coast so you can get a feel for each of these cities before deciding on one to settle down in.
We hope this list of the 20 best places to live on the gulf coast of Florida has inspired you to move to the sunshine state.