Florida has been a retirement hot spot for years, offering a perfect mix of sunny weather, stunning coastlines and great tax breaks. (No state income tax, anyone?)
From quaint towns with rich histories to vibrant cities with all the urban trappings, it’s easy to fall in love with Florida.
But before you pack your bags, it’s important to understand your options and find the best city to match your budget and your retirement dreams.
15 Best Places to Retire in Florida on a Budget
We’ve handpicked some hidden gems in the Sunshine State that offer a fulfilling retirement experience at a fraction of the cost.
We did the research and found the best places to retire in Florida on a budget. Cost of living played a major role in our ranking system, of course, but we also considered factors like quality of life, proximity to parks and health care services, the number of retirees in each city and even the walkability score. (More on that later)
Here are the top 15 cities that made our list.
Welcome to Wauchula, a small country town of 5,000 residents about 50 miles south of Sarasota in Hardee County.
Wauchula boasts a low cost of living, with a median home list price of $277,400 and median rent of just $799, making it the most affordable city on our list for renters.
Wauchula also has a low violent crime rate and easy access to nearby hospitals.
Wauchula is a haven for nature lovers. It’s located near several parks, including Myakka River State Park and Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, located just outside of Wauchula.
Its quaint downtown includes several local eateries and antique shops to check out. You can explore the local history at the Pioneer Park Museum or enjoy a leisurely stroll along Hardee Lakes Park.
There’s also a hospital in town, AdventHealth Wauchula, which has an emergency room, orthopedic center as well as a skilled nursing and rehabilitation unit.
Nestled in Citrus County, Inverness is a natural paradise with a touch of cultural flair.
The city of approximately 7,400 residents is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including the Withlacoochee State Trail and Lake Tsala Apopka, a massive lake perfect for fishing and boating.
There’s also Whispering Pines Park, which offers several recreational facilities, including a swimming pool, tennis courts and picnic areas.
If you’re looking for entertainment, the Valerie Theater offers live performances, lectures and vintage film showings throughout the year. Or you can immerse yourself in local history at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum.
Inverness is also incredibly affordable. Median home prices clock in at $285,000 (well below the national average) and median rents are $1,600.
HCA Florida Citrus Hospital is a 204-bed acute care hospital in Inverness that serves as the hub for emergency care in Citrus County. The hospital offers oncology services, a heart and vascular center and an orthopedics center.
And with 38% of Inverness residents age 65 and older, you’ll likely meet lots of fellow retirees in your new community.
Sebring is a town of about 10,800 people nestled between Central and South Florida. It offers retirees a laid-back atmosphere and a low cost of living.
With a median home list price of $278,900, buying property here won’t break the bank. And with median rent prices below the state average at $1,650, there are plenty of affordable condos, apartments and mobile homes to choose from.
A collection of eclectic boutique shops and restaurants line the Sebring downtown district, dubbed the “City on the Circle” for its unique layout.
Race fans can check out the annual 12 Hours of Sebring event and other races at the Sebring International Raceway, the oldest permanent road racing track in North America.
If you love outdoor activities, Sebring has you covered. With plenty of parks and lakes, including Highlands Hammock State Park, you can enjoy fishing and boating all year long. You can even grab a round of golf at the Citrus Golf Trail, home to one of the world’s largest greens.
4. Crystal River
If you dream of waterfront living and encounters with gentle manatees, Crystal River is the place for you.
This coastal city is renowned for its crystal-clear springs and abundant marine life. Each winter, hundreds of manatees return from the Gulf of Mexico seeking the town’s warm springs to escape the cold — ensuring a truly unique marine wildlife sightseeing experience.
You can glimpse these gentle giants by kayaking, snorkeling or swimming along the temperate waters of Three Sisters Springs.
But it’s not just about nature. Crystal River also has some fantastic shopping options. Take a stroll through the historic downtown area, and you’ll discover that many of the historic homes have been converted into art galleries, restaurants and antique shops.
Crystal River’s population is just 3,300 and about 46% of residents are retirees, making this town a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of big city living.
The city also offers reasonable housing options — the median home price is $330,000 and median rent is $1,960. There’s also a range of health care services to help you stay healthy in retirement.
Escape the cold and settle into the peaceful community of Frostproof, located about 90 minutes east of Tampa Bay in Polk County.
Mild winters and sunny weather inspired the town’s unique name. Frostproof still serves as an agricultural hub, especially for the citrus industry.
Frostproof may feel a little isolated but it’s less than a 90-minute drive from several Central Florida theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Legoland.
If you want to stay in town, check out the Ramon Theater, a community theater that offers a mix of musicals, plays and local events. Or pick up your irons and head over to the Lily Lake Golf Resort for a round of golf. You can also keep busy exploring the charm of downtown Frostproof or indulge in outdoor activities at Lake Clinch.
This small town of just under 3,000 residents provides a laid-back retirement lifestyle with affordable housing options. The average home price is $219,000 while the median rent is just $900, making it one of the best places to retire in Florida on a budget.
It’s also the safest city on our list, with just 1.32 violent crimes reported for every 1,000 people. And with one out of every three residents over the age of 65, you’ll enjoy the quiet change of pace.
Located on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville, Palatka showcases historic architecture and a rich heritage.
Palatka has been growing in recent years as residents from other Florida cities like St. Augustine and Jacksonville seek a quieter lifestyle at a more affordable price, according to the Gainesville Sun.
It’s sparked investment not only in real estate, but also the downtown area. You can stroll along St. John’s Avenue to explore local shops, antique stores, bars and restaurants. At the end of the road, you’ll be greeted with a fantastic panoramic view of the St. Johns River and Riverfront Park.
Palatka earned a walking score of 75, so it’s easy to explore the town on foot. You can check out the Palatka Mural Walk or visit the Bronson-Mulholland House Museum to immerse yourself in the past. Stop by Angel’s Dining Car for a bite to eat — it’s the oldest diner in Florida.
Each March, Palatka hosts the annual Blue Crab Festival in downtown, offering music, food, craft beer and entertainment.
Palatka, a town of about 10,400 residents, is really affordable. The median home price is $250,000 and the median rent is $1,095.
7. Lake Wales
Embrace the beauty of Florida’s natural landscape in Lake Wales, situated in Polk County about an hour south of Orlando.
This city of 16,170 residents offers one-of-a-kind views from the historic Bok Tower Gardens, where you can enjoy summertime concerts amid some of the most stunning botanical gardens in the state.
Lake Wales is also home to several art galleries showcasing local talent, including the Lake Wales Arts Center. And if you need to get some shopping done, the Eagle Ridge Mall features tons of shops, food and a movie theater.
Affordable housing options are easy to find, with median home prices of $299,000 and median rents of $1,200. Lake Wales also scored high for its access to quality health care facilities, making this town an idyllic place to retire.
8. Daytona Beach
Retirees, start your engines and head to Daytona Beach!
With one of the largest NASCAR tracks in the country, this city offers an affordable coastal living experience by the Atlantic Ocean with iconic beaches that are hard to resist.
From oceanfront condos with a median rent of $1,700 to cozy inland homes with a median price of $310,000, there’s a housing option for every taste.
Daytona Beach has a bigger population than many cities on our list, with about 71,000 residents. (But you can expect that number to double during special events like the Daytona 500 and Bike Week.)
It’s also one of the few beach towns to make our list because, well, properties near the beach tend to be pricey. And don’t forget to factor in higher costs for homeowners insurance and flood insurance if you’re dead-set on moving to a coastal city.
Golfing, fishing and exploring the vibrant arts scene will keep you busy in retirement. You can also check out the Halifax Art Festival in November, the second oldest continual art festival in Florida.
Plus, with plenty of nearby health care facilities, including the award-winning Halifax Health Medical Center, Daytona Beach checks all the boxes for an exciting and comfortable retirement.
9. Green Cove Springs
Nestled along the west bank of the St. Johns River, Green Cove Springs offers retirees scenic Sunshine State beauty at a price that’s hard to beat.
The city is home to numerous parks and green spaces, including Spring Park, which features a bubbling spring that’s been drawing visitors for generations.
History buffs will enjoy the Military Museum of North Florida, which showcases an impressive collection of artifacts, uniforms, weapons and equipment.
This town of about 9,350 residents features a median home price of $355,500 and median rent of $2,000.
Despite its small size, Green Cove Springs offers a range of essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and medical facilities.
While amenities may not be as extensive as in larger cities, Green Cove Springs is just 28 miles south of Jacksonville, so you’ll have easy access to an international airport and other aspects of metro life.
Situated in Broward County about 45 minutes north of Miami, Margate combines suburban seclusion with easy access to South Florida city living.
This town of about 58,300 people features a very low crime rate and about 23% of residents are aged 65 or older, so you’ll be in good company.
One of the standout features of Margate is the town’s proximity to stunning beaches. Just a short drive away, you’ll find the beautiful shores of Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, where you can dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean, take leisurely walks along the coastline or even try your hand at paddleboarding.
About 78% of residents are a 10-minute walk or less away from parks and hiking trails. So if you get tired of the beach, you can check out one of the 20 different parks, recreation centers and marinas in town.
Home prices in Margate are much lower than many neighboring South Florida cities, with a median cost of $206,000. Rental properties are also within reach, averaging $2,300 a month.
11. Mount Dora
Prepare to fall in love with Mount Dora, a picturesque lakefront town known for its Southern charm and artistic spirit.
The city of about 15,800 residents is known for its well-preserved historic downtown area, complete with brick-lined streets, unique shops, Spanish moss-covered oak trees and Victorian-style buildings.
Mount Dora also scored an 81 walking score — the highest of any city on our list — so taking a leisurely stroll is a great way to see everything the town has to offer.
Farmers markets and craft fairs are easy to find all year long, and the annual Mount Dora Arts Festival draws visitors from all over the state each February.
It’s easy to see why Mount Dora has earned its unofficial nickname as “the New England of the South.”
Antique lovers and bargain hunters will fall in love with Renningers, a massive 117-acre antique mall on the outskirts of town. There’s also numerous 55 and older retirement communities located in Mount Dora and surrounding Lake County.
Lake Dora is the heart and soul of the town. If you love fishing and boating — or just want to soak up the picture-perfect views at sunset — there are plenty of parks and docks along the lakefront.
With median home prices of $385,940, Mount Dora is a little pricier to live in than some other cities on our list. After all, Mount Dora has been a trendy retirement destination for a while.
An upside: Property taxes are low, averaging around $1,266 per year. Median rent clocks in at $2,188.
Welcome to Pensacola, a city on Florida’s Gulf Coast renowned for its stunning beaches.
The median home price is $350,000 but the town has very low property taxes, averaging just $1,097. Renting is more affordable, averaging around $1,850 per month.
With its dazzling beaches and lush natural surroundings, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key are a haven for relaxation. You can sink your toes into the sugar-white sand or embark on a fishing excursion in the Gulf of Mexico.
This town of about 53,800 has easy access to everything you need, including health care facilities, restaurants, grocery stores and entertainment. Plus, 83% of residents are a 10-minute walk or less from a park.
Not only is Jacksonville the biggest city on our list, it’s also the biggest city in Florida!
One of the main perks of Jacksonville is its sheer size and diversity. With a population of over 937,000, Jacksonville boasts a thriving economy with plenty to see and do.
The city’s cultural scene is home to numerous world-class venues, including the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts, where you can catch Broadway shows, concerts and ballet performances.
Jacksonville is also a big sports town. Football fans can cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field, while golf aficionados can visit the Players Championship held at the iconic TPC Sawgrass.
The city offers access to top-notch health care facilities and specialized medical services — including Mayo Clinic. It’s also home to numerous senior centers, recreational facilities and social clubs that cater specifically to retirees.
The median home price in Jacksonville is $314,900 and median rent is $1,750, making it a much cheaper place to live than other big cities in Florida, like Miami.
14. Altamonte Springs
Combining the best of both worlds, Altamonte Springs offers urban convenience and natural beauty.
This growing Central Florida suburb of about 45,700 just north of Orlando provides easy access to world-class amenities, airports and cultural attractions. You can spend a leisurely day at Cranes Roost Park or explore the Altamonte Springs Art Walk.
The median home price in Altamonte Springs is $275,000 and median rent clocks in at $1,800 making it an affordable place to buy or rent.
Altamonte Springs features a well-planned infrastructure, with plenty of shopping centers, malls, grocery stores and medical facilities conveniently located throughout the area.
You can also catch a ride on SunRail, Central Florida’s commuter train, to explore nearby towns, including Orlando, Winter Park and Kissimmee. Train rides start at just $2 per trip (and seniors get a 50% discount on fares).
15. Lake Placid
Lake Placid is a small town in Highlands County with just 2,430 residents. It’s surrounded by 29 freshwater lakes, making it a great place for fishing and water sport enthusiasts looking for a peaceful escape.
Explore one of the town’s 40 colorful murals, enjoy fishing and boating on Lake Placid or savor local flavors at the annual Caladium Festival (after all, Lake Placid produces about 90% of the world’s caladium bulbs).
Lake Placid’s affordability, coupled with its natural beauty, earned it a spot on our list.
The median home price is $315,000 but the town features low property taxes, averaging just $1,003. Renting is also affordable, with median prices at $1,525.
How We Picked the Best Places to Retire in Florida
We selected the top 15 best places to retire in Florida from the 412 cities listed by the League of Florida Cities. We narrowed the list to 30 using median rents and median list prices.
Next, we looked at affordability, quality of life and access to health care to pick the final 15. Affordability was measured by median rent, median list price, average property taxes by county and Sperlings’ Cost of Living Index. For quality of life, we considered violent crime rates; the percentage of residents who are 65 or older; the percentage of parks within walking distance; and bike, walk and transit scores. We gauged access to health care by the number of staffed adult hospital beds per 1,000 adults in a county.
We analyzed data from the following sources:
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer at Codetic. She focuses on retirement, Medicare, investing and taxes. Multimedia Content Creator Chris Zuppa provided data analysis for this article.