Overview: Best Retirement Communities in Florida


Florida has a long-standing reputation for being one of the best places to retire—not only in the country but the entire world. There’s a good reason for that, and we’ll explore leading up to our picks for the top four Florida retirement communities.

What to Know About Retirement in Florida 

Some obvious reasons make this state great, particularly for retirement, including the beautiful, warm weather and the abundance of scenic outdoor spaces.

  • Florida is well-known for recreation opportunities such as fishing, boating, and golf, and there’s a generally laid-back approach to life that’s appealing to many retirees.
  • Real estate prices are relatively low in many areas, and property taxes are capped. There is no state income tax in Florida.
  • Housing options are available for year-round retirees or snowbirds looking to escape winter in their primary state of residence.

Whether you’re seeking somewhere to live all the time, or just for a portion of the year, it can be a challenge to select the very best retirement communities in Florida because there are so many excellent options.

We created this guide as a way to showcase four of the top Florida retirement communities, with information about each and a view of what it’s like to call these places home.

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Image Source: BigStock

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The Best Retirement Cities in Florida

We will cover the specific retirement communities in Florida which we feel are the best, but we felt it would first be worth covering some of the best retirement places in Florida in a more general sense.

  • Melbourne is popular because it’s also one of the more affordable retirement communities in Florida, whereas areas closer to resort locales such as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale can be quite expensive. Melbourne is located in Brevard County and is part of the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Metropolitan area. It’s on the east coast of the state and has two large golf courses, as well as a popular Historic Downtown district.
  • Gainsville is perhaps most well-known for being home to the University of Florida, which is one of the nation’s largest universities, but it’s also a popular retirement area, located in the north-central region of the state. Gainsville is more urban than some of the resort-like areas in Florida, which makes it one of the popular retirement cities in Florida for people who want a bit more convenience and an urban feel.
  • Marco Island is located in Southwest Florida and is a barrier island located on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s close to Naples and is not only a charming resort area but also features some scenic beaches and marinas, making it a popular Florida state retirement option.

Those are just three of the very diverse, attractive retirement cities in Florida.

Now let’s explore more specific options available to retirees, whether you want to live in one of the above cities or a different location in the state.

We selected four of our top picks for the best retirement communities in Florida.

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The Villages—The Villages, FL

The Villages isn’t just a retirement community in Florida—it’s a large-scale, master-planned community located in Sumter County.

As one of the premier retirement communities in Central Florida, The Villages prides itself on providing the means to enjoy an active, engaged lifestyle.

The Homes

This is one of the most popular retirement communities in the country, and there is a wide variety of property and living options you can select from as a resident.

Retirees have the opportunity to buy new construction and pre-owned single-family homes in separate neighborhoods throughout the community. Furnished homes are available, as well.

The styles of homes available include manufactured options, cottages/ranches, designer homes, and premier homes, and prices range from less than $100,000 for many of the manufactured homes up to nearly $1 million for the premier homes.

The Lifestyle

The Villages is unique because it isn’t really like a retirement community, but is instead more like a small town where you have the opportunity to socialize, get to know your neighbors, and enjoy the outdoors.

  • Everything that active seniors could need or want is included, like golf, shopping, dining, and medical and professional services.
  • Residents use golf carts as their primary form of transportation throughout The Villages.
  • There are three town squares in The Villages, which create a quaint hometown atmosphere.
  • There is free, live entertainment every night, and there are also three entirely modern movie theaters within the community.
  • More than 60 restaurants and retailers are part of The Villages, and there are frequent special events, from parades to festivals.

When you’re a resident of this community, there really isn’t ever a reason to venture outside the gates.

Recreation

There is a big focus on sports, recreation, and a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle when you call The Villages home.

Some of the activities available to residents include:

  • Golf: You have the opportunity to play golf free for the rest of your life on the executive courses. You also receive a free lifetime membership to all of the country clubs, which include the Palmer Legends and Nancy Lopez Legacy clubs.
  • Health and Wellness: Life at The Villages includes the opportunity to try exercise classes from yoga to low-impact aerobics. Trails and paved sidewalks wind throughout, perfect for walkers, bikers, and runners.
  • Dance: Dancing venues offer instruction and opportunities for socializing and dancing in styles including square dancing, jazz, and tap.

Residents of this unique retirement community in Florida can also swim in sports pools, take part in arts and crafts classes, and join special interest groups and social clubs.

Our Analysis

The Villages has something for everyone, and it doesn’t necessarily bring to mind the traditional image of “retirement community.”

Instead, it’s like relocating to a charming small town where you have opportunities to enjoy life and meet new people while still living an independent, active lifestyle. There’s a modern feel to the design and town squares, and it’s impossible to be bored when you live at The Villages.

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Sun City Center—Sun City Center, FL

Sun City Center is a community designed for residents aged 55 and older, and it’s billed as one of the more affordable retirement communities in Florida.

Much like The Villages, Sun City Center is a self-contained golf cart community. All streets in the community are approved for golf cart usage, and there are dozens of retail stores and professional services located right inside Sun City Center.

The Homes

Available homes within Sun City Center range from less than $100,000 up to the low $500,000s, and there are more than 8,000 available properties, all of which are resale. There isn’t currently new construction available in Sun City Center.

The Lifestyle

Some of the retailers found in the community include:

  • Ace Hardware
  • Home Depot
  • Dollar General
  • Pet Smart
  • Walmart
  • FedEx

There are also many churches, a post office, restaurants, a hearing center, and home health care agencies right within the confines of Sun City Center.

Location

Reaching Sun City Center is relatively simple as it’s only about 40 minutes from Tampa International Airport and about the same distance from the Bradenton/Sarasota Airport.

You can quickly access the activities and fishing available in and around Tampa Bay, and many cruise terminals are within a 30-minute drive, making this a perfect pick if you enjoy traveling.

Facilities

This sprawling, self-contained community features a broad range of well-maintained facilities for residents, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, a softball facility, and arts and crafts rooms.

If you’re athletic, you can take advantage of the 10 tennis courts. Other sports facilities at Sun City Center include:

  • Pickleball courts
  • Lawn bowl greens
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Volleyball courts
  • Dog parks
  • A billiards room

More than 100 clubs and organizations make life at Sun City Center an engaged one, with groups geared toward social and civic activities, veterans associations and even travel groups. There are also frequent stage shows and live entertainment opportunities.

The Community Association

One of the things that makes life at Sun City Center unique is the active Community Association. As a resident, you’re automatically a voting member, which means you get to make decisions about how the community is maintained and future plans.

The directors of the Community Association are unpaid volunteers who are elected, and members have access to all facilities at a very low cost, which comes in the form of yearly dues.

Our Analysis

Sun City Center is an excellent opportunity to make the most of retirement in Florida. Much like The Villages, you maintain an independent lifestyle and one that embraces not just recreation and fun, but also opportunities to get involved with your community.

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Century Village East—Deerfield Beach, FL

One of the best retirement communities in Florida, Century Village East, is located just south of Boca Raton and north of Pompano Beach.

The focal point of this active community is a 145,000 square foot clubhouse, which is a hub of social activities, entertainment, and recreation. The entire community spans more than 750 acres, ensuring there’s plenty of space and facilities dedicated to whatever activities you enjoy.

The Homes

The homes in Century Village East are condos, and there are two different primary building types, with units that vary in size and style. There are more than 8,000 total condo units in the village, and during high season, the population swells to 16,000.

Many of the homes were built between 1970 and 1995, and sizes range from 650 up to 1100 square feet.

Layouts include spacious living areas with one or two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms. The units also include parking spaces, and the units are set in buildings with anywhere from two to four floors.

The homes feature open floor plans, master suites, and many have views of the golf course or water.

The Lifestyle

The goal of life at Century Village East is to create an atmosphere that feels like being on vacation at all times.

  • Residents have abundant opportunities to meet other retirees aged 55 and above and to take part in regular events, parties, dances, and live music.
  • This South Florida community is just five miles from the ocean, and it’s accessible to major highways.
  • Constantly guarded gated entry into the community takes care of security and puts your mind at ease.

Some of the benefits available only to members of Century Village East include:

  • Access to social clubs and special events
  • Access to two music rooms
  • A billiards room
  • A U.S. and international library
  • Stage shows
  • First-run movies shown in a modern, 1600-seat theater

Our Analysis

One of the primary advantages of selecting Century Village East as an option for retirement in Florida is its affordability. Despite the excellent location and many amenities, it remains a viable option for someone seeking affordable retirement communities in Florida.

However, while there are many upsides, it is important to note Century Village East doesn’t have as many in-community dining and retail options when compared to some of the other top retirement communities in Florida, although this can be balanced by the location and easy transportation options provided to residents.

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Pelican Bay—Naples, FL

Naples is one of the most luxurious retirement places in Florida, and Pelican Bay is a premier Naples option.

This community is well-known for including the Clam Bay mangrove preserve, and it spans over 43 acres of beautiful space, which includes recreation areas, parks, and more.

The Homes

Pelican Bay real estate options are immense, making this a great retirement community in Florida for anyone who likes to have plenty of choices.

Fifty-eight neighborhoods make up Pelican Bay, with more than 6,500 homes. These homes range from single-family homes to luxury high-rise condos.

Although impressive, the homes in Pelican Bay are generally quite a bit more expensive than some of the other Florida state retirement options on our list; they are often larger, and Naples is an expensive, high-end area.

The Lifestyle

One of the aspects Pelican Bay is most known for is the incredibly active tennis community, which regularly holds and hosts a variety of tournaments, mixers, and special events.

  • There are also opportunities to exercise and take fitness classes at the 25,000 square foot Community Center.
  • The Club at Pelican Bay is a private golf club that’s a centerpiece of the community and features not only on-site dining and a card room, but also a pro shop and practice areas.
  • An exceptional feature of Pelican Bay is the tram system, which brings residents of the community not only to the restaurants and other amenities but also to the beach. It’s a solar-powered transportation network that has become quite an impressive part of life here.
  • The beach is a big perk for people who opt for this as opposed to other retirement communities in Florida. There are two separate beach locations for residents, with white sandy shores. One of the beaches spans three miles. Attendants also provide amenities while you’re at the beach, including chair set-up. Umbrellas and cabanas are available. This is just one of the many ways Pelican Bay feels like an actual resort, as compared to other Florida retirement communities.

Also popular at Pelican Bay is biking, jogging, and rollerblading along a two-mile trail, which winds through the mango preserve around which the community is built.

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Image Source: BigStock

Our Analysis

Pelican Bay may not be seen as one of the most affordable retirement communities in Florida, but based on our assessment, it would certainly be one of the best retirement places in Florida.

While homes in Pelican Bay may be a higher price point than other options, they are truly beautiful, and luxury properties are available.

It’s also a special community thanks to the stunning white sand beaches, the natural beauty of the mango preserve, and one-of-a-kind amenities like the tram system.

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Exploring the Best Retirement Communities in Florida

You have so many options to consider when exploring Florida retirement communities. Rather than simply looking at traditional retirement homes in Florida, our goal was to help you think outside the box. We hope we’ve helped you narrow down your search and helped you get one step closer to the fun and the sand awaiting your retirement in Florida.



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