It’s no secret that Florida has some of the best retirement communities in the United States.
But with hundreds of communities and dozens of cities to choose from, the search for the perfect place can be overwhelming.
There are a diverse amount of experiences awaiting you in the sunshine state, you just have to match the community to your specific interests.
That’s why we decided to make a complete guide that breaks down the top cities and communities in Florida for those ready to move south for retirement.
Each community on the list was chosen based on the following criteria:
A. High quality amenities with a clubhouse
B. A community focus on activities, clubs and life enrichment programs
C. Close access to healthcare services
D. Close access to entertainment, shopping and restaurants
Note: Many communities on the list are not strictly 55+. We found that there were many communities open to all ages that met our top four criteria and were perfect for an active retirement. Limiting our list to strictly 55+ communities would have kept the best communities off the list!
Tallahassee is the capital city of Florida— and with that comes a lot of rich history. Learn about the history of the state at the Museum of Florida, or check out an action-packed SEC football game at the Doak Campbell Stadium where the Florida State University Seminoles play.
A population of 186,000 makes Tallahassee a nice mid-sized city to settle down in for an active retirement. The city is very nature oriented and the culture is very “old Florida.” You’ll see a ton of traditional architecture everywhere you look.
Tallahassee is a true classic city in every sense. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to find a retirement community that really matched the authentic nature of the city.
Top Retirement Community in Tallahassee
The winner for best retirement community in Tallahassee is Southwood!
While not strictly a 55+ community, Southwood has all the amenities and perks that an active retirement requires.
The thing that really distinguishes Southwood from other destinations for retirees is it’s focus on nature walks and parks.
In fact, there are over 1000 acres of greenery, including a mini 123 acre “Central Park.”
There are bike and walking trails that connect all the parks. The focus at Southwood is on the outdoors.
The community is anchored by the Southwood “Town Center”, which is home to restaurants and shops.
SouthWood Golf Club
SouthWood wouldn’t be a top Florida community without a world-class golf course.
When the course was built it was named one of the top 35 New Courses in America by Golf Magazine. In 2012 the course was voted Best in Tallahassee by Tallahassee Magazine.
The Fred Couples course is tournament ready but can accommodate players of all skill levels.
The SouthWood House was built in 1865 and has been totally renovated for weddings and corporate gatherings.
The SouthWood house architecture screams traditional Florida plantation with it’s rocking chairs on the front porch and the old oak trees covered in Spanish moss.
The 5 cottages on the property are great for housing out of town guests or anyone that wants to experience SouthWood before purchasing a home in the community.
SouthWood Art of Living Program
The community has an “Art of Living” director that coordinates fun cultural activities in the community throughout the year. The director also makes sure that new residents feel welcome in SouthWood and helps them get acclimated to living in Tallahassee.
In a nutshell, SouthWood is an extremely welcoming community with tons of fun activities for an active retirement.
If you are considering retiring in Tallahassee, the SouthWood community needs to be on your list.
Pensacola is a town with about 50,000 residents, a world-class naval base, and some of the best medical facilities in the country. If quality healthcare is at the very top of your list for an active retirement, you’ll want to check out Pensacola.
There are not a ton of frills that go along with living here. It’s great weather, it’s by the gulf of Mexico, and the cost of living is low. If you’re looking to keep it simple, this is the place you want.
Best Retirement Community in Pensacola
I have to admit, this one was tough to find, but boy was it worth the search.
Nature Trail is exactly what it sounds like—a community focused on nature and they really have thought every detail through here.
The utilities are underground, which in my opinion should be a national law!
The clubhouse at Nature Trail is affectionally called “The Lodge”. It’s a great building with a homestyle feel to it. The Lodge houses all of the communities amenities like pools, fitness center and tennis courts, playground and rooms for meeting.
Nature Trail is not a strictly 55+ community, but there are certainly plenty of residents that are retirement age living here.
3) Melbourne / Viera
Melbourne is a great little city with a bit over 75,000 residents. There are a TON of things to do in Melbourne, FL and the surrounding areas.
Melbourne and surrounding cities are known as the “Space Coast” thanks to NASA’s operations in nearby Cape Canaveral. The Kennedy Space center is only about a 30 minute drive from Melbourne and offers guests an upclose look at the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis is kind of a big deal—it’s traveled over 100 Million miles! (Which is about twice as many miles as my car needs to last).
Catch a Washington Nationals spring training day over at Space Coast Stadium, which also features the minor league Brevard County Manatees.
Also on the list of things to do in Melbourne, Florida is the Brevard Zoo. For only $10, you can even kayak around the zoo while checking out the animals! It’s definitely a unique experience.
Cocoa Beach (just south of Cape Canaveral) is world famous Florida beach with attractions ranging from helicopter tours to great dining options.
There are no shortage of things to do in Melbourne for an active retirement!
Best Retirement Community in Melbourne / Viera
The winner for the top retirement community in the Melbourne / Viera area is The Indian River Colony Club. The Indian River Colony Club is an active, military retirement community located in Viera, Florida (although it has a Melbourne address).
The motto of the community is “A Place Patriots Call Home.” Indian River Colony Club is steeped in Military tradition and has predominately former military residents—although anyone is welcomed to live there.
Indian River Colony Club has all the amenities you would expect including pool, fitness center, tennis courts and banquet hall for events.
IRCC is nature-focused and it even has a pond which is great for fishing (catch and release of course!)
Keep your mental skills sharp with a game of poker or bridge (there are groups for that too).
There are theater, art, and even a chorus group that you can get involved with to explore your creative side.
A Really cool perk of living in Indian River Colony Club is the RV and boat area that guests and residents can hook up to with sanitation disposal, cleaning and restrooms. Your out of town friends will LOVE that they can come visit and hook up right inside the community.
The Viera VA clinic is close by which is great for military retirees that want to be close to care.
Indian River Colony club is definitely the top 55 and over community in the Melbourne / Viera area, especially for former military.
Sarasota, FL is home to Siesta Key and Siesta Beach, one of the top rated beaches in the world. In fact, most of the activities in Sarasota revolve around beach life, so if you’re looking to soak up the sun and the waves during retirement, Sarasota is your type of place.
A nice perk about living in Sarasota is it’s central location. It’s only about 45 minutes from Tampa, 1.5 hours from Ft. Meyers, 2 hours from Orlando, and 3.5 hours from Miami. You can take a weekend vacation to just about any city in south and central Florida with no problem.
Another perk of retiring in Sarasota is the airport is serviced by major airlines including Delta and American Airlines, so you’ll never have a problem with guests flying in from out of town.
While Sarasota is on the smaller side with a little over 50,000 residents, most major music acts come through town. As I’m writing this, I see that ZZ Top will be in town this week! Even if an act skips over Sarasota, you can always catch the show with a reasonable drive over to Tampa.
Top Retirement Community in Sarasota
Lakewood Ranch takes the crown as the best retirement community in Sarasota, FL.
As far as master-planned communities go, Lakewood Ranch is one of the largest in the nation sitting at an impressive 17,500 acres in size.
The Ranch was built with sustainability in mind and has been one of the largest green-certified communities in the nation. Every home is built with energy efficiency in mind.
This community is so big, it needs two clubhouses to accommodate residents—the main clubhouse and a new building known as “clubhouse east.”
There is a tennis center with a pro shop and 18 lighted courts and a huge fitness center that is over 10,000 sq. ft with personal trainers on hand to help guide your workouts. Work on your lap time in the olympic pool or sign up to take a water aerobics class to stay in shape.
Ancient Oak Gun Club
Clay bird shooting enthusiasts will love the Ancient Oak Gun club inside of Lakewood Ranch. The club has 28 covered shooting stations and plays hosts to many shooting competitions including the 2016 Florida Sporting Clays State Championship.
Both beginners and pros are welcome at the Ancient Oak Gun Club.
Sarasota Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch
Polo is an exciting team sport played on horseback with the objective of driving the small white ball into the other team’s goal using a long wooden mallet.
Keep in mind, this is all while your horse is charging ahead at full speed!
This sport from 6th century Persia is played Sunday afternoon at the Sarasota Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch. Outside of the sport itself, there are tons of fun activities going on game day like picnics, Clydesdale wagon rides and tailgating (yes even the polo crowd knows how to have fun!)
Parks and Trails in Lakewood
3,500 of the 17,500 acres at Lakewood Ranch have been set aside and preserved as parks, lakes and other nature habitats. There are over 150 miles of trails and sidewalks and 8 dedicated community parks for residents to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Heron’s Nest Nature Park inside Lakewood even has two lakes that residents can fish and boat on.
Retirees looking for outdoor activities will be right at home at Lakewood Ranch.
Shopping / Dining
Lakewood Ranch has two shopping / retail centers: Main Street and Town Center.
Main Street has everything from mom and pop shops to fine dining restaurants and high end condos to a 6 screen movie theater.
Town Center is the biggest shopping plaza in Lakewood ranch with over 200 retailers with a mix of local small business and big box retail stores.
There are a number of smaller shopping plazas sprinkled throughout the community. No matter what you’re looking for you are sure to find it very close by when you live at Lakewood Ranch.
Health Facilities and Healthy Living
If you’re considering choosing Lakewood Ranch as your retirement community, you’ll be comforted to hear that Lakewood Ranch has top notch medical facilities right inside the community.
The Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is a 120 bed full service inpatient and outpatient clinic and the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Center specializes in the specific healthcare needs of women.
The Windsor at Lakewood Ranch is a 80 bed assisted living facility for seniors that need a bit more attention than in-home care can provide.
Outside of the doctor’s office, The Healthy Living Organic and Natural Market is fully stocked with herbs, supplements, and fresh produce to power you through your golden years.
Lakewood is no doubt one of the best retirement communities in Florida.
Jacksonville is a little bit of a forgotten city in Florida. While it doesn’t get a lot of love in the media (there wont be a CSI: Jacksonville anytime soon) it’s has some features that make it a desirable place to live and retire.
A big perk of living in Jacksonville is it’s low cost of living. On an average national scale of 100, Best Places (attach this link http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/florida/jacksonville) has Jacksonville at a 66 for housing costs.
That means retirees on a fixed income can get more house in Jacksonville than many other parts of the country.
Jacksonville is home to many colleges and a pro NFL team the Jacksonville jaguars, so you’ll never be bored on game days.
Jacksonville is home to the famous St. Johns River, sits right on the Atlantic Ocean, and is a short drive away from the historic city of St. Augustine—the oldest city in America.
In short, it’s not hard to keep yourself busy in Jacksonville for an active retirement.
And with all the money you’ll be saving in housing, you can afford to spend more on entertainment.
Best Retirement Community in Jacksonville, FL
Top Retirement Community in Jacksonville
The top community to retire in Jacksonville, Florida goes to none other than Cascades at the World Golf Village.
The World Golf Village is the ultimate golf retirement community in the United States.
Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer came together to build a Golf Course only once, and the course they built is the King & Bear, and it’s located right inside of Cascades at the World Golf Village.
Speaking of golf, the World Golf Hall of Fame is right outside your doorstep at Cascades. It’s literally inside your community! Check out exhibits from the Golf legends of the past including tributes to Gary Player, Laura Davies, Fred Couples and others.
Every year a new cohort is inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame, with the first inductees coming in 1998.
To top off the whole golfer’s paradise vibe, there is a restaurant, a very awesome restaurant, inside of the World Golf Village.
It’s owned by Bill Murray and his brothers. Can you guess the name? Caddy shack, of course!
This community is truly every golfer’s fantasy retirement community, but that’s not all Cascades has going for it.
The center of the community features a huge clubhouse with card rooms, pool tables, and a fully stocked fitness center.
Many communities call their pool “resort style” but the neighborhoods at World Golf Village have a pool straight from a Sandals resort commercial!
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind golf retirement community, take a trip out to the Cascades at World Golf Village.
Naples is a popular choice for an active florida retirement. The city is on the smaller side and sits right on the Gulf of Mexico.
There is a huge focus on beach properties and waterfront homes in Naples, so if you’re looking walk the sand on a daily basis, you’ll be right at home here.
For a resort-style experience, check out Vanderbilt Beach.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed, nature-focused beach outing, check out Tigertail beach. Tons of Florida wildlife can be spotted in the lagoon that separates Tigertail beach from the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife.
Tigertail beach is a favorite location for bird watchers and was voted one of the best rid-watching locations in south Florida by the Great Florida Bird Trailing Guide.
Grab a paddle board and go see the wildlife up close!
Many cities have a zoo, but how many can say that they have a “swamp zoo” of sorts. Naples has both with the Naples Zoo and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Take a tour inside the historic Palm Cottage to discover the rustic charm of old Naples (only $10 per person).
Best Retirement Community in Naples, FL
The winner for top retirement community in Naples goes to The Quarry located in North Naples.
The Quarry is a true oasis in every sense of the word. Sitting on the banks of the sandy beaches of Stone Lake, the Quarry Lake Lodge and Beach Club offers residents a top class fitness center, card and meeting rooms, and tennis courts that sit right on the lake.
With those views it may be tough concentrating on your serve!
The common areas in the Quarry Lake Lodge have been built with the highest quality materials available. Actually—the entire facility is like that, from the brick-laid driveway to the practice golf facilities.
They didn’t go cheap on ANYTHING.
Boat docks are available for rent to those that want to store their boat right on the water. Stone Lake isn’t a huge lake, so smaller boats would work best.
They even have lounge chairs set up along the shore of the lake so you can grab a book and enjoy the breeze as it sweeps off the lake and onto the shoreline.
The pool at The Quarry is amazing. It’s resort-style with a bridge overtop which doubles as a waterfall.
A big perk for many residents at The Quarry is it’s location. At 17 miles outside of downtown Naples, it’s far enough away to avoid most of the traffic but close enough to easily get to town whenever you want.
7) The Villages
The reputation of the Villages tends to precede itself. It’s been called the Las Vegas of retirement communities.
One thing is for sure—there is nothing subtle about life in the Villages.
The Villages is the brainchild of billionaire Harold Schwartz. Morse wanted to build a community where the entire focus was on active retirement living—where you could explore any passion during your next stages of life.
Located in the heart of central Florida, the Villages is hardly a retirement community—it’s a retirement city. Ditch your car and drive around town in your golf cart, because even the roads have been made to accommodate active retirement living.
The Old Town Square—The Meeting Spot
Smack in the middle of the Villages is where you will find the there town squares: Brownwood Paddock Square, Spanish Springs town square and Lake Sumter Landing Market square. The live entertainment never takes a night off in the Villages—live acts can be seen in each town square every night of the year.
All three town squares have their own movie theaters featuring the latest releases. All three are decorated to look like old fashioned theater halls which adds to the ambiance of the town squares.
As you can imagine, there is just about every type of restaurant you can think of in the Villages’ town squares, so you’ll never get tired of the dining options. There are also national retailers sprinkled throughout the community.
Keeping Healthy in the Villages
The Villages Regional Hospital, Mofitt Cancer center, and the VA outpatient clinic form a trio of superior healthcare for people with all types of health profiles. There are also healthcare centers located throughout the community to take care of less urgent stuff.
Fitness is a big focus at the Villages and that comes out in all the recreational actives available for residents.
There are several recreational hubs throughout the community, each with their own fitness center. Each fitness center has both cardio machines and weight training equipment as well as TV’s all around to help you keep up with currents events while you work up a sweat.
If you want a more hands-on experience, check out the MVP sports club over on Spanish Springs town square for spa services and personal training.
The Lifelong Learning College
A really neat feature of being a resident at the Villages is taking a class (or three) at the Lifelong Learning College. Learning never stops, and part of an active retirement in the Villages, FL is getting together with some friends and learning something new.
Classes at the Lifelong Learning College cover a broad spectrum of topics including real estate, technology, dance, culinary arts, history and many others.
Participate in exploration with groups like the “Best of Israel” trip that explores the rich history of the area. There are also educational day trips available through the College covering topics like Thoroughbred horse farms and the Wizard of Oz.
Residents can become “Patrons” of the college and get special discounts on all of the classes and events.
Golfing in the Villages
It wouldn’t be an active Florida retirement community without some options for golfing.
Here is a HUGE perk for you, the golf enthusiast at the Villages: as a resident, you get to play golf for free on all of the executive courses. You also get free lifetime membership to the country club courses in the Villages—which include the Villages’ Palmer Legends and the Nancy Lopez Legacy course.
There are 36 executive courses and 12 country club courses located throughout the Villages community. That’s a grand total of 48 courses to choose from anytime you want to get in a round of golf.
If you want to work on your game, there are 4 practice facilities to choose from as well as world class instruction from a pro on the Golf Academy team.
The Golf Academy has three programs: The New to Golf program, Group Lessons, and Private Lessons to help refine your game even further.
The New to Golf program is a super relaxed, no pressure environment to learn the basics of the game.
8) Boca Raton
Boca has been a longtime favorite city for a Florida retirement. It’s one of the warmest places in the United States during the winter. If you’ve been dealing with shoveling snow in near inhuman temperatures during the winter months for 30 or 40 years, this is music to your ears.
Unlike some cities, where there aren’t that many options for people that want a dedicated 55+, age restricted community, Boca Raton has a number of age-restricted communities to choose from.
Best Retirement in Boca Raton
Century Village in Boca Raton is unique on our list. It’s the only one that is purely a condominium community. This is a good choice for those who want a maintenance-free retirement option.
Keeping with the maintenance-free theme, there is a city bus that picks up right at the clubhouse in Century Village and drops off at the local “Town Center” shopping plaza. The bus also stops at the Boca Raton regional hospital.
Century Village also has it’s own buses that take residents to local doctor’s offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. If you lived in Century Village, you could easily get by without owning a car.
The main hub of the Century Village community is the community center, which hosts a huge fitness center, 12 tennis courts, and a billiards room.
Inside the clubhouse is a theater that seats over a thousand people! Many local acts come to perform at the Century Village theater. The theater is super impressive and it’s one of the biggest clubhouse theaters I’ve ever seen!
An entertaining night out is never far away at CV.
There is a lifelong learning program at the clubhouse and many classes are taught throughout the year. Learn about everything from genealogy to Reiki healing or ceramics.
Like with almost any retirement community in Boca Raton or across Florida, there are a number of card game groups, and other social activities to partake in like Bingo and Mahjong. There are over 30 clubs to join and get involved with at Century Village.
9) Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater
The Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater cities are all in close proximity to each other. The three areas combine to form a population over 700,000, which is just below the Jacksonville metro area population.
The Tampa Bay area boasts a nice mixture of beach life, vibrant downtown and nature-focused suburbs. Tampa is a big music city, so every big act comes through town although there is definitely a strong hard rock culture which is reflected in many of the cities local music venues such as Jannus Live
According to Money Management site WalletHub, Tampa was ranked the #1 city to retire thanks to it’s low cost of living and high rankings in recreational activities.
Things to do in Tampa include checking out a show in the Tampa theatre, spending a day at the world renewed theme park Busch Gardens, take a step back into the past and learn about Maritime history aboard the SS American Victory, or watch the Buccaneers play an NFL game over at Raymond James Stadium.
Clearwater beach is a great place to spend a day and an even better place to spend an evening. The shops, bars and restaurants along the beach come alive at night. It’s nothing too wild, but there is great energy and people are friendly.
St. Petersburg is a great spot to enjoy life on the Gulf of Mexico. There are great restaurants and St. Petersburg offers a much more low-key and relaxed beach experience than Clearwater.
Whatever your speed, The Tampa area truly does have it all at an affordable price. It’s no wonder Tampa is home to some of the best retirement communities in Florida.
This might be the toughest choice I’ve had to make yet. There are many great communities to choose from!
Best Retirement Community in Tampa
Through much debate, I’ve arrived at a winner for the best retirement community in Tampa.
And the winner is….Mira Bay!
Mira Bay is located on Apollo Beach, which is just south of Tampa along US Highway 41. Mira Bay has a diverse selection of homes ranging from the $200’s to $2M.
It’s just a short drive to Tampa, but it’s far enough away to get out of the noise and hustle of the city.
The community has been around since 2003 and everything has been kept up to date.
The clubhouse at Mira Bay looks really cool. It has an old southern plantation-stye architecture on the outside and cherry wood flooring on the inside. The clubhouse has all the standard fare for an active retirement community: resort pool (with a water slide, I might add), fitness center,
Also present inside the clubhouse is the Galley Cafe, where residents can grab a bite to eat after a workout or a session of tennis.
One of the coolest things to do at Mira Bay is to head to the pool at night, and check out the views of the MiraBay Lagoon at you relax in the pool. During the day, grab a kayak, canoe or a sailboat and head out on the water.
With enough twists, turns and determination, you can make it from the Lagoon all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico!
Residents can literally go from their backyard to the ocean. That’s pretty great considering you can get a house in here for a reasonable price, and the amenities are plentiful.
The MiraBay commercial village is located very conveniently for residents to take care of basic grocery shopping and retail needs.
10) Ft. Lauderdale
We’ve finally arrived at our last retirement destination in Florida: Ft. Lauderdale!
When you think of Florida, you probably have a Ft. Lauderdale scene in mind: palm trees, tropical weather, hurricanes, beaches and sunshine. Ft. Lauderdale is a nice sized city with a ton to do—but it’s mostly focused on beach life and can be a bit too much like a resort town for some people.
The nice thing about Ft. Lauderdale though is that Miami, is only about 45 minutes away—so you’re never that far from any show, restaurant, or sporting event you could possibly want to check out.
Outside of the city is where you will find the gems—the communities that are just perfect for an active retirement. Close enough to the city for the fun, far enough away to avoid the noise and traffic.
Without further ado, let’s check out the winner for top retirement community in Ft. Lauderdale!
Best Retirement Community in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
For this last community, I wanted to pick something that was unique and different from the rest. I wanted to find a community that had the amenities, but didn’t have the overhead and the headache of a normal home ownership.
I wanted to find a community that was low to no maintenance so you can move in and move around without worrying about upkeep.
The place I ultimately chose was The Fountainhead—which is as epic as the name would have you believe.
The Fountainhead is a luxury condo community where all the units face the Atlantic Ocean. Literally every room has an amazing view.
The community is located in Lauderdale by the sea, a village that borders the resort-focused town of Ft. Lauderdale. Lauderdale by the sea is a much more low-key beach town that the surrounding neighborhoods—it really holds on to it’s tight-knit roots.
Fountainhead is a very activities-driven community. There is an “activities committee” that meets to plan out the offerings for the year which include cookouts, parties and other special events.
The pool deck on this place is truly grand. The pool and surrounding areas are about 1 acre in size. That a lot of room to hang out and catch some sunshine.
The best part is that is faces the ocean. Everything at Fountainhead faces the ocean!
There is a 24-hour valet service out front and a restaurant right inside the building that serves lunch and dinner and has happy hours.
Which communities did we miss? Tell us in the comments below. We’re always looking to update our lists when new communities come up on our radar!