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Moving to Florida? 5 Underrated Destinations Where You’ll Get the Best Bang for Your Buck

Dreaming about perpetual sunshine, blue skies and balmy temperatures? Well, there’s an obvious way to make such dreams come true – move to the Sunshine State and enjoy! The country’s third most populous state is a big place, though, and it’s important to pick a city that suits your preferences and your lifestyle.

Florida’s big metros, like Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, all come with their own pros and cons. On the one hand, large metros provide dynamic job markets, plenty of entertainment opportunities, and the thrill of an active, vibrant lifestyle. On the downside, housing and living costs can be pretty high. Also, big cities might be a little too crowded and intense for certain types of people, such as retirees moving to Florida for their golden years.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of middle ground in the Sunshine State. Its mid-sized cities are suitable for all categories of newcomers, from young families searching for jobs, affordable housing and good education, to retirees interested in a relaxed lifestyle while still benefiting from the perks of urban living. Here are some Floridian destinations you should definitely check out if you’re planning to move to the area.

1. Gainesville

Located in North Central Florida, Gainesville has a population of about 134,000 people. The city, home to the University of Florida, combines the vitality of a college town with a relaxed, close-to-nature lifestyle. The average monthly price for an apartment in the city is around $1,302, according to RENTCafe, while renting a self-storage unit in Gainesville starts as low as $20.

The city benefits from easy access to 30 miles of hiking and biking trails through seven areas of the Florida State Parks, where you can spot local wildlife such as birds, wild horses and, of course, alligators. The area surrounding Gainesville is scattered with charming little towns where you can go antiquing and savor the farm-to-table food culture. All in all, Gainesville hits just the right spot with newcomers, combining the advantages of an active, vibrant college town, suitable for young people and families, with the dolce far niente atmosphere that retirees are looking for.

2. Ocala

Located in Marion County, in what’s known as the “horse county” of North Central Florida, Ocala has a population of almost 60,000 people. A charming, middle-sized city with a great history, Ocala is one of only five cities worldwide permitted to use the title “Horse Capital of the World” under Chamber of Commerce rules.

Living in Ocala is relatively inexpensive – an apartment costs, on average, about $1,067 per month. Renting a self-storage unit in Ocala is also a walk in the park, as there are almost 40 self-storage facilities in the city, which makes moving to the area a lot easier.

National landmark Silver Springs, a nature theme park sprawling over 350 acres, is located near to Ocala. However, Ocala is not only about nature and raising horses. The city’s historic district features charming Victorian houses surrounded by oak trees adorned by Spanish moss, giving it some of that unmistakable Old Southern charm.

3. Tallahassee

Tallahassee is the state’s capital and home to Florida State University, but, with a population of around 200,000 people, it is only the 7th-largest city in the Sunshine State. The place is well-known for its many law and lobbying firms and for trade and professional organizations, which translates into many high-paying jobs.

The living costs are affordable: The average rent for an apartment in Tallahassee is $1,240 per month, while renting a self-storage unit in Tallahassee starts as low as $20. The city’s historic district consists of 10 blocks of imposing old houses and delightful inns, pubs and restaurants, drawing visitors from around the state and the country and providing many entertainment opportunities.

Whether you’re looking for a good place to raise your family, with job opportunities and a good education system, or you want a peaceful and charming city to retire in, Tallahassee certainly deserves looking into.

4. Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach is the preferred destination of motorsports aficionados – the tradition started many decades ago, when the hard-packed sand on the city’s beaches proved to be the ideal place for motorized vehicle races. Nowadays, the races take place on the Daytona International Speedway track, but Daytona Beach remains the headquarters for auto-racing company NASCAR.

However, Daytona Beach offers much more than spectacular motorsports. This city of 60,000 people has access to 23 miles of white-sand beaches, lined with parks and restaurants, and all while the cost of living remains affordable. The average apartment in Daytona Beach rents for around $1,102. If you need storage in the area, that’s pretty accessible too, as renting a self-storage unit in Daytona Beach starts at $15-$20 for a small 2X2 locker and will cost you around $100 for a standard 10X10 unit.

The population of Daytona Beach grew by more than 10% by migration alone during the last six years, according to US Census Bureau data, and most of the newcomers are retirees—this could be why the median age in the city is over 47. So, if you’re an adventurer retiree who wants to combine a peaceful and inexpensive life with the thrill of a motorsport-obsessed culture, Daytona Beach is the place for you.

5. Sarasota

Sarasota is another city with less than 60,000 residents, but one that punches well above its weight when it comes to culture, education, and entertainment opportunities. The city hosts the famous Sarasota School of Architecture and the Ringling campus, which contains several museums, including the Ringling Circus Museum, 21 galleries worth of artworks, a Center for Asian Art, and several exquisite gardens and buildings. Sarasota is also just a stone’s throw away from the islands in Sarasota Bay, such as Lido Key and Siesta Key, famous worldwide for their amazing beaches.

The median monthly rent for an apartment in Sarasota is about $1,427. If you’re planning to move to the city, you might also like to know that renting a self-storage unit in Sarasota hovers around $40-$50 for a 5X5 climate-controlled one. The average living costs are indeed a little bit higher in Sarasota compared to the other cities mentioned above, but you get a lot in return, from exquisite nature to a rich and vibrant cultural life.

Florida has long been the primary destination for seniors migrating south to enjoy their retirement, but this large and populous state offers opportunities for newcomers of all ages. You just need to find the right place for you – hopefully, this article will help you make up your mind.


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About the author

Maria Gatea

Maria Gatea is a creative writer for RentCafe with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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