Did you know that Florida has over 1,350 miles of coastline? All along that gorgeous coast, you’ll find amazing cities and towns, each with its own unique vibe, distinct features, and different benefits. We’re going to look at 10 of Florida’s best towns along both the west coast against the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast facing the Atlantic Ocean. Please keep in mind, these cities are in no particular order. We just wanted to share some of the best coastal towns that the Sunshine State has to offer!
Sports fans will likely recognize Tampa as the home of the NFL Buccaneers, the NHL Lightning, and the MLB Rays. While it is a great sports town, Tampa has tons more to offer —
plenty of fun activities for everyone, from the roller coaster fan-favorite Busch Gardens to wildlife sanctuaries like the Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo. Downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk boasts 2.6 miles of scenic walking/running trails with easy access to Sparkman Wharf, an eclectic mix of culinary delights from some of Tampa’s top chefs.
Nestled within Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast, the city of Tampa is continuing to grow at a steady pace. The 2020 U.S. Census showed that Tampa grew by more than 14 percent in the last decade, beating Miami’s growth of 10 percent. According to RealWealth Network, the average home price in Tampa is 9-14% below the national average, with six-year equity growth 58% faster than the national average. So, whether you’re looking to stay in, or just drop by, Tampa is a great choice along Florida’s west coast.
Looking for a more relaxed-pace town? Staying along the gulf coast of Florida, just about an hour-and-a-half drive south of Tampa, you can find beautiful Venice. With 14 miles of beaches to enjoy, including a 700-foot-long fishing pier, Venice is an idyllic beach town getaway. Downtown Venice has tons of restaurants, boutiques, bars, and more to enjoy, all just a stroll away!
Venice is a lot less crowded than other cities on our list. The population density of Venice is just 1,709 people per square mile, nearly half of Tampa’s (3,571 people per square mile). The secret of Venice is out, too. Homes in Venice are being bought up fast, with the median just six days on the market. It’s certainly worth seeing what all the fuss is about.
West Palm Beach
On the east coast, West Palm Beach truly has some of the best that Florida has to offer. Want Florida’s biggest outdoor music festival? West Palm Beach has SunFest. How about world-renowned dining, arts, culture, and shopping? That’s all found at The Square in Downtown West Palm. And beaches? West Palm Beach is just a stone’s throw away from some of Florida’s most luxurious beaches.
Soon, West Palm Beach will become a hub for Florida’s first intrastate high-speed railway system. Brightline Railways currently connects West Palm Beach with Fort Lauderdale and Miami. By the end of 2022, Brightline will also connect to Orlando with trains traveling up 125 miles per hour to get passengers to their destination in just two hours!
Florida’s panhandle has a few hidden secrets of its own. Just east of Pensacola is Destin, a quintessential gulf coast town. Glorious beaches, luxurious hotels, a beautiful boardwalk, gorgeous golf courses, and more can be found in Destin. It’s also renowned for plentiful fishing seasons, so fishermen rejoice!
Destin has been growing steadily in recent years, with over 2% population growth each year since 2017 and a current population of just under 300,000. The economy in Destin is looking strong as well. The average income per capita is $41K, while the rest of the United States is only at about $31K. Destin has white sandy beaches, great fishing, and a bustling boardwalk. What more could you ask for?
Back on Florida’s west coast, across the bay from Tampa, is St. Petersburg. The city actually rests on a peninsula, situated between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This means plenty of beaches and waterfront living! There’s plenty to do around town, too. The Salvador Dali Museum is weird and wonderful, just like the artist himself. Downtown St. Pete is anchored by St. Pete Pier, a newly renovated 26-acre outdoor complex with shopping, dining, entertainment, and more.
St. Petersburg (along with neighboring city, Tampa), was named one of the ten hottest job markets in Florida, with the average annual wage at $53,679. If staying green is important to you, then St. Petersburg is the perfect destination. The town was named the first green city in the United States in December of 2006! And St. Petersburg continues to work on its sustainability programs, including solar, tree conservation, urban agriculture, and more.
If you go any farther north here, you’ll be in Georgia! Situated on the northernmost east coast in Florida, Jacksonville is the most populous city in the state. Like many other Floridian coastal towns on our list, there are plenty of things to do, indoors and out. The St. Johns River Taxi and Tours offers gorgeous views of the city from the water. There’s the weekly Riverside Arts Market with food, farmers’ market, live entertainment, and more.
Jacksonville also has an impressive assortment of museums to visit, from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens to the Fort Caroline National Memorial.
Jacksonville is surprisingly affordable as well. The cost of living in Jacksonville is lower than both the national average and the Florida average. Finding a job in Jacksonville is easy, too. The Naval Air Station Jacksonville provides plenty of opportunities for employment, along with companies like JPMorgan Chase, Fidelity National Financial, Amazon, and more.
A little farther south of Jacksonville, but still on Florida’s East Coast, is St. Augustine. If you want history, you’ll definitely find it here! St. Augustine prides itself on being “the Nation’s Oldest City.”
There are plenty of historical sites to visit, such as Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas. Need something a bit more contemporary? Check out the St. Augustine Distillery, which was recently featured in Forbes magazine.
The 2020 US Census showed St. Augustine grew by more than 43%, with a 32% increase in housing units county-wide. With plenty of tourists coming to check out the city, job growth is on the rise. Over the next ten years, job growth in St. Augustine looks to be 50.1%, far higher than the national average of 33.5%. St. Augustine is a rising star in Florida!
Let’s travel back to Florida’s west coast. Nestled just across the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers is Cape Coral. This beautiful coastal town offers a lot of the same amenities as big-city living without the big-city hassle. It’s just a short drive east to downtown Fort Myers, filled with bars, restaurants, and boutique stores. And if you want beaches, just head west to Pine Island, the largest island on Florida’s gulf coast!
Cape Coral is a town on the rise. New banks, restaurants, retailers, and a planned 250,000-square-foot mixed-use facility called Village Square are all under construction. Amid the pandemic, Cape Coral’s housing market saw a boom, with the average home price going up 32% in just one year. All in all, Cape Coral is a promising place to be in southwest Florida.
Northeast of Lake Okeechobee, on Florida’s east coast, lies peaceful Vero Beach. Here you’ll find pleasant beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, nature tours, museums, luxury hotels, and much more. Disney even has their own resort here — Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. It features old-fashioned, elegant rooms; plenty of beachfront along Florida’s Treasure Coast; a soothing spa; and many more Disney amenities the entire family can enjoy.
The median listing home price in Vero Beach was $350,000 at the beginning of 2022, up 15.4% from last year. With idyllic white-sand beaches, plenty of shops and restaurants in the downtown area, and so much more to explore, Vero Beach is a dream destination for anybody looking for a true Florida experience.
Not too far from Kennedy Space Center is Titusville — a gorgeous town on the coast of Florida’s Indian River. With close access to The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Titusville is a space lover’s paradise. Locals have a great view of every rocket launch. To top it off, you’ll find plenty of waterside fun and dining, kayaking, hiking, and cycling trails.
It’s not too crowded in Titusville either, with a population density of just 1,614 people per square mile. The job market is promising, too, with unemployment dropping to just 3.4% in December of 2021. It’s not surprising with plenty of jobs offered by the nearby Space Center, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Publix, and more. Titusville is truly a marvel of Florida’s Space Coast!