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Retiring in Jacksonville, FL: Reasons to Go North in the Sunshine State

It’s no secret that Florida is one of the country’s most popular retirement destinations. Warm weather, sandy beaches, and lots of active retirement communities are just some of the reasons that retirees flock to the Sunshine State. When most people picture a Florida retirement, they’re thinking of Orlando or Tampa Bay or the Miami area. But northern Florida shouldn’t be overlooked. Have you considered retiring in Jacksonville?

Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, as seen from the Southbank Riverwalk.

Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, as seen from the Southbank Riverwalk.

Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the United States, with more than 840 square miles. Despite its size, it’s home to just 850,000 residents, making it far less congested than many other metropolises. But is this the right Florida retirement destination for you? To help you decide, here are a few pros and cons of retiring in Jacksonville, Florida.

Pros of Retiring in Jacksonville, Florida

Outdoors: Fishing, Hiking, Beaches

Ponte Vedra Beach outside Jacksonville, Florida, looking north to Jacksonville Beach.

Ponte Vedra Beach outside Jacksonville, Florida, looking north to Jacksonville Beach.

Jacksonville is on the banks of the St. Johns River, which runs 300 miles and is the longest river in Florida. The river is a favorite spot for sailing, kayaking, fishing, and more. With riverwalks spanning more than 3 miles on the north and south banks downtown, the St. Johns riverfront also is a perfect spot for a scenic stroll. If the beach is more to your liking, head across the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean, about 15 miles east of downtown Jacksonville. While many Florida beaches are jam-packed with tourists, Jacksonville beaches are less congested and just as beautiful. Some of the best places to unfurl a beach towel include Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Ponte Vedra Beach.

Plenty of Parks

With more than 60,000 acres of parks within city limits, Jacksonville also boasts of the largest urban park system in the nation. In total, Jacksonville is home to more than 400 city parks, seven state parks, and two national parks. Friendship Park, with its famous fountain, is a must-see. Jacksonville’s parks, by the way, include miles of hiking trails for outdoor recreation even in the city.

Museums for Every Taste

Even if you’re not the outdoorsy type, you’ll find plenty to do in Jacksonville. Within the downtown core are a variety of popular museums, including the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, with more than 5,000 items in its permanent collection. There’s also Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Science and History. The latter, which goes by the name MOSH, is worth visiting by yourself or with the grandkids.

Big-League Sports

EverBank Field is home to the city’s NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The impressive stadium was also the site of the 2005 Super Bowl and hosts an annual college football showcase, the Gator Bowl. Baseball fans will enjoy the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville – home of the Jumbo Shrimp! – for minor league games. Meanwhile, Veterans Memorial Arena hosts hockey, basketball, and arena football games.

Low Cost of Living

The cost of living in Jacksonville is 2% below the national average. That is about on par with Orlando and Tampa, but it’s 11% less than the cost of living down south in Miami. The good news if you’re a retiree looking for a house in Jacksonville is that the cost of housing here is a whopping 12% below the national average, according to PayScale. The same is true for healthcare, which costs 12% below the national average in Jacksonville.

Warm Weather

surfer at sunrise on Jacksonville Beach

This could be you, greeting the sunrise on Jacksonville Beach.

No, if living in Jacksonville, you’re not going to be wearing a swimsuit on the beach in the winter, as you might if you lived down in Miami. But you won’t need to pack a parka, either! The average low in January in Jacksonville is 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The average high in January is a pleasant 64 degrees. Even summer heat is mitigated by the ocean in Jacksonville, with the warmest month, July, topping out at 90 on average.

Senior Services Galore

Jacksonville’s Senior Services Division operates 20 senior centers around the city where cultural, educational, and social activities are organized by and for residents 60 years old and over. Activities include a foster grandparent program, volunteer matching for people 55+, and special events like the “senior prom.”

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Cons of Retiring in Jacksonville, Florida

Sprawl and Traffic

Jacksonville is spread out, with lots of bridges over lots of water. So if driving here, expect traffic jams. Rush hour can be particularly frustrating, especially in the perimeter loop of Interstate 295.  If you’re retired and have the option, it’s best to avoid driving at peak times. Jacksonville also can be difficult to navigate and maneuver around, particularly downtown. Until you become familiar with the area, consider public transit or ride-hailing services. You especially might want to check out the new First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit service.

Threat of Hurricanes

Like much of the coastal South, Florida is a hotbed for hurricanes. Although hurricanes don’t typically cause massive destruction in northern Florida, where Jacksonville is, it is still important to be aware of the risk and make preparations every hurricane season. Tracking hurricanes is just a Florida way of life. If you’re new to the state, check out or the Florida Division of Emergency Management to learn how to prepare.

Are You Ready to Retire in Jacksonville? has you covered with information about retirement communities in the Jacksonville area, including apartments and homes. Also in north Florida, you might consider Saint Augustine, the Gainesville area or the Florida Panhandle.

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    1. Hello, i am looking for n 2 bedroom apt. In Jacksonville but i know nothing about ut, n i’m on disability, n 60 yrs of age i need guidance to a nice low income family neighborhood , could u please guide me in finding a good area?? Please let me know…

    2. June Kula says:

      My mother is moving from Erie, PA.
      Looking for 2-3 bedroom apt. In southern Hillsborough county. Not until the fall, but would like to have a list of apartment complexes near Sun City Center, Riverview, Ruskin, Apollo beach areas, so we can check them out now.

    3. Robert Laino says:

      looking for 55 and older community, retired 70 yr old veteran with spouse. Two B.R. ,two Bath
      Thank You, Robert Laino

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