9 Best Small Towns in Florida to Retire in 2022 – Safe & Charming Communities

If you are searching for the best small towns in Florida to retire in, take a look at our updated list for 2022. Our picks are safe and offer plenty of things to do.

They also are ideal for people looking to slow down their pace of life and actually enjoy the beauty of nature and the splendid weather that the Sunshine State has to offer.

We made sure that our choices for the best small towns in Florida to retire in will allow you to live a safe and active lifestyle, but without the pressures of a larger city.

In fact, every town in this article has a crime rate that is lower than the Florida state average.

We also made sure that all of the towns on our list were on or near the water since the beach is probably one of the major reasons that attract you to Florida.

Best Small Towns in Florida to Retire – Background

To determine what are the best small towns in Florida to retire in, we first had to define how “small” exactly is a small town in Florida.

We chose our cutoff at a population of 15,000 or less to ensure that the communities that made our list were small enough to feel cozy and to be able get to know everyone around town, but large enough to offer amenities and entertainment options.

We then prioritized our search by using several key metrics to rate and rank each town. They include:

  • Overall desirability
  • Cost of living
  • Things to do for seniors
  • Availability of housing options
  • Safety levels
  • Proximity to other attractions (large cities and beaches)

We built a full database with all of these inputs and scored each town in Florida based on these categories.

Now, let’s take a look at what we chose as the best small towns in Florida to retire in, updated for 2022.

The 9 Best Small Towns in Florida to Retire in 2022

9. Sanibel

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Population: 6,382
Cost of Living Index: 67% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 75% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Sanibel starts off our list of the best small towns in Florida to retire in. This peaceful beachtown is located on Sanibel Island, which is located across the bay from Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

This is not an island full of high-rise condominiums and a fast-paced lifestyle.

Instead, it is a laid-back piece of paradise that doesn’t even have a traffic light.

The majority of the island is covered by the stunning 5,000+ acre JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Additionally, the whole island offers over 20 miles of biking and walking trails, which makes it a great choice for those who want to stay active while also being on the beach.

8. Apalachicola

Population: 2,341
Cost of Living Index: 6% Below Florida Average
Crime Rates: 46% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Apalachicola is one of the few towns on this list that has a cost of living that is actually below the Florida state average.

But, it still offers many things to do and is an excellent value for those looking to retire on the water.

Additionally, it is quite safe, with crime rates that are roughly 50% below the state average.

One of the best parts about Apalachicola is probably the affordability of its homes. The average price of a house here is still under $250,000, which is a bargain given the recent surge in values across the state.

7. Anna Maria Island

best-small-towns-in-florida-to-retire-Santa-Maria

Population: 968
Cost of Living Index: 45% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 86% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Anna Maria Island has one of the smallest populations on this list and is one of the best small towns in Florida to retire in for those looking for an intimate, tight-knit beach community.

You can enjoy this barrier island’s pristine white sand beaches, have a bite at one of its delectable locally-owned restaurants, or visit one of its art galleries or antique stores around town.

It is also a popular spot for fishing and relaxing on the pier.

Anna Maria Island is also the safest town on this list statistically, with crime rates that are an astonishing 86% below the state average.

6. Islamorada

Population: 7,107
Cost of Living Index: 50% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 70% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

As the lone representative of the Florida Keys, we think that Islamorada is the best small town in Florida to retire in the Keys.

It is actually a village that is made up of 6 of the Florida Keys’ islands and is well-known for its relaxed atmosphere and breaktaking coral reefs. 

Islamorada is also better suited for retirees compared to its neighbors like Key Largo, which is a bit too high-energy, and Key West, which is always packed with tourists.

In Islamorada, residents can enjoy spending time on the beach or fishing in one of the region’s best fishing locations.

5. Captiva

best-small-towns-in-florida-to-retire-Captiva

Population: 175
Cost of Living Index: 103% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 60% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Just north of Sanibel Island in the Gulf Coast is the tiny beach community of Captiva. It is the smallest town on this list and offers a quiet and peaceful way of life with picturesque beaches and many things to do, including boating and bird watching.

Biking is also one of the major modes of transportation here, so you don’t even need to worry about driving much around this small town.

Captiva is known to be a tranquil spot where time just drifts away and it is the perfect place to call your new retirement home.

4. Palm Beach

Population: 9,245
Cost of Living Index: 96% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 32% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Palm Beach is an upscale beach town in Southern Florida that is about 1 hour north of Miami.

It is situated on a barrier island with Lake Worth Lagoon separating it from the larger city of West Palm Beach.

It features a small downtown that is mainly clustered around Worth Ave, where you can find posh boutiques, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants.

Of course, the beachfront is also easily accessible from virtually every point of town.

But, be ready to pay for these wonderful amenities. The average home prices in Palm Beach are a staggering $1.7 million, so this community is best suited for wealthier retirees.

3. Seaside

Population: 10,816
Cost of Living Index: 19% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 19% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

We think that Seaside offers a great mix of livability and excitement for all ages to enjoy, especially retirees.

This beach community is located in Florida’s Panhandle region and it sits right on the Gulf Shores.

The origins of Seaside are quite unique as it was founded in 1985 as one of the nation’s first master-planned communities. It features mixed-use residential and commercial districts that are designed around its walkable streets.

You may also recognize it as the town in The Truman Show with Jim Carrey.

Seaside does well in building a sense of community around town. For instance, there are numerous events and concerts held year-round at its large amphitheater downtown.

You can also access some of the best beaches in the region from Seaside. Residents can walk to the waterfront from the center of town or visit other highly-rated beaches like Rosemary Beach and Grayton Beach that are only a 20-30 minute drive from Seaside.

2. Oldsmar

best-small-towns-in-florida-to-retire-Oldsmar

Population: 14,898
Cost of Living Index: 1% Lower Florida Average
Crime Rates: 36% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Oldsmar is a small town that is located just outside of Tampa and is one of the best small towns in Florida to retire in for those who also want to be close to a big city.

Tampa, which we named as the 2nd best city in Florida in 2022, is just a 20-30 minute drive from Oldsmar. But, the town itself offers residents everything they could want.

There are numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops around town while there are also plenty of public parks with walking and biking trails to enjoy.

Oldsmar is also located right on the shores of Old Tampa Bay, so it is a great place to retire for those who love the water.

The best part about Oldsmar is its affordability, especially compared to some other towns on this list.

The cost of living in Oldsmar is actually a bit below the Florida state average while homes are selling for about $300,000 to $350,000 here.

1. Destin

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Population: 13,931
Cost of Living Index: 15% Above Florida Average
Crime Rates: 58% Below Florida Average

Location: Check on Google Maps

Our choice for the best small town in Florida to retire in is Destin. This charming beach town is located directly on the warm waters of the Gulf Coast in Florida’s Panhandle region.

It is the ideal place for retirees who want access to the beach and lots of options for entertainment.

Destin’s main claim to fame is its pristine beachfront. It is usually rated as the best beach in all of Florida and features soft, sugary Appalachian quartz sand that even stays cool in the heat.

Meanwhile, you can find tons of things to do in the town itself. For example, there is the famous Destin Harbor Boardwalk that is right on the water. There, you can enjoy a countless number of fun restaurants, lively bars, and small boutiques.

You can also go shopping at Destin Commons, an open-air mall that is right in the heart of town.

It is also a safe community, with crime rates that are over 50% lower than the state and national averages.

Best Small Towns in Florida to Retire – Summary

Overall, the best small towns in Florida to retire in 2022 are:

  1. Destin
  2. Oldsmar
  3. Seaside
  4. Palm Beach
  5. Captiva
  6. Islamorada
  7. Anna Maria Island
  8. Apalachicola
  9. Sanibel

All of these wonderful communities are a great place to retire in since they offer a more relaxed lifestyle compared to the big cities around Florida and give you direct access to the water.

There isn’t a wrong choice among them all. But, we think that you should visit some of these towns for yourself before deciding to move to one of them permanently.