Where is the best place to live in Florida? That question has been on the minds of many as Florida's population continues to boom. In this article, you'll discover the many reasons — including climate, culture and job opportunities — more and more people are choosing Northeast Florida as the ultimate place to call home.
Looking for the best place to live in Florida?
In this article, we discuss 10 benefits of moving to Northeast Florida, including:
- Convenient Location
- Job Opportunities
- No State Income Tax
- Top-rated Schools and Universities
- Great Weather
- World-Class Medical Care
- Affordable Land
- Quaint Small Towns
- Attractions in North Florida
- Diverse Nature To Enjoy Year-Round
Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, has experienced one of the nation’s recent largest population booms for numerous good reasons.
It’s beautiful, it’s affordable, it’s a great place to work and play, it’s diverse and it offers a wide range of land and housing options to suit any lifestyle.
However, if you’re considering moving to Florida, it can be difficult to know where to begin your search for the perfect home.
While all parts of the state have their perks, we think Northeast Florida may have them all beat by a landslide!
The following are 10 benefits of moving to Northeast Florida.
An Overview of Why Northeast Florida is the Best Place to Live in Florida
Northeast Florida, also known as the First Coast, offers a unique blend of rural and urban living unmatched in other regions of the state.
With its convenient location, strong economy and abundance of amenities, it's no wonder that Northeast Florida is one of the most popular places to live in Florida.
a bird's eye VIEW of northeast florida cities and sections of town
Northeast Florida is home to some of the state’s most well-known, most-visited and most historic cities, small towns and beaches.
Some of the major cities and places of interest in Northeast Florida include:
- Jacksonville: The largest city in the Sunshine State and boasts 22 miles of unspoiled beaches, endless cultural amenities, world-class museums and Jacksonville International Airport.
- Baker County: This picturesque slice of rural America is just 20-30 minutes from Jacksonville and set among magnificent forests like the Osceola National Forest, wide-open spaces for farming and recreation, abundant fresh waterways, easy access to the Atlantic Ocean, excellent schools and a safe, active and friendly community.
- Bradford County: This peaceful and affordable rural community is surrounded by majestic forests, lakes, wetlands and farmland and is conveniently located between Gainesville and Jacksonville.
- Clay County: Located southwest of Jacksonville along the St. John’s River, this quiet community of small towns and neighborhoods like Keystone Heights, Orange Park and Fleming Island is a favorite among families, outdoor enthusiasts and extreme sports lovers.
- Flagler County: Home of The Palm Coast and Flagler Beach is home to 19 miles of pristine coastline and is a popular spot for equestrians, art lovers, paddlers, golfers and foodies.
- Nassau County: This county offers a rare blend of gorgeous rural land, quaint small towns, excellent schools, Southern charm and outdoor activities, all within close proximity to Jacksonville, Amelia Island and local beaches.
- St. Johns County: Home of America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, with miles of gorgeous beaches, Fort Matanzas National Monument and amazing arts and culture. St. John’s County is a diverse paradise for urbanites and beach/nature lovers.
- Amelia Island (Nassau County): This barrier island, located next to the northernmost stretch of Florida, is known for its pristine thirteen miles of sandy shores, charming food and cultural scene, stunning marshes and endless recreational activities.
- Fernandina Beach (Nassau County): Fernandina Beach is located on the northern tip of Amelia Island and is steeped in history and character. The downtown is home to a 52-block historic district lined with Victorian-era mansions with ample arts, culture and great food. The surrounding area offers plenty of opportunities for beach and outdoor activities.
- Ponte Vedra Beach (St. Johns County): Named “one of America’s best beaches” by CNN, the white sand beaches of Ponte Vedra Beach make it a favorite among those seeking luxury and natural beauty within close proximity to the history and amenities of St. Augustine. The area is also home to several high-end resorts and golf courses.
- Atlantic Beach (Duval County): Located north of Jacksonville, this residential community has beautiful beaches, a walkable Caribbean-style downtown and a tight-knit community feel. It also has easy access to the historic village of Mayport and Ft. George Island via the St. Johns River Ferry.
- Neptune Beach (Duval County): Located just east of Jacksonville, Neptune Beach is a quiet and charming coastal community nestled between Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach. Its laid-back vibe, beautiful dunes and walkable town center make it an ideal place for families, nature lovers and retirees.
- Jacksonville Beach (Duval County): Conveniently located in the city of Jacksonville, this popular beach destination features beautiful sandy beaches, warm water and a fun vacation vibe.
- St. Augustine: America’s oldest city is a sought-after tourist destination and hotspot for history, culture, the arts, a fabulous food scene, and endless amenities.
Whether you're looking for a bustling city or a quiet rural community, Northeast Florida has something for everyone looking for the perfect place to call home.
10 Benefits of Living in Northeast Florida
Northeast Florida’s glorious coastlines, Southern charm, rich history, culture and booming economy all contribute to its reputation as one of the best places to live in Florida.
However, the Northeastern section of the state offers other unique benefits to its locals.
Here are the top 10 benefits of living in Northeast Florida.
1. Northeast Florida's Convenient Location Offers Easy Access to Major Highways
One of the biggest advantages of living in Northeast Florida is its convenient location.
The region is home to three major interstates: I-95, I-10 and I-295, which means easy access to neighboring cities, towns and the rest of the state.
Here's a Quick Breakdown of the Highway Systems of I-95, I-10 and I-295
- I-95 is a major north-south interstate that runs along the East Coast of the United States. It passes through Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Daytona Beach in Northeast Florida. I-95 connects Northeast Florida to major cities like Miami, Orlando and Atlanta.
- I-10 is a major east-west interstate that runs across the southern United States. It passes through Tallahassee and Pensacola in Northwest Florida. I-10 connects Northeast Florida to major cities like New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio.
- I-295 is a beltway that circles Jacksonville. It provides easy access to all parts of the city and connects Jacksonville to its suburbs, as well as to I-95 and I-10.
These three interstates make it easy to get around Northeast Florida and to other parts of the state.
For example, you can drive from Jacksonville to Orlando in about two hours and to Miami in about five hours.
I-95, I-10 and I-295 also make rural living more accessible and convenient
Northeast Florida’s highway system makes it possible to live in a more rural area while still having easy access to all the amenities of a big city.
For example, if you live in or near the town of Hillard in Nassau County, you can be in downtown Jacksonville in about 20-30 minutes. This gives you the best of both worlds: the peace and quiet of a small town, with the convenience of a big city nearby.
It also makes Jacksonville a hub for transportation and logistics.
With four railroads, including two Class I lines, an international airport, two deep-water ports and three major interstates, companies can easily ship and receive products anywhere in the world from Northeast Florida.
This is partly because Global Trade Magazine ranked Jacksonville as one of the best cities for logistics infrastructure.
2. Job Opportunities: Northeast Florida's Booming Job Market and Business Opportunities
If you’re looking for lucrative jobs or business opportunities, Florida is one of the best states to consider.
Florida has been named:
- One of the best states to start a business1
- The best states for business success2
- The #1 state in the nation to start a small business3
Florida’s unemployment rate of 2.7% (of this writing in November 2023) is also well below the national average of 3.8%4, making it an ideal state for entrepreneurs, business owners and employees.
Northeast Florida is in line with the state’s excellence in employment and business opportunities, as is showcased by its booming economy.
The region’s proximity to the University of Florida in Gainesville and Santa Fe College provides a strong pool of skilled and talented individuals to support the area's growing businesses.
Job opportunities are abundant in healthcare, tech, e-commerce, real estate, banking and finance, hospitality/tourism, education and more.
Some examples of businesses based in Northeast Florida include5:
- Baptist Health
- Bank of America
- Mayo Clinic
- CSX Corp
- Newfold Digital
- Johnson & Johnson Vision
Bottom line: If you’re looking for diverse opportunities as an employee, executive, entrepreneur, or business owner, Northeast Florida is one of the best places to consider.
3. No State Income Tax: Keep More of Your Hard-Earned Money in Northeast Florida
You read right. Florida is one of those unicorn states that manages to maintain its healthy economy without over-taxing its residents.
That means zero state income tax for Florida residents, which could save you thousands of dollars a year (and even make up for the cost of moving).
4. Top-rated Schools and Universities + Free College Tuition*: Give Your Children the Best Education in Northeast Florida
Northeast Florida is home to some of the state’s best public and private elementary, middle and high schools as well as universities.
examples of top-rated schools districts in the region include:
Nassau County School District
The Nassau County School District ranked fourth statewide in overall performance by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and earned the highest percentage of “A” school grades statewide6.
St. Johns County School District
St. Johns County School District covers 608 square miles in St. John’s County, including St. Augustine, is ranked second statewide and is one of only two districts in Florida with a grade of “A” each year since 2010.
Clay County School District
Clay County School District borders Jacksonville and encompasses 601 square miles of suburban/rural county in Northeast Florida, including the communities of Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, Penney Farms, Clay Hill, Oakleaf and Keystone Heights. It has received an “A” ranking in overall achievement7 is ranked #6 best school districts in Florida8.
Universities in the Northeast Florida Region Include:
- University of North Florida (UNF)
- Jacksonville University (JU)
- Flagler College
- Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ)
- St Johns River State College
Plus, Close Proximity to the University of Florida and Florida State University
Northeast Florida is also within easy driving distance to two of the top public universities in the country, the University of Florida and Florida State University,
This gives students in Northeast Florida the opportunity to attend these prestigious universities (with in-state tuition) without being far from home.
Florida residents can take advantage of bright futures scholarships
Florida has much to offer the college-bound, including affordable access to a college education.
Bright Futures is a Florida-funded scholarship program that awards scholarships to Florida residents who meet certain academic and financial requirements.
The program can help students pay for tuition, fees and other educational expenses.
Learn more at floridabrightfutures.org.
5. Great Weather = Comfortable and Active Living Year-Round
Many people move to Florida to escape the winters of the more Northern states, yet in many parts of the state, that means giving up the other seasons.
Not so in Northeast Florida, where you get the best of most seasons:
- Mild winters (with enough chill for some coziness),
- Lingering and comfortable springs
- Hot and humid summers (easy beach access makes it pleasant and bearable)
- Festive fall weather that’s not too cold and (usually) not too hot.
But don’t take our word for it, check out the region’s average temperatures using Baker County, Florida as an example:
Average Temperature (in degrees F):
Source: National Weather Service
6. World-Class Medical Care in Northeast Florida Supports a Healthy Lifestyle
If access to top-notch healthcare options is a top priority for you and your family, Northeast Florida is hard to beat.
The region is known for its fantastic healthcare centers, which people travel from around the country to access.
Some of these include:
- The Mayo Clinic
- University of Florida Health
- Baptist Health, which includes:
- MD Anderson Cancer Clinic
- Wolfson Children's Hospital
- And Nemours
The region is also known for its integrative medicine community, including various functional medicine clinics and physicians, acupuncturists and naturopaths as well as various health and fitness centers.
No matter what your health goals, challenges, or season of life may be, Northeast Florida’s healthcare options provide peace of mind and support.
7. Affordable Land: Finding Your Dream Property Is Still Possible Here
If you’ve been dreaming of owning acreage to start a hobby farm, homestead, family compound, recreational paradise, or just to spread out, Northeast Florida offers a diverse range of affordable land options.
Popular rural counties with affordable acreage in convenient locations include:
All these areas provide ample privacy, peace and natural beauty with convenient access to charming small towns, excellent schools and homeschool communities, incredible nature and big city amenities.
Click the links above to learn more about land for sale in Northeast Florida.
8. Quaint Small Towns Offer Charm, History and Modern Amenities
Certain parts of Florida may be called “the north of the south,” but southern charm still reigns supreme in Northeast Florida’s many historic small towns.
These small towns and cities, like Amelia Island, Macclenny, Neptune Beach, Yulee, Fernandina Beach and others, provide all the amenities and services you need, like restaurants, grocery stores, fitness, healthcare, pharmacies, farmer’s markets, public boat ramps, parks, greenways and even specialty and artisan stores (depending on the town).
Need something extra, like a special night out or an international flight?
As mentioned previously, the small towns and rural places in Northeast Florida are within close driving distance to Jacksonville, historic St. Augustine, the college town of Gainesville and Orlando.
9. Attractions in North Florida: Something for Everyone in Northeast Florida
With its endless sandy beaches, active arts and culture scene, southern sports culture and epic national parks, Northeast Florida attracts a variety of people with varying interests and hobbies.
Here’s a look at what this beautiful part of the state has to offer:
miles of Sugar sand beaches
- Jacksonville Beach
- Neptune Beach
- Atlantic Beach
- Ponte Vedra Beach
- St. Augustine Beach
- Fernandina Beach
- Ormond Beach
- And easy access to dozens more along the Atlantic coast
concert venues & performing arts
- VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
- Florida Theater
- Daily's Place
- St. Augustine Amphitheater
- Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
- Plus other small local theater companies and concert venues
parks, recreation and historical sites
- Amelia Island State Park
- Anastasia State Park
- Fort Clinch State Park
- Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
- St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
- America’s Oldest City (St. Augustine)
- The Jacksonville Arboretum and Garden
- Adventure Landing water park
- South Beach Park and Sunshine Playground
- Cradle Creek Preserve
- Little Talbot Island State Park
- The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
- The Museum of Science & History (MOSH)
- Hanna Park
- Peters Point Beachfront Park
- Big Talbot Island State Park – Black Rock Beach
- Vilano Beach Oceanfront Park
- Osceola National Forest
- Talbot Islands
- Guana River
- Close proximity to the intercoastal waterway and dozens of public parks with boat ramp access
- Plus, you’re just a 2-2 ½ hour drive to Orlando’s epic theme parks and attractions
- And much more!
Get more information on parks and recreation opportunities in Northeast Florida at stateparks.com.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)
- Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (MiLB)
- Jacksonville Icemen (ECHL)
- Florida Gators (NCAA—a short drive away in Gainesville, FL)
- The annual Florida Georgia Football Game in Jacksonville
- The TaxSlayer Bowl (SEC)
- The PLAYERS Championship Golf Tournament
- Furyk and Friends PGA Champions Tour Event
- Plus plenty of opportunities for fishing, water sports, paddling and endless outdoor recreation
- St. Johns Town Center
- River City Marketplace
- The Avenue Mall
- St. Augustine Outlets
- Tanger Outlets in Daytona
- Plus endless local boutiques and shops for every taste and budget
10. Diverse Nature To Enjoy Year-Round: Experience the Beauty of Notheast Florida's Natural Landscapes
If you crave a life close to nature for outdoor sports, hiking, swimming, paddling, long walks on the beach, or reducing stress, you can’t beat Northeast Florida.
Although most people associate Florida with beautiful beaches (which is true!), Northeast Florida is also home to diverse forests, rivers, lakes, marshes and wetlands.
This, combined with mild temperatures and the ocean breezes in the summer, makes it an ideal place to live for all types of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, swimming, ocean and beach sports, hunting, boating, fishing, 4-wheeling, extreme sports, bird watching and (yes) long walks on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Here’s a taste of some of what Northeast Florida has to offer nature lovers:
- Beaches: Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and others listed in previous sections
- Forests: Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Osceola National Forest.
- Rivers: St. Johns River and the Suwannee River
- Wetlands: Talbot Islands State Park and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
All this, and more, is within a short drive of Northeast Florida’s cities, towns and rural places.
Thinking of Moving to Northeast Florida?
Northeast Florida offers the best of nearly all worlds, convenience, affordability, amenities, closeness to nature, room to stretch out, friendly people, and so much more.
If, after reading this article, you’re thinking Northeast Florida may just be the best place to live in Florida, we can help.
Our sister company, Raydient Rural, specializes in developing high-end rural communities throughout Northeast Florida.
These land tracts run from small to large acreage and are perfect for building your country's dream home, hobby farm, family compound, homestead, recreational paradise, or whatever your ideal Florida home may be.
Click the link below to start your search for the perfect Northeast Florida home.