June 1, 2016 — Easy walkability to town, parks and lakes, and shopping were top considerations for retirement living when we surveyed our members 3 years ago. To help you find places that meet that criteria we have identified 10 Florida towns where it is easy and a joy to walk around in.
Some people’s vision of a Sunshine State retirement conjures up a bleak landscape of strip malls and busy highways. The reality is that Florida also has some of the most livable towns in America. Towns where you can live downtown or close to it, and walk to everything that is important to you, day or night. In fact, in most of these Florida towns the walking is so good that you could even survive without a car.
Our Top 10 Florida Walkable Towns
It is no coincidence that the towns that are best for walking tend to be ones designed before the advent of the automobile. Or that planned communities are usually more walkable than ones that developed haphazardly. To develop this list we used data from StateofFloridaliving.com, along with our own research.
This great little town just north of Tampa and St Petersburg still celebrates its Scottish heritage. It has a concentrated and interesting downtown that is easy to walk through. In a State known for its beaches, the easily accessible public beaches here are some of the best. There is a 39 mile bike/walk trail system running through town.
See a Video of Dunedin Florida
#2 Winter Park
The heart of this walkable town near Orlando is Park Avenue. It is aptly named, as Winter Park claims it has more park space than any town in Florida. The walkable main street includes retail and public civic buildings, art galleries, a private liberal arts college (Rollins), museums, a park, a train station, a golf course country club, a historic cemetery, and a beach and boat launch.
#3 Fernandina Beach
Situated at the very top of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean (just above Amelia Island), this town has a wonderful and walkable downtown. There are great restaurants and shops. Best of all if you live in one of the cute neighborhoods you can be downtown with just a few steps.
4. Delray Beach
We love Delray Beach for so many reasons. At the end of the main street is an amazing stretch of public beaches and dunes. Take a boat tour on the Intracoastal…Enjoy the interesting restaurants filled with interesting people of all ages…Live downtown in a condo above the many cool shops… or Take in a concert or a museum. Above all you can walk anywhere with ease.
5. Fort Lauderdale
The downtown scene in Fort Lauderdale is full of high energy. Luxury shops and great restaurants abound. You can easily get around on foot, or commute on a ferry (or your own boat!) along the Intracoastal. There are great beaches too.
6. Hollywood Beach.
Hollywood is just south of Fort Lauderdale. It enjoys about 60 parks, seven golf courses, and beaches that run for miles. Hollywood Beach is famous for the great boardwalk that extends about 2.5 miles along the Atlantic Ocean.
7. Key West Once the wealthiest city in Florida, Key West citizens have created fortunes over the centuries from shipwreck treasures, turtles, sponges fishing, and cigars. Most recently its economy is based on the tourist trade and folks looking for a warm and artsy place to spend the winter. You can walk or bike anywhere on this small island with nice bike lanes and drivers who look out for pedestrians. “The Conch Republic” attracts artists, musicians, and people of every type under the rainbow.
This little town just north of Stuart on Florida’s East Coast is what we would consider funky – interesting and just a little rough around the edges (see our lists of other FL Funky Towns in the Further Reading section below). There are some fun restaurants and shops. Many people live in the surrounding RV and mobile home parks, which offer an inexpensive way to live with views of the Bay and barrier islands.
This old town is the longest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S. – established in 1565 by the Spanish. It has been under 4 flags – Spanish, English, Confederate, and U.S. – some more than once! Located on Florida’s northeast coast and south of Jacksonville, it has residential neighborhoods near the compact downtown area. St. Augustine is very popular with tourists.
Crossing back over to the other side of the State, Venice is a planned city with a compact downtown surrounded by small scale neighborhoods. You can walk from the downtown to the beach in just a short time. Unlike many Florida towns, if you live in an active development out of the town center you can stil enjoy this walkable community when you visit downtown.
More about walkability and where you retire
A lot goes into being walkable community. There is more than just having a compact downtown or quiet pedestrian streets. A primary consideration is how safe it is to walk there – are the sidewalks wide and smooth, are there barriers between cars and pedestrians, are crosswalks set up well with the right equipment, do drivers respect pedestrians’ right to cross (particularly at marked crossings without stop lights)? Also, a city might be great for walking during the day, but if the downtown becomes deserted at night, it is not such a great place to be on foot. The AARP Public Policy Institute reported that about 40% of U.S. adults (age 50 and older) are concerned that… “their neighborhood is not pedestrian-friendly (Harrell et al, 2014)”.
If being able to walk around in your town, both for leisure and for the essentials of life, check out these towns and others that score high for walkability. Visit and spend some time there before you decide. Walkscore.com is a good resource for finding that out more about specific towns and even neighborhoods.
For further reading
Our Members Speak: Easy Walkability Is a Top Retirement Priority
Florida’s Most Walkable Towns and Cities
Part I: 10 Funky Florida Towns
Funky Towns in Florida, Part II
BikeWalkAlliance 2016 Benchmark Report
Bicycling.com’s Top 50 List
Comments? In your experience are these good towns for walking? Are there some we missed? How about great towns for walking in other states? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.