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12 Things to Know Before Moving to Florida

By: Susan Finch
March 25, 2021

Is the Sunshine State calling your name? Before you pack up and move for more sunshine and beachfront apartment views, here's what to know before moving to Florida.

1. What it’s Like Living in Florida

Florida's position on the east coast boats year-round sunshine, beach access, and a premier destination for seafood and fun. It is perfectly positioned along the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. You're as close to Cuba and the Caribbean as you can get without flying over in some areas.

You're just 50 miles to Bimini from Miami for a short flight to even more beautiful beaches. And the Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West is a little over 90 miles to Cuba.

But there's also plenty to do beyond the beach. You can visit world-class museums and attractions every day of the week. Florida is welcoming to just about every demographic, from student to retiree and everything in between.

2. Cost of Living in Florida

The cost of living in Florida varies by city. For example, the cost of living in Miami is 14% higher and housing costs are 44% higher than the national average. Yet, the cost of living in Tampa is 5% lower and housing costs are 23% lower than the national average.

Here's an idea of how much things cost when moving to Florida, using Miami as an example, as reported by PayScale:

  • Energy bill: $165.31
  • Loaf of bread: $3.51
  • Doctor's Visit: $107.39
  • $2.93 for a gallon of gas

Miami

Miami's bustling metropolis is one of the most expensive places to live in Florida. The nightlife, job industry, and beachfront access make it a popular choice for newcomers. Like much of the country, rents in Miami dipped during 2020 due to the pandemic.

Rents are on the rise, with median rents in Miami running $1,252 for a one-bedroom and $1,635 for a two-bedroom apartment. Miami Beach is the most expensive location in the metro area, with two-bedroom median rents averaging $2,170.

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Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is located near Miami but offers a more affordable cost of living. The area is known for its beaches, canals, and a promenade running along highway A1A.

Fort Lauderdale rents are also getting pricier. The averages stand at $1,123 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,349 for a two-bedroom. The area is still among the least expensive rents in the Miami metro area. However, rates are increasing.

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Tampa

Tampa is a major business center. It’s also known for its museums, historic neighborhoods, dining, and nightlife.

Tampa rents are also increasing, with one-bedroom averages standing at $1,111 and two-bedroom apartments at $1,354. Although rents are higher in Tampa than in large cities like Memphis, it's still cheaper than Los Angeles, Miami, and other coastal locations.

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Orlando

Home to Disney World, Orlando's position as a beacon for entertainment provides job opportunities and a bustling atmosphere. Downtown Orland is also full of nightclubs, entertainment, and culinary experiences. Average median rents in Orlando are $1,126 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,339 for a two-bedroom.

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Although many of Florida’s big cities are expensive, you can still find great deals throughout the state. Look for apartment complexes away from the beach to score the best rents. Or choose high-rise apartment buildings packed with amenities for a more luxurious lifestyle.

3. The Beaches of Florida

Florida boasts 825 miles of beachfront and 1,200 miles of coastline. You're never far from a weekend of fun on the waterfront.

  • Destin: Destin is among the best beaches in Florida, with warm Gulf waters and a laid-back vibe. Dolphins, sea turtles, and other local wildlife are frequent visitors to the waterfront. For a break from the beach, locals explore the nature trails through Henderson Beach State Park's dunes.
  • Sanibel Island: Sanibel Island is famous for its sunsets, lighthouses, and shelling. Locals crowd the beaches for fishing, boating, and a chance to get back to nature.
  • Clearwater Beach: Clearwater Beach is named for its white sand and stunning waterfront. Visitors come for jet-skiing, parasailing, and a beachfront with seafood restaurants and festivals.
  • Amelia Island: Amelia Island is part of the Sea Islands chain of barrier islands featuring luxury resorts and hotels. With 13 miles of beaches, the area is also home to abundant wildlife.
  • Naples: Naples lies along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida. It attracts luxury shoppers and golf enthusiasts. The historic Naples Pier also attracts locals for dolphin-watching and fishing opportunities.
  • Key West: Live along the beachfront and coral reefs of Key West. With pristine snorkeling and diving destinations, the area attracts water lovers and culture seekers. Key West is also home to attractions like The Hemingway House and multiple cruise ship stops.
  • Panama City Beach: Panama City Beach boasts miles of sandy beaches, calm waters, and fun. Streets are lined with beach and souvenir shops. However, you can also find nature preserves at St. Andrews State Park.

4. Florida Job Market and Economy

Florida's job market is deeply rooted in tourism, international trade, agriculture, aerospace, and life sciences. The opportunities will depend on where you live.

If you're dreaming of a job in tourism and hospitality, Orlando or Miami are perfect for newcomers. Walt Disney World is one of Florida's biggest employers.

Miami has long been a hub for major businesses like American Airlines, Royal Caribbean, Office Depot, and Motorola. By 2020, it saw a boom of investors, founders, and other tech pros fleeing San Francisco and New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lower taxes, warm climate, and relatively affordable urban lifestyle make it an attractive win for an influx of companies. SoftBank also announced a $100 million fund dedicated to startups based in Miami or those who want to move there.

5. Public Transportation in Florida

Florida is not known for its plentiful public transportation options. However, you do have some options. Short trips by public bus or trolley are doable. Some areas also have free shuttles around town.

Freebee and Circuit shuttles serve destinations around Southern Florida, like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Locals and tourists can hop on for a free ride and reach the shopping, retail, and restaurant business core.

A handful of cities also offer bike-sharing programs to get around Miami Beach and Punta Gorda. Uber and Lyft service is also plentiful in just about every area of Florida.

It is doable to ditch the car in Florida if you don't mind rideshares and living in the heart of a city. But the state is really a driving mecca. Vehicles are essential to enjoying a flexible lifestyle and trips to the beach.

6. Best Attractions in Florida

Beyond the glorious beaches, the best attractions in Florida are all about fun, nature, and relaxation. You can't live in Florida without a stop at Walt Disney World.

Magic Kingdom may have the kid market cornered. However, adults flock to Epcot for their International Food & Wine Festival and "Drinking Around the World" experience.

Universal Studios is a wildly popular spot for Harry Potter fans who want to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for themselves. Grab a Butterbeer and take in the sites and sounds.

For a nature stop, the Everglades boasts two million acres spanning central and south Florida with a subtropical wetland ecosystem. The area isn't a swamp but a grassy, slow-moving river with mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and pine flatwoods. The wetlands are also home to endangered wildlife like leatherback turtles and Florida panthers.

7. The Weather in Florida

There's a reason Florida is called the "Sunshine State." The state gets an average of 237 days of sunshine each year for seriously amazing warm weather.

If that's not enough sunshine for you, some cities get even more sun-drenched days. St. Petersburg receives 361 days of sun each year. The city is a Guinness World Record holder for the most consecutive days of sunshine.

The climate in the north and central parts of Florida is humid and subtropical. Further south, you'll find a tropical climate with heat and sunshine and brief summer rainfalls. Wherever you live, extreme heat and humidity come with the territory of your move.

Temperatures reach around 95 degrees in July and dip to the high 40s in the northern part of the state. If you live in the Florida Keys, you're likely to see temperatures in the 70s during winter. That glorious climate and weather do come with their drawbacks.

Hurricane season strikes Florida from June 1 to November 30. It can cause damage to coastal towns and cities.

The hurricane impact also depends on where you live. The south and east sides of Florida tend to get more severe hurricane weather activity. Towns along the Gulf of Mexico are less likely to experience a direct hit from hurricanes. However, they’ll see its side effects and tropical storm activity.

8. Sports in Florida

Florida is home to a booming sports industry and loyal fans. Whether you want to see an NFL or NHL game, you can see it in Florida.

  • NFL: Florida is expansive, and you have your pick of NFL teams. See the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, or Tom Brady and 2021 Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • NBA: Catch a Heat game in Miami or Magic game in Orlando. Due to the pandemic causing travel dilemmas, the Toronto Raptors have made Tampa home for the 2020-2021 season.
  • MLB: Spend those summer days with a beer and hot dog while catching a Tampa Bay Rays or Miami Marlins ball game.
  • NHL: Tampa is home to the 2020 Stanley Cup Winners, the Tampa Lightning. You can also catch the Florida Panthers taking the ice in Miami.
  • MLS: Soccer is growing in popularity in Florida and the state is home to two MLS teams, Inter Miami and Orlando FC.

Florida also hosts the spring training series known as the Grapefruit League. Locals and visitors come out to see the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and more teams that practice in 13 cities around Florida.

9. The Culture in Florida

The culture in Florida is rich and diverse. It also varies significantly depending on the city you live in. Miami and southern areas of Florida have a lot of Latin American and Caribbean influence.

On the east coast, St. Augustine resembles a small, European city with a coastal influence. Wherever you live, Florida is all about a laid-back lifestyle where locals aren't afraid to play as hard as they work.

Snow Birds are also part of the unique cultural landscape in Florida. Retirees and remote workers arrive in Florida for the winter months and take over popular areas like Ft. Lauderdale.

Locals will tell you, "birds of a feather flock together," and point out that east coasters from New York and New Jersey head to the east coast of Florida. Meanwhile, midwesterners seem to land on the west coast.

Art and history are significant influences around Florida. Sarasota offers renowned galleries and live music that rivals metropolitan cities around the country. In the Nearby St. Petersburg you'll find the famous Salvador Dali Museum. The museum features up-and-coming artists and weekly poetry performances.

The state is also rich in history, with stops like Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine. The city was founded in 1565. It’s the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-American origin in the US.

10. Top Universities in Florida

Florida offers 171 colleges and universities throughout the state. Locals launch their careers at some of these top universities:

University of Florida

The University of Florida is a top-ranked public research university located in Gainesville, Florida. It dates back to 1853. UF is known for engineering, business, marketing, biomedical sciences, health professions, and more.

University of Miami

Situated in Coral Gables, the University of Miami is a private research university with over 16,000 global students. The university is known for business, marketing, communications, journalism, and engineering, among other prestigious degree programs.

Florida State University

Florida State University was founded in 1851. It’s among the oldest continuous sites of higher education in Florida. The university is big on sports. It also has a vibrant sorority and fraternity scene.

Florida Institute of Technology

Engineering & Science, Aeronautics, Psychology & Liberal Arts, and Business students attend Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. The Tier 1-ranked university earns a global reputation. However, their students are also known to throw a few parties.

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida is located in Orange County, Florida. It offers a diverse range of programs from optics and lasers and video game design to engineering. At 70,000 students, it has one of the largest student bodies in the US.

11. Food Scene and Nightlife

The food and nightlife scene in Florida is renowned for its international influence. Latin American and Caribbean flavors and music are typical, especially in areas like Miami.

Sarasota is celebrated for its fine dining and arts scene with options like Owen's Fish Camp. Key West has premiere foodie destinations, including Conch Republic Seafood Company.

Tampa is home to Rooster & The Till, which has innovative American cooking and was a semifinalist for the James Beard award's Best Chef. Schooners Seafood House in St. Augustine serves up delectable seafood. The iconic Joe's Stone Crab features stone crab dishes.

Florida is also home to plenty of fast food and diner options. You can find what you're looking for, whether it's a lobster dinner or greasy burger joint, in the Sunshine State.

12. Which City in Florida Should You Call Home?

With 282 cities and 109 towns to choose from, Florida offers something for everyone. You can escape to nature, live on the coast, or in an urban metropolis.

Orlando is ideal if you love theme parks and entertainment, or work in the hospitality industry. You're also about an hour or so from the beach for a relaxing weekend.

Miami attracts corporate professionals and nightlife lovers looking for life on the beach or the city center. There are also lots of corporate headquarters and tech jobs to choose from.

Sarasota is rich in culture, arts, and fine dining. The beach is practically at your apartment complex doorstep. Nearby St. Petersburg and Tampa are growing rapidly with remote workers, entrepreneurs, and transplants from the northeast.

Final Thoughts

Ready to move to Florida and enjoy the sunshine, great food, thrilling amusement parks, and coastal views? Register with Apartment List to find your dream Florida apartment!

You can also learn more about these Florida cities:

Miami:

Orlando:

Tampa:

Lastly, check out the best and cheapest places to live in Florida.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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