South Florida: Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast?

by Susan Quilty on December 27, 2010

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South Florida offers many possibilities for all active adults. Both the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast offer great options.

Florida beaches have long been among the top choices for retirement destinations. South Florida in particular draws many active adult retirees year after year. But even for those who have long dreamed of living in South Florida, one difficult decision remains: Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast?

The choice between the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast is largely a matter of personal preference. Each coast has a long list of positive qualities to recommend it. In many ways, the eastern and western coasts of South Florida are similar. But there are also important differences that may lead to your choosing one area over the other.

South Florida’s Gulf Coast

The sandy beaches of South Florida’s Gulf Coast include long, thin barrier islands and flat coastline. The Gulf waters tend to be calm, and the area is generally less congested than the southeast coast. Southwest Florida is a regular destination for many snowbirds, but it is also a permanent home to a large percentage of active adult retirees.

Retirees with various budgets can easily retire to South Florida’s Gulf Coast. Charlotte County and Lee County offer affordable housing, with real estate prices five to 10 percent lower than the state average. Collier County, on the other hand, is more expensive and homebuyers can expect to find prices up to 10 percent higher than the state average.

When it comes to recreation, Southwest Florida is often known as the “Golf Capital of the World,” because there are more golf holes per capita than anywhere else in the world. Popular Southwest Florida active adult communities are also plentiful, and they are primarily found in Naples, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs.

South Florida’s Atlantic Coast

Just north of the Florida Keys, the Atlantic Coast offers sunny beaches and urban areas, like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Southwest Florida beaches are partially sheltered by the islands of the Bahamas, which leads to having calmer waters than more northern Atlantic Coast beaches. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream also help make the Atlantic coast a bit warmer in the winter than Gulf Coast beaches, and a bit cooler in the summertime.

Nearly six million people call South Florida’s Atlantic Coast home, and a large portion of these residents are aged 55 or better. The majority of residents live in the area stretching from Miami to Palm Beach, making this a more congested area than the Southwest Coast. The area is expensive, but the many recreational and cultural attractions make it a popular area for retirees.

With its urban centers and patchwork of diverse communities, South Florida’s Atlantic Coast offers a wide variety of living options. There are high-rise condominiums, single-family homes, mobile home parks and a wide range of golf course communities. Highly sought after Southeast Florida active adult communities include those in Boynton Beach, Port St. Lucie, Lake Worth and Delray Beach.

Whether settling in South Florida’s Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast, retirees will find many active adult residents. The semi-tropical climate of either area means saying goodbye to long, cold winters, and hello to sunny beaches. Which area is better? The answer is up to you.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

marlene lasher December 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm

East coast or west coast is the question in next year or two when I relocate, so I appreciate the decision that will need to be made. Another issue is quality of health care available. I don’t know if you are willing to tackle that question, but for those of us who need quality healthcare on a more ongoing basis, it’s a real consideration. For example, I would consider Key West except I am aware that it’s not a great place for such needs.. so it’s out. Thanks for bringing it up, though I would enjoy hearing more.

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Alfredo January 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm

If you’re looking into retiring in the Florida Keys a best option would be Key Largo; it’s quieter, less touristy than Key West and is closer to the Miami area.
Both Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts have good healthcare facilities. In the Miami area, in particular, there is the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the Sylvester Cancer Center, both University of Miami facilities and in Broward County you have Cleveland Clinic and other fine healthcare institutions. In comparison to other Florida areas, the cost of living is elevated in both Coasts, in particular Palm Beach and Collier counties. And yes, there is more congestion in the Atlantic coast than in the Gulf coast. Good luck on your research.

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marlene lasher February 6, 2011 at 12:34 am

Thanks, Alfredo, for your reply and useful information about healthcare options. Very helpful. Marlene

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Amy June 3, 2014 at 11:16 am

Where on the east coast is a good place to get a winter vacation home ? In a established community.

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Goldie June 3, 2014 at 9:25 pm

“The Villages” near Orlando, FL.

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Ralph Smith July 7, 2014 at 9:44 am

What about the fishing, which is better?

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