When many people picture a Florida retirement they imagine coastal shores in areas like Tampa Bay and Palm Beach County, or iconic cities like Orlando and Miami. However, some discerning retirees are expanding their search, and discovering Northern Florida's secret gem: the city of Jacksonville.
Located on Florida's northeastern coast, Jacksonville lies about 90 minutes north of Daytona Beach, and about the same distance southeast of Georgia's famous Okefenokee Swamp. This sprawling city stretches across over 840 square miles, making it the largest city by area in the continental United States. Yet, with an estimated population of just over 850,000, Jacksonville is much less congested than the country's more densely populated cities.
In addition to being the largest city, Jacksonville also has the distinction of ranking first among U.S. cities when it comes to its total acreage of parks. There are more than 57,000 acres of parks, including state and federal lands, in the city of Jacksonville. Pocket parks dot the urban landscape, along with athletic fields, playgrounds, hiking trails, bridle paths and boat launches.
Water lovers will be happy to learn that Jacksonville is located on the banks of the impressive St. Johns River. This beautiful waterway is the perfect place for sailing, kayaking, fishing and other water-based recreations. Providing beautiful areas to stroll, jog or simply take in the lovely scenic views, Jacksonville's Riverwalk stretches for over two miles on both the north and south banks of the river.
For even more water fun, sunny Atlantic Coast beaches are located directly east of the city center. The beautiful beaches near Jacksonville are less developed, and less congested with tourists, than many of the beaches found along Florida's peninsula coasts. Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach offer miles of sandy coastline and tranquil ocean vistas.
In downtown Jacksonville, notable urban attractions include a variety of popular museums. The Cummer Museum boasts an impressive range of displays, including a permanent collection of over 4,000 items. Jacksonville's Museum of Contemporary Art features an innovative art collection, and the Museum of Science and History is fun for visitors of all ages.
Sports fans will enjoy taking in a game at Everbank Field. This impressive stadium complex is home to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. Everbank Field was the site of the 2005 Super Bowl, and each year the city hosts the Gator Bowl, a college football classic. The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville sets the stage for minor league baseball, and the Veterans Memorial Arena hosts a variety of athletic competitions and performances by world-class entertainers.
Retirees will also find some spectacular active adult communities in the Jacksonville area. Cascades at World Golf Village is a lovely intimate community which boasts many desirable features, including the famous Caddyshack restaurant, which is owned by Bill Murray and his brothers. Built just minutes from downtown Jacksonville, Sweetwater by Del Webb provides resort-style amenities in a prime location. And, just outside of the city, Riverwood by Del Webb is the only age-restricted neighborhood in the popular master-planned community of Nocatee.
When considering retirement in Florida, look beyond the state's peninsula to the northern city of Jacksonville. This beautifully designed area offers river and ocean access, parks and outdoor space, urban attractions and many communities which support an active adult lifestyle.