The Fastest-Growing Retirement Destinations in Florida

While most areas in Florida grew, The Villages is responsible for a large portion of its region\'s growth.

Growth in Lakeland and Winter Haven Areas

Closeup of flowers with a park benches and a walking trails around a scenic lake
Affordable and scenic Lakeland was one of the fastest growing areas in Florida.

In Lakeland and Winter Haven, the population is currently at around 708,000, which represents more than 3 percent growth between 2017 and 2018. It’s well-located for active adults who enjoy traveling around Florida. Just off Interstate 4, the region is less than an hour from both Tampa and Orlando. It’s also easy to get to the Atlantic and the Gulf beaches.

Lakeland has a thriving arts scene, and in nearby Lake Wales, Bok Tower and Gardens provides meditative walking paths, a carillon, and Pinewood Estate, a mansion that’s decorated in Mediterranean style. Lakeland also has a lot of golf, freshwater lakes for fishing and boating, and spring training baseball that brings the Detroit Tigers to town.

Active adults looking for a Florida retirement community have more than 20 neighborhoods to choose from in Lakeland/Winter Haven. The most popular include Traditions at Lake Ruby, a waterfront collection of new and resale homes in Winter Haven. There’s a dock and boat slips for kayaks, canoes, and smaller boats. Buyers interested in a golf course community can consider Sandpiper Golf & Country Club in Lakeland, where single-family and attached homes are available on an 18-hole golf course.

The Villages Real Estate Continues in Popularity

Docks floating in a small pond near a waling bridge and building in The Villages
One single active adult community, The Villages, is responsible for most of Central Florida’s growth.

The Villages showed up in several spots in the census data. The population of this 55+ community that’s spread out over three zip codes and 20,000 acres grew from 124,933 in 2017 to 128,754 in 2018. It also leads the country in growth from 2010 to 2018, at a rate of 37.8 percent.

Its popularity is due to its size and the number of amenities, resources, and opportunities that are available to residents. There’s no need to leave the community to find grocery stores, pharmacies, medical centers, restaurants, or shops. Villagers represent every state in the country, and the community has even welcomed retirees from outside the U.S.

The amenities are centered around town squares, clubhouses, and recreation centers. Residents are just a golf cart ride away from pools, fitness centers, restaurants, shuffleboard, pickleball, and meeting rooms. There’s also tennis, fishing, softball, basketball, and a polo field. Woodworking, performance centers, houses of worship, and of course golf are all available.

Self-driving cars are being tested in The Villages, and plans have been submitted to increase the size and scope of what is already the largest 55+ community in the world.

Active Adults Relocating to Fort Myers and Cape Coral

Palm tree-lined streets in downtown Fort Myers on a clear day
The gulf coast, especially Fort Myers is seeing growth, too. (Image via

The Fort Myers and Cape Coral area also made the top 10 list when it comes to regions that have grown the most since 2010. It placed No. 7, with a 22 percent increase in population over eight years.

It’s an ideal place to live for anyone who loves being close to the beach; it’s on the Gulf of Mexico and close to some great golf courses, good shopping, and fresh seafood. Cape Coral is a hotspot for kayakers, birders, and nature lovers, and Yacht Club Community Park has a boardwalk and a beach on the Caloosahatchee River.

Residents love the River District in Fort Myers, where Firestone Grill has great steaks, signature cocktails, and a four-story view of the water. The rooftop bar is a popular place for happy hours, special events, and nightlife. The area also has historical museums that celebrate Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and other early 20th century giants who built winter homes in the area. Art galleries and festivals are also easy to find.

Fort Myers real estate includes some highly desirable and relatively affordable 55+ communities like Pelican Preserve and its ecologically sustainable homes and town square. The community of Seven Lakes has a golf course that’s free for residents, and a collection of heated outdoor pools, tennis courts, and shuffleboard courts. For buyers interested in condo living, River Towers in Cape Coral is an intimate community with low-maintenance condo homes on the Caloosahatchee River.

Orlando and Kissimmee: The New Place to Be

Aerial view of lake in downtown Orlando
Orlando has shed its reputation as a city just for theme parks.

A decade ago, most people associated Orlando with theme parks. Today, it’s so much more than that, in part because of the population growth in and around the Central Florida city. According to the latest census data, it’s grown 10 percent since 2010, and its population grew by 60,045 just between 2017 and 2018. The region is gaining attention for providing a high quality of life and a low cost of living. It’s also a favorite among active adults who want to live somewhere that they know the grandchildren will love visiting.

The Orlando-Kissimmee area has some outstanding hiking and wildlife opportunities. Split Oak Forest is particularly popular for horseback riding and nature walks. Twin Oaks Conservation Area is another good choice for equestrian activities and also has beautiful lakes for fishing, kayaking, and camping.

Orlando homes for sale in 55+ communities are growing in availability to meet the surging population. Solivita in Kissimmee is very popular, and buyers can find new construction or resale single-family and attached properties. With a spa, fitness center, golf course, and tons of other amenities, active adults have been moving in from all over the country. Gatherings of Lake Nona is a new 55+ condo community in Orlando, and part of the Lake Nona master-planned community.

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