Small pool overlooking pond and greenspace in Scottish Highlands in Leesburg, FL

Scottish Highlands allows plenty of amenities at a fraction of the cost.

Central Florida may not offer coastal retirement living, but there’s no shortage of water. Active adults fond of boating, fishing, kayaking, and swimming will enjoy a large collection of natural lakes and rivers, and even in the middle of the state, both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are only an hour away.

Buyers looking for a Florida retirement that’s fun and budget-friendly have a lot of options in the central region. And, they don’t have to skimp on amenities or recreational and cultural opportunities like golf and museum-hopping.

These are the most affordable retirement communities in Central Florida.

Scottish Highlands - Leesburg

Below $100k - Mid $100s

Tartan kilts are not required at Scottish Highlands, but you might think you’re in Scotland once you notice the acres of open green spaces and quaint antique shops in the Leesburg area. This 55+ community is located in the only part of Florida that has hillsides.

It’s also an affordable place to live, where single-family homes can be found for a lot less than in other parts of the state. Scottish Highlands has 653 homes and they all range from 1,050 to 2,000 square feet. With two or three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an attached garage, there’s plenty of space but also homeowners' association fees which keeps maintenance requirements manageable. Lawn care and trash removal is provided.

The amenities are rich, and the lifestyle is active. There’s a clubhouse with a fitness center and an indoor pool. Residents also enjoy a game room, a catering kitchen, and a library. There’s an outdoor pool with a patio, shuffleboard and tennis courts, and a space for table tennis and billiards.

Community events are frequent and include pancake breakfasts and game nights. Fitness-minded residents get together for aerobics classes. Every year, Leesburg hosts Bikefest, which brings bikers from across the state and all over the country. A Harley is not required; there are also concerts, vendors, and food to keep people social and engaged.

On Top of the World - Ocala

Below $100k - Low $400s

As one of the largest active adult communities in the state, On Top of the World has attracted retirees from across the country. The 55+ community is located in the heart of horse country making it the perfect spot for active adults seeking retirement among the rolling hills and ancient oaks of Ocala.

With over 80 different models—available in new construction or resale homes—active adults are sure to find a home they love whether they are looking for maintenance-free, single-family homes, or attached villas.

On Top of the World is broken into two distinct communities: Meridian Preserve and Candler Hills. Meridian Preserve is the larger community, and monthly association fees cover home and lawn maintenance for its residents. Candler Hills features an upscale, gated community of elegant and stylish estate homes with views of the golf course.

Amenities in On Top of the World include three golf courses, several fitness centers, swimming pools, tennis and pickleball courts, and restaurants housed within The Ranch Fitness Center and Spa, The Recreation Center, Hobby Building, Arbor Club, and Conference Center—which are open to all residents. Entertainment and social activities are available in the Circle Square Commons, home to a 830-seat theater.

There are over 175 organized clubs and interest groups in the community. Residents can pass the time painting, doing yoga, playing bocce, or even grabbing happy hour drinks with fellow community members.

Palm Cay - Ocala

Below $100k - Low $100s

Ocala is horse country, but you don’t have to be a well-heeled equestrian to live in the quiet and scenic part of Florida. Palm Cay is a 55+ community with affordable single-family homes on large lots with plenty of space.

Resale homes in more than 14 models have between one and three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and attached garage or carport parking for one or two cars. The homes have screened patio space, open floor plans, and many modern upgrades.

With these Ocala homes for sale come a large selection of amenities and clubs. The Oasis clubhouse is a popular hangout for residents, where they attend art classes and play bingo. There’s also line dancing, horseshoes, and scrabble. People can always be found working out in the fitness center or reading a good book in the library.

Palm Cay has an outdoor pool and spa, shuffleboard and tennis courts, and plenty of R.V. parking. There are also trails for walking and biking. Residents who prefer a wilderness walk will enjoy this community’s proximity to Ocala National Forest and its miles of nature trails. There are also three natural springs and over 600 lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming.

Cypress Lakes - Lakeland

Below $100k - Mid $100s

Lakeside living on a golf course doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. At Cypress Lakes in Lakeland, it’s actually pretty affordable and a whole lot of fun.

This gated, 55+ community has fishing lakes, two championship golf courses with a driving range and a putting green, and the Big Cypress Club, a 30,000 square-foot clubhouse that hosts performances, social gatherings, and club meetings. There’s an outdoor pool and patio, shuffleboard courts, pickleball courts, and a lap pool. With a media room and computers in the library, residents have everything they need to live and work comfortably.  

Single-family homes are between 1,008 and 1,900 square feet and have two or three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an attached one-car garage. Some properties have dens and they all have porches or patios with views of ponds, the golf course, and well-landscaped gardens.

There are more than 20 floor plans available. Lakeland is close to Tampa and Orlando, and it has a growing arts scene. The Polk Museum of Art is worth a visit, and so is the campus of Florida Southern College, much of which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lakeside Landings - Oxford

Below $100k - High $300s

Often, the most cost-effective retirement home is a condo. Buyers have the opportunity to downsize and to spend a little less on housing and its expenses. At Lakeside Landings in Oxford, active adults can find budget-friendly single-family homes, attached villas, and condos.

This community does not have any age restrictions, so buyers who prefer to live in a multi-generational neighborhood with amenities and opportunities geared towards their age group might find what they’re looking for, and with the right price tag.

Condos have one or two bedrooms, and some models come with an additional den, which can also be used as an office or a smaller bedroom. Properties have two bathrooms and between 1,349 and 1,402 square feet. Villas and single-family homes offer more space but also cross over into the $200s.

Amenities in Lakeside Landings are pretty special. There’s a beach area on the lake, a fishing pier, and a putting green. The pool and patio space include a cabana bar and the clubhouse includes an exercise room, ballroom, and library. Just off Interstate 75, Oxford is well-located and surrounded by shops, restaurants, golf courses, and nature trails.

Pine Run Estates - Ocala

Below $100k - Low $100s

Ocala real estate is also affordable at Pine Run Estates, a 55+ community that’s large enough to require two clubhouses and provides several acres of green space, parks, and trails for walking, biking, and jogging.

The main clubhouse has a fitness center, a hobby and game room, and a multipurpose room. There’s also a place for table tennis and billiards. WIth outdoor pools and patios, shuffleboard courts, and tennis courts, active adults have plenty of opportunities to get some exercise, hang out with neighbors, and enjoy the year-round Florida sun.

The community has 880 single-family homes and buyers can find resale properties in four different models. They have two or three bedrooms and one or two bathrooms. The smaller homes are around 800 square feet and the larger properties have 1,800 square feet. Open floor plans and screened patios make these homes great for entertaining and low-maintenance living.

The Ocala Golf Club is nearby, as well as opportunities for recreation such as horseback riding and zip lining.