Dock during sunset in Central Florida

Many retirees might instantly think of the coasts when it comes to a Florida retirement, but Central Florida offers just as much.

A Florida retirement doesn’t necessarily mean a beach house on one of the coasts. Central Florida has some outstanding cities, towns, and 55+ communities for active adults who want to surround themselves with golf, nature, lakes, and culture.

Whether you want a sprawling community with over 10,000 homes like The Villages and On Top of the World or you’d prefer an intimate setting where you can really connect with your neighbors, Central Florida has a lot of options.

Additional benefits to choosing Central Florida for your retirement destination include:

  • Affordability: There’s no state tax on income, nor is there an inheritance or estate tax. The cost of living is reasonable compared to the coasts.

  • There are two international airports in and around Orlando, making flying easy.

  • These communities all hug major highways, such as Interstate 4, Interstate 75, and the Florida Turnpike, making statewide car trips a breeze.

  • Even from the center of Florida, you’re still only an hour from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

Orlando Real Estate and the Kissimmee Area

Sunset creeping between buildings and palm trees in Orlando, FL

Orlando and Kissimmee are more than just theme parks.

Don’t be scared away by Orlando’s reputation for theme parks and tourists. There’s actually a lot more to the growing city than that, and this is a great time to think about retiring in one of Central Florida’s largest cities.

There are museums, shopping centers and outlet malls, and a thriving food scene. It’s fun to get a bird’s eye view of the city on an Orlando balloon ride or by riding the large, well-lit ferris wheel at ICON Park.

Some of Orlando’s most popular 55+ communities include condos at the Gatherings of Lake Nona and the new and resale homes available at Del Webb Orlando in Davenport.

Close to Orlando is Kissimmee, and active adults have been flocking to communities like Solivita, where there’s a spa, fitness center with certified trainers, a golf club, and a recreational complex.

Green Hills and Antiques: Leesburg and Mount Dora

Tree in Leesburg Park in Leesburg, Florida

Besides the climate, Leesburg often feels more like New England than Florida

Leesburg and its surrounding small towns have the year-round sunshine and the outdoor recreation that’s found all over Florida, but it doesn’t always feel like Florida.

Many new residents report feeling like they’re in New England. There are gentle hills, large lakes packed with sailboats, and antique shops that will make visitors feel like they’ve wandered into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Leesburg is home to some great birding spots and nature trails, including the Green Mountain Scenic Byway, which has plenty of stops for walking and photography. Mount Dora is a charming lakeside town with shops, restaurants, and a lot of retirees who love to gather at The Highland Street Cafe for breakfast or a burger.  

Golfing and social events are common at the local 55+ communities. Royal Highlands in Leesburg offers a world-class golf course for residents, and more than a third of the community is an untouched natural wetland. Fishing and canoeing are popular with residents, who have four lakes to use.

The Lakes of Mount Dora is a community focused on social gatherings and club meetings, and also has several fishing lakes.

Horse Country in Ocala

Blue and green spring water surrounded by trees in Ocala, Florida

Ocala's home to plenty of outdoor recreation and some of the best 55+ communities in the country.

Buyers planning a Florida retirement with their horses will want to consider Ocala. It’s called the Horse Capital of the World because of its horse farms, breeders, stables, and equestrian centers. Painted horse statues pop up all over the downtown area.

Other things to do in Ocala include hiking, fishing, and exploring the wilderness in places like Ocala National Forest. The cost of living in Ocala is pretty low compared to other parts of Florida, and residents love being surrounded by nature and space.

The most notable community is On Top of the World, a sprawling and affordable community with amenities and clubs for a vast array of interests. It was also recently named our best-selling 55+ community of 2019.

Trilogy at Ocala Preserve is an excellent 55+ community in Ocala for active adults who want golf and resort-style amenities. There are also 21 miles of trails for biking, walking, or jogging, and there are two clubhouses, the Tack House and Oak House, which have fitness centers, libraries, culinary studios, and a day spa.

Spruce Creek Preserve is just outside of Ocala, in Dunnellon, and another place to enjoy an on-site golf club. The community is also close to Rainbow Springs State Park and its historic, healing springs.

History and Culture in Lakeland

Clear day over the water in Lakeland, Florida

Lakeland is a great place for a clam retirement that's still near several big cities.

Lakeland has become a desirable Central Florida location for many active adults simply because it’s so easy to access both Tampa and Orlando. The city sits off Interstate 4 and has seen a lot of changes. It’s gone from a culture of cattle farming to commercial and industrial growth and now, it’s a thriving center for culture, art, and design.

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is impressive, and while you’re on campus, be sure to enjoy the architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s also an annual sculpture competition on the Lemon Street Promenade and a walking tour of galleries and studios.

There are around 20 55+ communities in the Lakeland area, and many of them include golf courses, lakefront living, and proximity to the downtown historic district.

Highland Fairways has a semi-private golf club for residents to join, and Sandpiper Golf & Country Club offers a public course and a recreation center. Traditions at Lake Ruby is close by in Winter Haven, and has dock slips as well as a lakeside gazebo.