11 Best Places to Live in the Florida Panhandle

Absolutely! It’s crucial to understand the distinction between Florida and the Florida Panhandle. The northwest part, where cities grace the Gulf of Mexico, is specifically known as the Florida Panhandle.

Now, when you find yourself in this beautiful region, you get to immerse yourself in a coastal lifestyle right along the beach – a scene straight out of the movies! Picture yourself enjoying fishing, boating, hiking, paddleboarding, kiting, scuba diving, and more. The favored attire of residents here is bikinis and shorts!

Best Places to Live in the Florida Panhandle

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So, what’s this blog all about? It’s a conversation about the life of the people in the Florida Panhandle and the affordable places to live. We’ll be exploring aspects like safety, affordability, and what makes it an ideal spot to start a family. Let’s dive into the details and get this conversation flowing without further ado! Even Florida is home to many affordable spots!

Pros and Cons of Living in the Florida Panhandle

  • Coastal Instagramable life along the beaches and white sand
  • Lifestyle is comparatively much more affordable than mainland
  • Residents are always in fear of rain, hurricanes, and their destruction
  • The major economy is based on tourism, hence technological industries are limited
  • Indeed it’s a great place to start a family as education quality is great

Read more to know the honest reviews on Florida and Georgia:

Affordable Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in The Florida Panhandle

1. Fort Walton Beach

  • Population: 20,873
  • Cost of living: 100.9 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $322,200

I’ve noticed many people on Quora asking if it’s possible to maintain a normal standard of living with an income of $4,000 per month in Florida. For a family of three, renting a flat for $1,390 per month is feasible here, and they can provide their child with opportunities to learn about engineering, robotics, and more.

If you choose Fort Walton Beach near Okaloosa Island as your neighborhood, you can enjoy a fantastic and affordable coastal life! I guarantee you’ll be living a life amidst white sandy beaches, crystal-blue water, and a vibrant downtown. 

The local economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, with numerous waterfront resorts attracting tourists eager to book and experience “the boat” lifestyle. However, this might be a downside for residents who prefer a quieter environment without the constant presence of tourists.

Fort Walton Beach offers standard educational facilities, including The Heritage Park, the Cultural Centre, and Fort Walton Beach High School. The presence of Eglin Air Force, one of the largest Air Force bases in the world, serves as an inspiration for students interested in aviation and defense.

Fort Walton Beach, best places to live in the florida panhandle
Fort Walton Beach, Picture – Facebook

2. DeFuniak Springs

  • Population: 6,975
  • Cost of living index: 124.6 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $217,300

I have been here with my friend to celebrate her babymoon, and trust me, we took so many photos with ducks! The place is rich in history; it was once a railroad and is now famous for hosting the Florida Chautauqua Resort. 

In the past, it served as an assembly ground, attracting politicians, poets, and national heroes. It’s fascinating to think about the diverse gatherings that have taken place. Renting here starts from $910 per month, but if you earn $32,400, you’re good to find the balance of a good and fun life. 

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DeFuniak Springs is one of the best places to retire on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle. Residents can enjoy the view and live between two picturesque springs lakes. 

Here, you’ll have the chance to walk around the lake, enjoy the fresh air, visit the historic Walton Country Heritage Museum, spend evenings at Chautauqua Winery, or have hot beignets, po-boys, and Cajun specials for dinner at Café Nola.

historic Walton Country Heritage Museum
Walton Country Heritage Museum

3. Navarre

  • Population: 38,994
  • Cost of living index: 99.8 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $412,156

For retirees who love quiet, peaceful places, Navarre, located to the west of the Florida Panhandle, right by the Gulf, is the best place for you. Here, the community consists mostly of defense contractors, civil servants, U.S. military personnel, and an older population.

Navarre has earned its name for having the longest fishing pier in America. A person with an income of $54,400 annually can surely afford to live here and enjoy the untouched, unspoiled beach and atmosphere.

Locals often take their kids to The Navarre Beach Marine Park for fun and to teach them about local sea life and wildlife. At Sweet Pea, you’ll see a green sea turtle. Retirees love attending live theaters or functions by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra.

I’ll be honest; Navarre lacks a frenetic nightlife, but you’ll be rewarded with a supportive education facility, low crime rates, great colleges, and a wonderful place to start a family. These days, it is one of the fastest-growing places in the Florida Panhandle region.

Navarre, best towns to live in florida panhandle
Shelling at Navarre Beach

Best Places to Live in The Florida Panhandle – Mid-Size City

4. Cape San Blas

  • Population: 8,088
  • Cost of living index: 91.5 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $629.9K

If you’ve ever dreamed of living a coastal life without being a local, Cape San Blas is one of the best coastal cities to live in the Florida Panhandle, especially for digital nomads and retirees. In winter, the crystal-clear blue-green warm water is incredibly enticing for beach lovers. But don’t think it loses its beauty in the summer—it’s stunning all year round.

Watching sunsets from the Emerald Coast is like a gift from the heavens! Its secluded spots offer YouTubers a chance to explore more and capture the hidden beauty on screen. Plus, Cape San Blas Beach is pet-friendly, which is the cherry on top!

I can’t stop raving about this place. As a digital nomad, I used to wake up to explore and seek adventures, and time always felt too short. For adventure seekers, St. Joseph Bay is a must-visit or head to T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to catch a speckled trout, or go for a run at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and Salinas Park. Tell me, are you already getting content ideas just by reading this?

On Friday nights, you can visit Skully’s Low Country Boil or Indian Pass Raw Bar for great seafood. And for pizza, how can I forget Scallop Cove General Store? Amazing! The place is all about adventure! However, families might not love this place as it lacks good schools and a community for socializing!

Horseback riding on the beach with Rockin M Ranch

5. Seaside

  • Population: 10,955
  • Cost of living index: 124.6 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $1,011,662 (on average)

Remember “The Truman Show” featuring Jim Carrey? Well, that iconic show was filmed right here in Seaside. It’s one of those beachside communities that transports you to a different world of beauty. No wonder Seaside is the “Seahaven” for filmmakers! I can guarantee you’ll fall in love with this Urbanist community.

Seaside is one of those small beach towns in the USA where riding a bike or walking is more enjoyable than driving a car. As you stroll, you’ll spot pastel-colored houses with white picket fences, ice cream and food trucks in the center, old-fashioned post offices, and cafes, giving off a Hollywood set vibe!

Students who love taking road trips often choose Highway 30A for its scenic route and make a stop at Seaside to enjoy the food, and beaches, and sometimes chill at waterfront properties.

Another thing that can steal your heart is attending the Seaside Farmers Market on Saturdays. Here, you can find everything locally made, from food to art. The city also has a big amphitheater hosting functions and concerts regularly!

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If you love attending events, come to Cerulean Park. However, making a home in this beauty might pinch a bit for many, as the cost of living is 53% higher than the national average!

Also, Seaside is one of those low-crime rate ideal neighborhoods in the Florida Panhandle that has recorded only 10.34 total crimes out of 1,000 residents in a year. The place is safe for locals and tourists. 

afternoon bustle along Airstream Row, Seaside
Afternoon bustle along Airstream Row

6. Lynn Haven

  • Population: 19,772
  • Cost of living index: 95.4 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $324,773

Lynn Haven is one of the waterfront communities where affordable housing in the Florida Panhandle is possible. Here, houses start from $316,900, which is 12.6% less than the average for Florida houses. The population mainly consists of military families due to the city’s proximity to a military base.

Families send their children to schools with average records. New graduates do not face challenges in finding jobs, as many technological companies are located here. However, for a brighter future, you might need to consider moving elsewhere. Additionally, the crime rate is 38% lower than the national average, providing locals with a sense of security.

You’ll find Publix, Walmart, and local stores to purchase day-to-day items. It’s a small but great place to live in the Florida Panhandle region. There’s so much greenery around that you can plan hikes along the Lynn Haven Conservation Park to catch glimpses of wildlife and nature.

Retirees often spend their time golfing at Signal Hill Golf and then enjoying time at a restaurant and bar. Grandparents can take their grandchildren to The Museum of the Man in the Sea to understand underwater diving gear, history, and military scenes.

Sharon Sheffield Park
Celebration at Sharon Sheffield Park

Best Cities in Florida Panhandle For Staycation And Babymoon Celebration

7. Apalachicola

  • Population: 2,330
  • Cost of living index: 97.4 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $310,033

When it comes to living the slow life, Floridians always consider Florida’s ‘Forgotten Coast.’ It’s full of outdoor adventures, peaceful vibes, and the beauty of St. George Island, with its lined-up fishing boats by the shores and untouched beaches. 

This northwestern part of Florida is all about the “old Florida vibe,” mostly famous for its oyster fishing spots. Couples can look out for apartments in the center of St. George Island. I recommend choosing Beach 2 Bay, as the rooms are comfortable, and you can enjoy beach access within walking distance. 

For fresh oysters, come to Hole in the Wall or my favorite, The Owl Café, for tasty shrimp and blue crab. After soaking in Vitamin D, explore the 20 windswept miles of high dunes in Apalachicola and just relax!

Apalachicola boats
Apalachicola boats

8. Marianna

  • Population: 6,269
  • Cost of living index: 77.1 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $193,304

Marianna is a historic city in Florida that values natural resources and supports eco-tourism. Here, the streets are shaded by twisting live oaks, and you can explore natural wonders like Blue Springs and Florida Caverns. 

But you know what’s interesting? At Florida Caverns State Park, you can go for cave exploration, marveling with stalactites, soda straw formations, stalagmites, and much more. Flash tours are available here!

At Blue Springs Recreation Area, you’ll enjoy the clarity of the water in the summer, cooling down and relishing the fresh air. Take the Chipola River Paddling Trail to see wildflowers and enjoy the company of birds like owls, turkeys, and eastern bluebirds.

If the rustic environment fascinates you, come to Hinson Conservation and Recreation Area where you can kayak or float on the cruise enjoying the scenic wonders around you. At the town center, there are antique shops, cafes, and other local amenities available. 

Bell & Bates Building
Bell & Bates Building

Home To Top Rated Communities In Florida Panhandle

9. Destin

  • Population: 14,085
  • Cost of living index: 100.9 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $635,124

Destin, or as you call it, the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” is a haven for those who revel in recreational activities, especially fishing for a variety of saltwater and freshwater fishes. The year-round pleasant weather creates a coastal atmosphere that adds to the charm.

I highly recommend choosing Destin, primarily because of its strategic location. It’s easily accessible from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and more. The quality of life here is exceptionally healthy, offering a plethora of outdoor activities to indulge in.

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For those seeking a close-knit community, Kelly Plantation is an excellent choice for families. The area boasts abundant green spaces and parks. Families often send their children to Destin Elementary School, Destin Middle School, and Fort Walton Beach High School, with tennis lessons available in the evenings.

However, it’s crucial to note the downsides. The high cost of living in Destin is a significant consideration, with home values soaring 68% higher than the national average. Additionally, the city’s fame has attracted a large population, leading to occasional traffic congestion. Despite these challenges, the allure of Destin remains undeniable.

Destin's Original Sea Blaster Dolphin Tours
Get ready for Destin’s Original Sea Blaster Dolphin Tours

9. Pensacola

  • Population: 52,342
  • Cost of living index: 89 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $257,980

The U.S. News & World Report has ranked Pensacola as having the best retirement community atmosphere. What do you think? Did the emerald-green water and sugary beaches work their magic? I won’t deny their impact, but more importantly, its cost of living and accessibility to the radar.

I know of a premium retirement community for seniors aged 62 and above that offers independent and assisted living with a great, healthy lifestyle—Veranda of Pensacola. 

The rooms are modern, offering healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with other timely food services! There is a fitness center, a theater, common areas to socialize with other people, and various recreational activities.

Family-Friendly Areas In Florida Panhandle

10. Carrabelle

  • Population: 2,891
  • Cost of living index: 97.4 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $278,781

A small uncrowded town with safe neighborhoods, Carrabelle where residents every year conduct many “fishing class” tournaments as it is home to salt and freshwater fishes. Every child here grows up learning snorkeling, sailing, scuba diving, scalloping, and living a healthy outdoor life!

Also, the area is very walkable; you can walk to any restaurants, grocery stores, shops, parlors, post office, library, parks, and other stores. The economy is mostly based on ecotourism as the town is blessed with forests resulting in hiking spots and picnic areas.

Tip: Come to Gulf Specimen Aquarium to spot rescued sea turtles

Carrabelle fishing tournament
Carrabelle fishing tournament

11. Tallahassee

  • Population: 198,631
  • Cost of living index: 91.2 (US average of 100)
  • Median home value: $279,089

Tallahassee is the inland city of the Florida Panhandle where the quality of life is mostly like city life, offering plenty of job opportunities at places like Moore Communication Group, Capital City Bank, healthcare centers, and other great facilities. 

Also, it is one of the top-rated school districts in the Florida Panhandle for families, featuring campuses of Florida State University, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Community College, The Museum of Florida History, The Tallahassee Museum, and much more! It is a place where learning never ends!

Families can have vibrant nightlife at Raspberry Lemondrop Martin, and Madria Sangria. Also, on weekends you can take the trails of Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, Cascades Park, Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park, and more. The town is highly easy to go around by e-scooter, bike, or pedicab.

Roads of Florida State University
Roads of Florida State University

Read More:

FAQ: Best Places to Live in Florida Panhandle

1. What are the healthcare facilities like in the Florida Panhandle?

A. Healthcare services in the Florida Panhandle are not limited to addressing cuts, bruises, back injuries, chronic illnesses, and fractures. Hospitals like Bay Medical, Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, Baptist Hospital, Ascension Sacred, Calhoun Liberty Hospital, and many others are equipped to handle crucial cases.

2. Which communities are popular for retirees in the Florida Panhandle?

A. The Veranda of Pensacola in Pensacola, and Latitude Margaritaville Watersound on the Emerald Coast of Florida Panhandle are two premium retirement communities where you can live the Panhandle lifestyle.

3. What are the job opportunities like in Florida Panhandle towns?

A. The town of Pensacola offers employment opportunities primarily limited to the hospitality sector, which may somewhat restrict growth. However, job stability remains strong as it is one of the prime spots for tourism. On the flip side, if you’re genuinely seeking growth, the employment sector near the town of Tallahassee is where you want to focus. Here, jobs in healthcare, construction, and technology are readily available.

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