Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
In 1768, a Scottish doctor, Andrew Turnbull, brought 1,500 settlers from Crete, Sicily and Minorca to the northeastern Florida coast to form a new colony called New Smyrna. The area became known as New Smyrna Beach in the late-1940s, and today 30,000 people call this mellow seaside hamlet their home.
Sixty percent of locals are age 45 or better, and 32% of all residents are college educated. Politics are split down the middle. The crime rate meets the national average. Racial diversity is minimal. The city has grown by 11% within the last decade, and the cost of living is 6% above the national average.
The median home price is $410,000, reflecting a 25% increase from just a year ago. Many areas have traditional Florida cracker-style homes with wood frames, raised floors and wrap-around porches. Others have concrete blocks homes or modern Mediterraneans.
The economy depends on the one million annual tourists, vacationers and "snowbirds," many of whom arrive in RVs. The biggest draw is the long, clean stretch of sparkling white sand. Surfers and fishermen also love this area of the coast.
Marinas dot the meandering Indian River, which flows through town. Smyrna Dunes, home to five ecosystems and dog-friendly, is a protected area on the northern end of town and has two miles of elevated boardwalks.
Downtown's Canal Street and Flagler Avenue have colorful shops and boutiques. Dining options primarily consist of chain eateries serving up seafood, steaks, Italian fare and more.
New Smyrna Beach has been named one of the best art towns in the country and is proud of its artistic sensibility. It is home to the beautiful Atlantic Center for the Arts, "an interdisciplinary artists' community and arts education facility," and it is peppered with art galleries, including Arts on Douglas. Public workshops teach everything from beading and jewelry-making to glassblowing.
Festivals include September's Jazz Festival and March's Balloon and SkyFest, each adding to New Smyrna Beach's sense of community. River cruises, historic walking tours, a fun Saturday farmers' market and more keep residents engaged. Golfers enjoy eight or more public and private golf courses.
The newly renovated Brannon Community Center houses the city's senior center, and the county operates a center as well. Services include noon congregate meals, computer classes, exercise classes, art classes and movie showings.
Volusia County operates Votran, the public bus system (which also travels to nearby Port Orange and Daytona Beach). All buses are wheelchair accessible, and a para-transit service is available.
Bert Fish Medical Center is a private, acute care facility and is accredited by the Joint Commission. It accepts Medicare patients. Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is 20 miles to the north in Daytona Beach and has been named one of the nation's top 50 hospitals.
Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, and winters are mild and slightly less humid with temperatures in the 50s, 60s, low-70s. On average, the area receives 49 inches of rain each year, and the sun shines 255 days of the year.
It is also worth noting that according to the University of Florida, more shark attacks happen in the waters off New Smyrna Beach than anywhere else in the world. Luckily, most of these attacks are not serious.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Florida Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
New Smyrna Beach's casual seaside ambiance, beautiful beach, artsy vibe and great water recreation make it worth a look at retirement time. Just keep an eye out for sharks.
Sticking out into Hurricane Alley, Florida was a land no nation seemed to want. Ruled successively by Spain, France, England, and the Confederate States of America, the state had a backwater reputation. Other than St. Augustine and Pensacola, there were few cities. The area was rural and populated by frontier farmers.
In the late-1800s, changes came when railroads began chugging down both coasts. Industrialist Henry Flagler's Florida Easy Coast Railway even made it all the way to Key West. The Great Florida Land Boom, the build-up to World War II, and the space industry also helped turn Florida into one of the nation's most populous states. In 1900, there were about 500,000 residents. Today, there are more than 20 million, almost 351 people per square mile.
Why do people keep coming? Tourism marketing is one reason. Annually, millions visit Orlando's theme parks and the state's 663 miles of white sand beaches. Taxes generated by the billion dollar vacation industry allow Florida to prosper without a personal income tax. Budget-sensitive retirees have flocked to its cities and shorelines.
If you can ignore the hurricanes, the state's climate is relatively mild. Only five other states are sunnier. Florida's system of state universities and community colleges is sizable, and its big cities are meccas for culture and the arts. Sarasota is a good example. Its Ringling Museum Complex contains internationally known art museum, a circus museum, an historic theater, and a 66-acre garden. Museums near Orlando range from a Zora Neale Hurston gallery to a Madame Tussauds.
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