Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!
Mary Esther, Florida
Just Across the Sound from Beautiful Santa Rosa Island on the Florida Panhandle, Friendly Mary Esther is Close to Mesmerizing White Sand Beaches
About 35 miles east of Pensacola, this western Panhandle coastal town is wedged between Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Sound and the U.S. Air Force's Hurlburt Field. It is a friendly, suburban place, home to many military personnel and their families.
Neighborhoods are neatly laid out, tidy and have a lot of brick ranch ramblers. The majority of residences are inland, but some elaborate single family homes and condos sit along the water. Most shopping occurs at the Santa Rosa Mall, not a fancy place but with enough small stores and national retailers to meet basic needs. The town manages its own community garden, a fertile piece of ground with gardeners who employ sustainable practices like composting and rain water collection. Mary Esther also maintains 10 public parks, the largest of which is Oak Tree Nature Park. The town's Pier Park includes a boat ramp and fishing facilities.
Santa Rosa Island, across the sound from Mary Esther, is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and has a mesmerizing white sand beach that is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and beach combing. Its Pirate Cove is an excellent place to catch red fish and spotted sea trout.
Population: 4,000 (city proper)
Age 45 or Better: 39%
Cost of Living: 12% below the national average
Median Home Price: $335,000
Climate: This area has a humid subtropical climate, meaning two seasons per year, one hot and humid and one less hot and less humid. On average, the area receives 65 inches of rain per year.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? No, but Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, three miles away, accepts Medicare patients.
At Least One Hospital Accredited by Joint Commission? No, but Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, three miles away, is accredited.
Public Transit: No
Crime Rate: Meets the national average
Public Library: The Mary Esther Public Library has book discussion groups and movie matinees.
Political Leanings: Conservative
College Educated: 30%
Is Florida Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Cons: Hurricanes and tropical storms are always a possibility. Hurricane Michael caused minimal damage in 2018.
Notes: Mary Esther sits along U.S. Route 98, a primary east-west highway, and the road can become very congested during summer tourist season. This is bear country, and the city works with residents to help them coexist with the growing bear population. Locals occasionally hear jet noise from Hulburt Field. Mary Esther has maintained its population within the last decade, and home prices have increased 8% since last year.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Named Pascua Florida by Juan Ponce De Leon, the Sunshine State did not enter the Union until March 3, 1845. Balmy mild winters began attracting snowbirds to the state in the late 19th century. Retirees continue to flock to the state. It's not hard to see why tourism has become the leading industry.
International trade and citrus are also major contributors to the state's economy. Eighty percent of the nation's oranges and grapefruits are grown here, and 40 percent of all U.S. exports to Latin America flow through Florida.
Florida's landscape includes uplands and coastal plains. It contains more than 11,000 miles of waterways and about 4,500 islands spread across 10 acres.
The state has 1,250 golf courses, more than any other state in the Union. The 47 mile Pinellas Trail is the longest urban trail on the east coast. Orlando theme parks attract more visitors than any other theme parks in the U.S. The only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist is in National Everglades Park.
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