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Retire in Rockledge, Florida?
Rockledge is a safe, unassuming town that borders the Indian River on Florida's mid-Atlantic Coast (Space Coast). It started out as a winter resort and in the 1960s grew to make room for Kennedy Space Center employees. The town is about 15 minutes south of Cocoa, 30 minutes north of Melbourne, and an hour southeast of Orlando.
Rockledge is primarily residential with tidy ranch ramblers lining streets dotted with tall and squat palm trees. Some residences sit along the river. A quiet place, Rockledge still has enough retailers and eateries to meet most needs. There is no beach, but the town manages more than 15 boat docks and parks, and 110-acre Barton Park has fishing piers, hiking trails and a wildlife preserve. Liitle League games and soccer games are popular, and the Space Coast Ice Plex has public skating. Residents are minutes from the Historic Cocoa Playhouse and Melbourne's King Center. Both venues showcase a variety of performing arts.
The 30,000-acre Banana River Aquatic Park Preserve to the east of town shelters alligators, terrapin turtles and the largest pelican rookery on the Atlantic Coast. Its shallow seagrasses and mangroves also nurture large game fish, and visitors can paddle the sanctuary's backwaters or walk its paths. The River Lakes Conservation Area west of Rockledge is the place for wildlife viewing.
Population: 29,000 (city proper)
Age 45 or Better: 41%
Cost of Living: 7% below the national average
Median Home Price: $340,000
Climate: Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 50s, 60s and 70s. On average, the area receives 52 inches of rain each year.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? Yes
At Least One Hospital Accredited by Joint Commission? Yes
Public Transit: Yes, provided by Space Coast Area Transit
Crime Rate: Below the national average
Public Library: No, but the Georgia Phillips Reading Room fills the gaps.
Political Leanings: Conservative
College Educated: 32%
Is Florida Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Cons: None, although hurricanes and tropical storms are always a possibility.
Notes: Rockledge has grown by 8% within the last decade, and home prices have increased by 23% during the last year.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
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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