As a native Floridian, I’m often asked where in the state I like to visit most. My answer is always the same: the panhandle. The panhandle of Florida is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of cities like Jacksonville and Tallahassee (and even Pensacola) that it feels like an entirely different world.
It’s got its own unique personality, with beautiful beaches, laid-back beach towns, and lots of outdoor activities for any lifestyle. So if you’re looking for somewhere that’s not quite “in” Florida but still has all the charm of Old South hospitality—and isn’t too far from home—you’ll want to check out some of these great Panhandle towns!
12 Best Places to Live in the Panhandle of Florida
Panama City is a small city with about 38,000 people. The population density is about 7,000 people per square mile. It’s located on the west coast of Florida, which makes it very close to water and not too far from the Gulf Coast beaches.
The average home price in Panama City is about $150,000. The average commute time from work to home is 25 minutes (via car) and 10 minutes (via public transportation).
Blue Mountain Beach
- Blue Mountain Beach has a population of 1,370.
- Blue Mountain Beach is located in Walton County.
- Blue Mountain Beach is 19 miles from Panama City, Florida.
- The median age in Blue Mountain Beach is 48 years old and the median household income is $57,843 (U.S).
Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach is an excellent place to live for a variety of reasons. Fort Walton Beach has a great beach and golf course, as well as a shopping district and school district that are both considered top in their respective categories. It also has a great hospital district and cultural district, giving you plenty to do when you’re not at the beach or enjoying one of its many attractions.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is a small town with a lot to offer. It’s a great place to live and raise a family, especially if you love the beach. The beaches of Santa Rosa are beautiful and perfect for swimming, boating and fishing. There are many great restaurants in the area as well as fun things to do like shopping, hiking and visiting local attractions like Flea Market USA or Sea Turtle Lagoon.
Freeport is a small town in Walton County, located on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s best known as a popular tourist destination, with beachfront hotels and resorts lining its shores. If you’re looking to live near the water, this could be one of the best places to do so in Florida’s panhandle.
However, there are plenty of other reasons why Freeport makes for an attractive place to call home: it’s close to major cities like Pensacola and Destin; it has good weather year-round; and it offers plenty of outdoor activities such as fishing and boating on Lake Freeport or surf fishing at the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay.
Grayton Beach is a small community on the northern end of Santa Rosa Island. It’s known for its beaches, fishing and golfing. The area has some great restaurants, too. You can also enjoy swimming in the Gulf of Mexico or freshwater lakes and rivers.
Grayton Beach is a great place to live if you like being close to nature and enjoying fresh seafood at one of their many restaurants. The town has several historic buildings that are still used today, including restaurants and shops that date back over 100 years!
If you’ve ever considered living in Destin, then you know it’s a great place to live. This popular tourist destination is known for its many golf courses, including the famous Emerald Coast Golf Club and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
The beach here is a great place to spend your time when it’s not too hot! If you’re looking for something more active than just lying around on the sand, try parasailing or jet skiing out on the water. You can also go deep sea fishing if that sounds like something fun for you!
For those who prefer eating out instead of cooking at home, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in town with all kinds of tastes to satisfy everyone’s needs!
30A is a popular vacation destination. It’s also a great place to reside and retire.
30A is the perfect place to raise a family, as well as start and run your own business—or even just buy that little something for yourself you’ve always wanted but couldn’t justify buying before.
This town is an easy choice for living in the Panhandle. With a quaint, relaxed atmosphere and top-notch shopping, this beach community is a great place to settle down with your family.
What you will love about Seagrove Beach:
- The weather! The average temperature in Florida can range from 65 degrees during the winter months to 85 degrees during the summer months. If you love being outside, this area has it all—beaches and golf courses galore!
- The school system is fantastic! The high school graduation rate is 99%. Plus, there are many college-prep schools within driving distance if your child decides they want more higher education options later on in life. In addition, there are plenty of activities for kids so they don’t get bored at home while mom or dad works full-time jobs during normal business hours (8AM – 5PM).
Another smaller city that is a great place to live is Seaside. The population of the town is 4,843. It is located in Walton County, Florida and it’s considered a popular tourist destination on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
The town was incorporated in 1950, with an initial population of 1,000 and grew to 2,700 by 1960. In 1962 the population reached 12,000 but then declined during the 1970s due to Hurricane Eloise in 1975 and other storms that hit nearby Destin; however these storms were not as damaging as they could have been because they moved mostly parallel to the coast rather than inland where much of this area lies (Source).
Rosemary Beach is a great place to live. It has a beautiful beach, wonderful restaurants (including one of the best sushi restaurants in Florida), and high-end shopping options. The city is also home to three golf courses, which makes it an ideal location for those who love to play golf.
Rosemary Beach also has great schools and several top-rated public schools within the city limits. Plus, its real estate prices are quite affordable—you can get an entire house for $200,000!
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen Beach, a town of about 1,000 people nestled on the Gulf coast between Panama City and Destin, is one of the most affordable communities in Northwest Florida. While not as bustling as its neighbors, Dune Allen Beach has plenty to offer retirees and families alike: it’s close to the beach; there are plenty of outdoor activities; and it doesn’t break the bank.
It’s also great for retirees who want a dog or cat.
Florida’s panhandle has plenty of great places to live.
Florida’s panhandle has plenty of great places to live. Panama City, Blue Mountain Beach, Fort Walton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach are just a few of the most popular cities in this part of the state.
There are also some smaller towns that offer residents a more relaxed lifestyle, but still have all the amenities you need for everyday living. Some examples are Freeport, Grayton Beach and Destin on Santa Rosa Island; Seagrove Beach north of Panama City; Seaside and Seacrest on 30A between Destin and Fort Walton Beach; Seabrook near Pensacola Airport (VPS).
So, there you have it. Our list of the best places to live in the Florida Panhandle. The most important thing for you to remember is that these are just suggestions, so don’t get too hung up on where we say one place or another should be ranked!
We think it’s important to consider a wide range of factors when choosing where you want your next home to be—whether those include things like safety, affordability or job opportunities—and then narrow down your choices based on what matters most.
You might find yourself drawn to one or two places in particular because they have everything your heart desires, but if not then don’t worry: There are plenty more options out there waiting for someone just like yourself!