Fort Walton, Destin rank among WalletHub's best 2021 beach towns to live in
Florida has bragging rights for at least a day against other coastal wannabes.
The Peninsula dominated a lot of Wednesday's list of the best 2021 beach towns to live in and featured Naples in the No. 1 slot, according to WalletHub's financial analysts.
Besting California, Hawaii and others, the Sunshine State had five of the Top 12 in the nation including Sarasota, Boca Raton, Destin and Venice.
And numerous other communities made the grade, too. Vero Beach, Jupiter, Jacksonville Beach, Panama City Beach, Satellite Beach, Pensacola to name a few. From Southwest Florida, Bonita Springs and Marco Island landed in the middle of the pack.
WalletHub compared 145 ocean and Gulf of Mexico destinations across 62 "livability" indicators including weather, safety, economy, affordability, health and education. For a separate tally, it also reviewed 46 lake communities, which ended up topped by Traverse City, Michigan.
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Other sub-categories include housing costs, quality of beach water and the all-important places to get a buzz – caffeine or otherwise.
Naples did real well on the latter, along with Sarasota, which ranked sixth overall. Also Naples scored high on:
- Most coffee shops per capita, tied with Sarasota and Santa Monica, California.
- Most nightlife establishments per capita, tied with Sarasota, Key West, Miami Beach and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
- Most restaurants per capita, tied with Sarasota, St. Augustine, Destin and Myrtle Beach.
Not as good for Naples: The topic of safety, which includes a wide range of factors, such as COVID-19 cases, lifeguards per capita and crime. The rank: 103.
But indeed, quality of life carried the day, said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.
"It topped all the other ocean beach towns in terms of number of attractions, such as: nightlife establishments, restaurants, coffee and tea shops, swimming pools, boat tours and water sports, fitness centers, golf courses, tennis courts, shopping centers and spas," Gonzalez said.
I asked one of the best numbers people I know, Southwest Florida real estate appraiser and broker Matt Simmons, to take a gander at the stats.
"Naples won by a pretty wide margin," said Simmons, who clearly has the upcoming Olympics, particularly swimming on his mind. "Naples was Michael Phelps, and the other beach towns were ‘those other guys’."
And Simmons, managing partner at Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons, isn't surprised.
"It’s no secret that Florida was the preferred destination during the pandemic. Growth was remarkable across Florida, but even within the state, Southwest Florida was a standout," Simmons said. "The economy in Naples is incredibly robust. The Naples housing market is absolutely on fire. The only problem we’re having at the moment is keeping enough homes available for purchase."
The top ranking should fuel even more interest in Southwest Florida.
"The worker mobility trend is likely here to stay," Simmons said. "For someone perhaps already tempted to move to Naples, seeing this article is just one more sign."
Top honors keep coming Naples' way.
Travel + Leisure wrote recently that the Southwest Florida city was also the top U.S. beach town to live in. The New York City-based monthly publication lauded Naples for its "unbeatable quality of life and relative affordability."
"Located on Florida's Paradise Coast along the Gulf of Mexico," the magazine said in its April issue, "the town offers lots to see and do, including pristine, white-sand beaches and day trips to nearby Everglades National Park."
Last summer a report generated by Resonance Consultancy, a specialist in the destination-branding industry, ranked Naples No. 2 on its 2020 list of Best Small Cities.
And WalletHub also put Naples at No. 1 in 2019.
Here's the Top 12 and the rest of the Florida Peninsula best beach towns to live in:
2. Laguna Beach, California
3. Lahaina, Hawaii
4. Newport Beach, California
5. North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
7. Kailua, Hawaii
8. Boca Raton
10. Santa Monica, California
11. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
12. Vero Beach
24. Jacksonville Beach
25. Fernandina Beach
27. Panama City Beach
28. Satellite Beach
33. North Palm Beach
38. Key West
49. Cocoa Beach
56. Key Biscayne
60. St. Augustine
62. Fort Walton Beach
64. Bonita Springs
66. Coral Gables
70. Tarpon Springs
71. Marco Island
74. Ormond Beach
75. Delray Beach
76. Boynton Beach
79. Merritt Island
82. New Smyrna Beach
85. Miami Beach
89. Atlantic Beach
95. Jensen Beach
102. Panama City
109. Lake Worth
119. Hobe Sound
131. Hallandale Beach
132. Fort Pierce
133. Daytona Beach
136. Dania Beach
140. Apollo Beach
144. Riviera Beach
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (email@example.com) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.