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The Pros and Cons of Life on the Florida Panhandle

People have been moving to Florida in droves in the past few years. Florida is known for having a fairly low cost of living, and it’s a business-friendly environment, so a lot of people have opted to relocate. 

The big question for a lot of people who are thinking about a move to Florida is which part of the state is right for them. There are cities on towns on the Panhandle like Daytona Beach, Central Florida cities like Orlando, and of course, South Florida. 

The Panhandle has some advantages over other parts of the state, and the following are some of both the upsides and downsides, especially compared to other parts of Florida. 

What is the Panhandle?

The Florida Panhandle includes 13 counties that border what’s called the Forgotten Coast. The Forgotten Coast features undeveloped natural beaches, historic districts, beachside cities and towns, and barrier islands. 

The area is known for white sand and emerald water. It stretches from Pensacola and then moves southeast along the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of the Panhandle is very rural, and there are a number of pristine secluded areas. 

The weather is mild, so people on the Panhandle tend to participate in outdoor activities year-round.

There are actually three subregions making up the Panhandle. These are the Emerald Coast, which includes Bay Escambia, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa Counties. The technical Forgotten Coast includes Franklin, Gulf, and Jefferson County, which are some of the most rural in all of Florida, and then there’s the Interior Panhandle, which are the counties not bordering the Gulf Coast. 

Major cities that are on the Panhandle include Apalachicola, Destin, Panama City, Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Fort Walton Beach. 

The Pros of Panhandle Living

Some of the reasons that people might prefer this part of Florida over others include:

  • This area has the coolest and most temperate weather in the entire state. In the Spring, there is mild weather, and the same is true of fall. The summer doesn’t get as hot as the other parts of the state, although it’s still humid. The winters are more similar to what the season is like in other parts of the southern, as opposed to Florida. For example, daytime temperatures can be in the 50s and 60s in the winter, while in the nighttime, it can get into the 30s. There are even instances where there’s been snow. If you like the idea of moving to Florida but you don’t love the seasonless climate it’s known for, the Panhandle can be a good option. 
  • This area of Florida has retained more of a sense of Southern hospitality than other parts of the state. There tends to be a lot of Southern charm as a result, and the people are friendly, whereas places like Miami and other areas of South Florida can have a feel that’s more similar to a big city rather than a small town. 
  • The real estate is more affordable in this area than in other parts of Florida, although this can vary quite a bit depending on the town you’d like to live in. In Pensacola, for example, the housing costs are nearly 30% cheaper than the national average, although, in Destin, the cost of living is much higher than the national average. 
  • The crime rate in this area is very low. 
  • The lifestyle of the area and the natural beauty is a reasons a lot of people decide to move here. There are white sand beaches, a lot of wilderness, and coastal dune lakes, and it’s a generally unspoiled, beautiful part of the state. Popular outdoor areas include St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, St. Andrew’s State Park, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and Saint George Island State Park. 
  • There’s no state income tax, although this isn’t a benefit exclusive to the Panhandle, of course. 
  • The schools along the Panhandle rank well and there are a lot of good public school options for families. 
  • The area is accessible. It’s within driving distance of a number of states, including Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. There are a lot of air travel options, too, thanks to Pensacola International Airport and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. 

What About the Downsides of the Panhandle?

Nowhere is without its downsides, of course. 

One major one that some people feel makes the area less appealing than South Florida is that it’s not as diverse. In South Florida, you get the feel of very cosmopolitan, unique cities with people from all over the world, and that’s not always the case in the Panhandle. 

Also, while the cost of living can be lower than in other parts of the state, that’s very dependent on where you are. In the more touristy areas like Destin, housing can quickly get very unaffordable. There are much cheaper places to live in Florida than somewhere like Destin, so you have to be mindful of how much variation there can be in the pricing. 

In those tourist areas like Destin, there are also other areas where there’s a high cost of living. The food, for example, is almost always more expensive than in less touristy parts of the state. 

Speaking of tourists, the area gets millions of them. If you’re in a small town with a tiny population, but there’s an influx of tourists, it can put a severe strain on things and create traffic and other headaches. 

There isn’t a great road infrastructure because so much of the Panhandle is remote, and many of the communities were designed as fishing villages. You can expect that you’re going to face congestion on the roadways during peak tourist season. 

Finally, there is a threat of hurricanes persistently. The bridges can close to traffic depending on the winds, so you’ll have to think about how this threat might disrupt your life if you’re on the Panhandle. 

Even if you live a few miles inward, you can be impacted by hurricanes and weather issues.