Just about 30 miles from the Georgia border, Jacksonville, Florida, feels a little bit like it’s part of both states: The city’s got a Southern vibe you don’t necessarily find except in pockets of rural Florida — but it also sports a cultural flair found mainly in larger cities. And with its beautiful beaches, parks, pro sports, and burgeoning arts scene, Jax is attracting more and more people in search of the best of both worlds. Today, the metro population is just over 1.3 million, after a 1.3% jump nearly every year since 2019.
If you’re considering joining the mix with a move to Jax, you likely have a few questions: What are the safest neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL? What’s the best part of town for raising kids? Where do young professionals live?
We’ll get to all that. But first, let’s take a quick tour of some Jax facts:
- The cost of living in Jacksonville is 8% lower than the Florida average, thanks to crazy-high increases in South Florida and Tampa Bay, and 7% lower than the U.S. average. Factoring into those figures are things like housing (15% lower than the rest of Florida, 14% lower than the U.S.); utilities (3% and 1% lower); and healthcare (14% and 16% lower).
- Jacksonville residents average 36 years old compared to the rest of Florida, where 42 is the average age. In the U.S., 39 is the average.
- Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental U.S. by land mass, has more shoreline than any other U.S. city, and boasts a park system that’s the biggest in the nation. The city covers 747 square miles of Northeast Florida with 22 miles stretching along the beachfront and 1,100 miles of navigable rivers and creeks. Jax parks comprise 80,000 acres: seven state parks, two national parks, 400 city parks and gardens, a national preserve, and more. (And did we mention the beaches?)
|Did you know? Duval County and Jacksonville are essentially synonymous, since Jacksonville’s city limits encompass the entire county.|
- The arts and dining scenes are growing. Museums and galleries showcase local artists and national touring exhibitions in some of the best neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL. MOCA Jacksonville, for instance, is home to six galleries, including a permanent collection of 1,000 contemporary works. Foodies are finding heaven in Jax, where innovative chefs are gaining a nationwide reputation for places like Blue Bamboo, Town Hall, and Black Sheep.
Is Jacksonville, Florida, a safe place to live?
While Jacksonville covers a massive area and plenty of neighborhoods are quite safe, crime rates in the city are above average — mainly in the category of property crime. Jax scores an 8 on the NeighborhoodScout index, which means it’s safer than only 8% of cities in the U.S. Chances of being a victim of a crime in Jax are 1 in 146, versus 1 in 255 overall in the state of Florida. For comparison, here are a few other Florida cities’ NeighborhoodScout crime scores:
No matter where you live or travel, however, you should always use common sense safety measures.
What is the best area of Jacksonville, FL, to live in?
This is subjective, of course, depending on affordability, whether you have kids, what kind of neighborhood you prefer, and many other factors. That said, who can resist the Jacksonville lifestyle — with the opportunity to walk along miles of sugar-soft sands and swim in the deep blue Atlantic? The beaches are within easy reach from downtown (about a 20-minute drive) and even the far-flung ‘burbs aren’t too far. Here are our three faves:
Its boardwalk dance pavilions and amusement parks may be bygone treasures, but today’s Jax Beach has newfound charms: a fishing pier, plenty of hotels and inns for every budget, and restaurant options from barefoot-beachy dives to fine dining. Must-see: Casa Marina Hotel, the historic heart of the bustling beach scene since 1925 and an elegant destination for Sunday brunch — not to mention a marvelous place to stay any day of the week.
With a laid-back vibe and plenty of local flavor, Neptune Beach makes a terrific family vacation destination — and it’s also among the best neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL. Must-see: Pete’s Bar, an eighth-generation family business — the first bar to open in Duval County after Prohibition ended in 1933.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Only 20 minutes from downtown Jax proper, this tropical paradise feels like a different world. Take a guided kayak tour around the island, or bike, stroll, and bird-watch along four miles of trails. Must-see: Salt-washed branches and limbs on Boneyard Beach, where live oaks and cedar trees once towered along the shoreline.
What area of Jacksonville, FL, is the safest?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the statistically lower-crime neighborhoods in the Jax metro area — again, acknowledging that a 100% crime-free neighborhood likely doesn’t exist. Here’s a selection from NeighborhoodScout’s list of the safest neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL:
- Typical home value: $525,482
- Average rent: $1,649
- Good for: Outdoor enthusiasts, families, suburbanites
Lots of locally owned and indie businesses help keep this suburban neighborhood more free than usual from the sprawl that afflicts most ‘burbs. And with plenty of greenspace, it’s a great area for hiking, biking, and leisurely walking along the waterfront. At Mandarin Park, you’ll find riverfront trails and a boat ramp for day use, plus shuffleboard, pickleball, and several playgrounds. Public schools in the area get a B+ from Niche.
Like most of the safe neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL, the Eagle Bend area is convenient to the city center and to the local beaches, with homes varying in styles and price points — but trending toward the upscale. Animal lovers from all over the area enjoy day trips to the nearby Jacksonville Zoo, one of only a handful in the U.S. that features a wellness team.
Black Hammock Island
This seven-mile island surrounded by lush marshland is a slice of heaven for people who like their own space — and don’t mind having to travel to the mainland for necessities. Just 20 minutes from downtown Jax, Black Hammock is the site of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a 46,000-acre national park that once was home to several tribes of Native Americans. Fun fact: The second-oldest piece of pottery ever found in the U.S. — dated to 2500 BCE — was uncovered on Black Hammock Island.
Modest homes are the hallmark of Dinsmore, a suburban neighborhood about 10 miles northwest of downtown Jacksonville. Dinsmore Park and Community Center serves as the hub of the district, with ball fields and other recreational facilities, a health clinic, and several schools.
- Median sale price: $392,450
- Average rent: $1,933
- Good for: Singles, young families, boaters, fitness enthusiasts
This area offers homes at various price points, from modest, one-story, Florida-style designs to luxury estates. Situated in part along Julington Creek, Del Rio is about 25 minutes from downtown Jax and, in the other direction, the Atlantic Ocean. The Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve features miles of trails for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Boaters can put in at the former Clark’s Fish Camp site or the kayak launch near the Bartram Trail Shopping Center.
East of downtown Jax along the St. Johns River, Arlington is an affordable area for young families and retirees. The site was one of the first places visited by Europeans in the New World and, today, features several historical sites, including Fort Caroline — a replica of a 1600s-era fort — and the Timucuan Preserve Visitors Center.
Deerwood is a newer (early 2000s) affluent suburb with a bit of a city vibe, where renters outnumber homeowners by just over half. Resort-style complexes are the main draw, each complete with every high-end fitness facility you could want — golf courses, tennis courts, pools, and more. Families with young kids are happy here, too, with an A+ rating from Niche and plenty of playgrounds and parks for weekend recreation.
Just 10 minutes from downtown, Holly Oaks is home to young families, single professionals, and retirees alike. Like most northeast Florida suburbs, this area offers lots of opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors. The Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, for instance, has 120 acres of trails winding through 13 different ecosystems.
Where do the rich live in Jacksonville, FL?
If you’re looking for luxury, follow the data to this trio of neighborhoods — the most expensive in Jax:
The average home in this historic hood is priced at $872,670, which means it’s in the top 94% of all neighborhoods in Florida. One of the jewels of Avondale East is Five Points, a charming retail and dining district with an indie flair. The first “talkie” movie house was here: Today’s Sun-Ray Cinema opened in 1927 as the Riverside Theatre.
Next up is this exclusive neighborhood tucked on a peninsula along the Ortega River. The median home price is $870,677. The Florida Yacht Club has been a (private and pricey) social and sporting hub for many residents since 1876, with two marinas, a fitness center, 10 tennis courts, and the de rigueur croquet lawn.
Taking the No. 3 spot for wealthy residents, this upscale district is partly situated on the St. Johns River. The median home price is $740,585 — more costly than 81.5% of U.S. neighborhoods. One of many outdoor hotspots is Huguenot Memorial Park, with camping, beach access (you’ll need four-wheel drive, though!), and miles of trails to explore.
Thinking of renting in Jacksonville?
Rental homes and apartments abound in Jacksonville. And let’s face it: Sometimes the best way to find your perfect neighborhood in a new city is to rent first, buy later. Jacksonville has plenty of options for renting — but what to do with your belongings if you’re not quite sure where you’ll land? With PODS, you can store the bulk of your things in a local Storage Center while you explore your surroundings and determine which part of the city is right for you. When you’re ready, PODS will deliver your container right to your new home (in your perfect Jacksonville neighborhood). Then you can unload and unpack at your leisure.
Southeastern cities are booming — particularly for outdoor lovers. Check out the PODS Blog for the lowdown on living in Charleston; moving to Tampa; moving to Columbia, SC; and more.
Shannon Jacobs is a Tampa-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. She has lived in Atlanta, the Berkshires, and Nashville, but always returns to the warmth of Florida’s Gulf Coast.