Moving to Sarasota Florida—What You Need to Know!
With no state income tax, warm sunny weather, a fun and lively arts culture, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it’s easy to see why so many people are relocating to Sarasota, Florida.
Despite all this city offers, it’s surprising that so many don’t know about Sarasota’s early history.
Who Founded Sarasota?
Before pioneers discovered Sarasota, it was a Native American fishing and trading post. Arriving in the 1840s, William H Whitaker established the first permanent settlement in Sarasota, eventually owning close to 200 acres of land. As the original founders of Sarasota, William and his wife Mary Jane had 10 children, and raised eight to adulthood (two died before reaching adulthood) and many of their descendants still live in Sarasota today.
Whitaker was a fisherman, but also raised cattle, and cultivated a citrus orchard. Though the original Whitaker home was burned to the ground during the Seminole War, the Whitaker Family Cemetery still stands as a reminder of the first pioneer family of Sarasota.
Where does Sarasota get its name? No one really knows for sure, but numerous historic accounts credit the name Sarasota to a 1700s map, which originally was recorded as “ZaraZote” or “Sarazota” in the area that is now Sarasota and Bradenton. Over time, the city evolved into what’s now known as Sarasota,
Nicknamed the “Circus City,” Sarasota was home to the winter headquarters of the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1920s. In fact, the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning 1951 movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth” was filmed in Sarasota. Nik Wallenda, celebrity acrobat and daredevil high-wire performer was born and raised in Sarasota and comes from a family of circus legends. The Venetian Gothic style Ca’ d’Zan mansion, former home of John Ringling and his wife Mable, is one of Sarasota’s top tourist attractions. The mansion and The Ringling Museum host performances, exhibitions, lectures and talks, and family programs year-round.
Celebrities that Call Sarasota Home
Aside from Nik Wallenda, many other celebrities call this region home as well. Stephen King’s winter home is in Sarasota County, Hall of Famer, former NBA coach, and ESPN broadcaster, Dick Vitale lives in Lakewood Ranch. Added to that list is legendary AC DC singer Brian Johnson as well as talk show host Jerry Springer—who both live on Bird Key. Also, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry resides part-time on Longboat Key, among many others.
Aside from its unique history and pockets that still have an old Florida feel, Sarasota offers endless activities and amenities for all ages including kayaking and boating, golf, shopping, and a large variety of dining options. The selection of white sand beaches are hard to beat anywhere in the United States.
Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach has been named #1 Beach by TripAdvisor for 2015, 2017, 2020, and 2021. Beach expert Dr. Beach has also named Sarasota as #1 Beach in America for 2011, and 2017. Siesta Beach was also named as #11 Beach in the World for 2020 and is continuously recognized as one of the top 15 beaches in the world.
What you Should Know Before Moving to Sarasota
Many people decide to move to Sarasota after vacationing here. Because it’s regularly selected as a “best place to live” in nationwide publications, Sarasota often wins out among other top cities in the country, and even in Florida.
Still, it’s important that you have the information you need before taking the plunge. Many factors are involved including schools, neighborhoods, weather, amenities, whether you’ll be in a flood zone (if you’re buying a home), employment, proximity to hospitals and the interstate, etc.
If you’re purchasing a home, it’s also important to find a real estate agent you trust to help you find the best neighborhood and home that suits you and your family. Sunshine Movers works with experienced and vetted real estate agents who are trusted in the community, and we’re happy to recommend one to you.
Should I move to Sarasota?
It depends on what you’re looking for in a city. Are you moving from out of state, or within the state of Florida? Do you enjoy warm weather, endless sunshine, and living near the coast? Are you okay with sharing your city of residence with hundreds of thousands of snowbirds that flock in from out-of-state seasonally every year? Can you deal with the heavy rain downpours of the summer if it means your lawn will always be green?
If you’ve only been here for a few weeks at a time on vacation, it's hard to know what it’s really like living here. That’s why we created this Sarasota relocation guide to help you make your moving decision easier.
Depending on where you’re planning to move from, it’s important that you know what to expect before living in this one-of-a-kind city that’s growing at a rapid pace.
Living in Sarasota—What’s it Really Like?
Sarasota offers a diverse variety of neighborhoods and communities, each with its own feel. Waterfront areas are very different from what you’d find in Central Sarasota, and the further east you go, the more rural it gets. It all depends on what you’re looking for!
What Are the Pros and Cons of Living in Sarasota?
Pros: Endless sunshine, a vibrant arts community, great restaurants, a well-maintained downtown, excellent schools, tons of unique shopping areas like St. Armands Circle, UTC Mall, and downtown boutique shops, and close to many other thriving Florida cities, among many others!
Cons: Because Sarasota has so many pros—it attracts a lot of people, so it can be tough to find beach parking during the mild winter season, and the roads have more traffic during snowbird season (November through the Easter holiday). Summers get pretty hot and are stormy for part of the day,
Another pro to consider about living in Sarasota? Because it's not directly on the Gulf Coast, it’s a lot less likely to get a head-on hit from a hurricane than many other Florida coastal cities. Many Sarasota locals credit an old legend of a Native American maiden blessing the city for the fact that the city always seems to be spared from major hurricane hits.
Is Sarasota a Good Place to Live?
Niche.com rates Sarasota with an A grade overall. This factors in public schools, family-friendliness, crime, nightlife, and diversity.
Also according to Niche.com—Sarasota ranks #72 of Best Places to Retire in Florida, #82 of 656 for Places with the Best Public Schools in Florida, and #185 of 1,297 of Best Places for Young Professionals in Florida.
Other publications like US News & World Report rank Sarasota #9 in Best Places to Live and #11 in Best Places to retire. The key factors listed are the city’s unique vibe that stands out over other Florida cities. These include Sarasota’s arts culture and appreciation, a flourishing dining scene that includes rooftop bars and beachside seafood restaurants, as well as plenty of places to stroll.
What is it Like Living in Sarasota?
Recent Sarasota reviews on Niche.com mention that they love this city because “the atmosphere of Sarasota is wonderful. I’ve lived here for almost 3 years and I still find new things to do all the time.”
Other Sarasota reviews say “Great quality of life and good cost of living. City is beautiful, well maintained, safe, and enjoyable.”
Though some reviews complain about the traffic during snowbird season, and the summer humidity, overall it seems that most are happy with their decision to move to Sarasota.
So Why Live in Sarasota, Florida?
Residents enjoy Siesta Key Village, downtown Sarasota, and St. Armands Circle for walking, dining, and shopping. Best of all, the beach is just a short walk from each of these locations.
Many residents enjoy the “vacation” feel they get living in Sarasota year-round. With regular events, a massive and wildly-popular farmer’s market downtown on Saturdays, the recently extended Legacy Trail, and lots of options for golfing, it’s easy to forget you’re not on vacation—but just enjoying your place of residence.
Sarasota Wildlife: Where to See it
Sarasota residents also appreciate that there’s a strong focus on conservation with fun places that preserve and protect endangered animals and habitats like Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary.
For those who love to walk and explore parks and nature trails, Sarasota also offers plenty of options. You can even take visiting friends and family to one of the largest state parks in Florida, Myakka River State Park. It’s just a short drive outside the city of Sarasota, and is a haven for alligators.
What’s the Cost of Living in Sarasota?
According to the US Census Bureau, the median value of owner occupied housing units in the city of Sarasota (from 2017 to 2021) was $321,100, and median gross rent for the same time period was $1,290. Sarasota’s population as of July 2021 was at 54,764.
Cost of Living in Sarasota, Florida 2022
Many people moving here from out-of-state appreciate that Sarasota is usually less expensive overall than a lot of areas. Is it expensive to live in Sarasota? A good way to compare is to look at average salaries for the city you plan to move from and contrast that with the average salary in Sarasota.
One thing to be aware of—because Florida is a hurricane prone state, homeowners insurance is usually more expensive. It helps to have an experienced insurance agent on your side when you move here. We work with vetted insurance agencies, and are happy to connect you with one.
Still, with no state income tax, many new residents find it a little easier if the cost of living in some areas are more expensive than what they were used to while living outside Florida.
Most residents feel Sarasota is an affordable place to live, though the cost of living can often vary between 6 to 11% higher than other cities throughout the U.S. The biggest area that impacts cost of living is housing, due to the influx of people and the demand for housing in such a sought after region.
Best Neighborhoods in Sarasota
What’s the best neighborhood in Sarasota? That’s impossible to say, but we can tell you there are a lot of great ones—each with its own personality and vibe.
Choosing the best neighborhood for you and your family depends on a lot of factors including whether you have children and need top-rated schools and more family-friendly areas, if you’d like to live near the beach, or whether you’d prefer a quiet and more secluded area away from busy streets and traffic.
If you're looking at living in or near Downtown Sarasota, some of the most popular neighborhoods are:
- Rosemary District
- McClellan Park
- Arlington Park
- Gillespie Park
- Laurel Park
- Southside Village
- Indian Beach/Sapphire shores
Living in Palmer Ranch, Sarasota also has a lot of appeal for newcomers. It’s the city’s largest master-planned community and includes more than 90 neighborhoods over 10,000 acres with many amenities for its 20,000+ residents. Palmer Ranch includes single family homes, condos, and villas and is conveniently located 10-15 minutes from local beaches, close to 1-75 and Tamiami Trail, dining, and restaurants. This neighborhood attracts snowbirds, full-time retired residents, as well as families. There are also three well-known golf courses—Prestancia, Stoneybrook Golf and Country Club, and The Oaks Club.
If you’re trying to decide where to live in Sarasota, some of the best places to live are in Sarasota County, and according to Niche.com include:
- South Sarasota
- South Gate Ridge
- Siesta Key
Housing in Sarasota
Whether you’re planning to rent or buy, there are plenty of options depending on what you’re looking for. Deciding on the neighborhood and area you’d like to live within Sarasota will help you narrow down your options. It’s also helpful to think about your family’s needs, and the type of home that would work the best for you.
Some good questions to ask yourself (and your family) when you’re planning a move to Sarasota are:
- Do we want to live near the beach?
- Is it important to have our own pool, or do we prefer a community pool, or no pool at all?
- Do we want to live in a neighborhood that has walking trails and sidewalks?
- Do we need a garage?
- How many bedrooms will we need?
- Will we need a guest bedroom?
- Should we have a fully-fenced yard?
- How much privacy will we want?
- How much are we willing to pay for rent or a mortgage, and does this match up with the neighborhoods we’re considering?
Is Sarasota a Safe Place to Live?
Most people living in Sarasota feel it’s a safe place to live. Still, it’s important to check crime rates for different regions of the city. Some helpful resources are neighborhoodscout.com and crimemapping.com. Keep in mind, however, that crime happens everywhere—and taking a closer look can make things appear as if it’s more common than it is. The largest amount of recorded crimes that happen in Sarasota are theft, so it’s always a good idea to safeguard your belongings.
People often leave their cars unlocked or make themselves vulnerable to opportunistic crimes by walking in dark areas at night, not being aware of their surroundings, and not protecting their belongings. Simple things like making sure your home is bright and well-lit, installing a security system, and having a dog to alert you can help to prevent break-ins. Getting to know your neighbors well and looking out for each other is also a great way to protect yourself.
It also helps to talk to others who have moved to Sarasota recently. Ask them which areas of the city feel the safest and if they feel crime is low where they live.
Senior Living in Sarasota, Florida
Travel + Leisure Magazine recently named Sarasota one of the best places to retire in the U.S. The criteria they follow for choosing an area is based on quality of health care, crime rates, air quality, and how affordable homes are, among other conditions.
So why is retirement living in Sarasota better than other cities in Florida and throughout the United States? It’s hard to beat the combination of one-of-a-kind experiences Sarasota has to offer, along with its outstanding liveability. Retirees have endless options for boating, golfing, shopping, dining, fishing, parks, beaches, and water sports. There’s also plenty of entertainment (for all ages) with The Sarasota Opera House, Sarasota Ballet, Florida Studio Theater, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Players Centre for Performing Arts, Asolo Repertory Theatre, and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. That’s a lot of theaters in one city!
The Ca’d’Zan mansion, as mentioned above, the stunning and unique, Venetian Gothic designed mansion, the former home of John and Mable Ringling, is situated on Sarasota Bay and attracts many visitors and residents annually. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, housing the history of the circus origins in Sarasota is a popular draw for many retirees as well. Sarasota Art Museum houses classes, tours, and exhibitions that seniors can get involved in. Most of the museums, theaters, and Sarasota attractions offer volunteer opportunities as well.
Sarasota is also less congested and commercialized than a lot of other Florida cities, but manages to still have a small-town feel.
How is Senior Living in Sarasota?
Sarasota 55 and over communities have so much to choose from! Different from independent living communities, 55+ retirement communities are age-restricted and don’t provide medical, meal, or hospitality services. Many seniors moving to Sarasota are empty-nesters coming in from outside Florida. This age group is still very active but eager to leave their colder Northern climate for warm and sunny Sarasota living.
On top of many advantages, a big bonus 55 and over communities offer are more private, quiet, and peaceful neighborhoods. Because it’s a more mature population, residents usually aren’t known for being loud, or for wild parties. This is a big part of the draw to these areas.
Retirement living in Sarasota in 55 and over communities usually include gated neighborhoods, and some may even have a pool, tennis court, a restaurant, a clubhouse with regularly hosted events, fitness center, and a golf course (or two) for residents. Depending on how active you are, you can find a place that best matches your lifestyle.
The best way to find your ideal 55+ community is to check listings and ratings online, as well as tour the communities you’re most interested in. You can select the options you’re looking for including price range, neighborhood size, and whether it’s an established or new construction community.
According to Seniorly.com, Some of the most popular and best-rated active 55+ communities are: Lakeridge Falls, Esplanade by Siesta Key, Siesta Harbor, and Cobblestone on Palmer Ranch, among others.
Aside from helping snowbirds moving in from outside Florida, Sunshine Movers often helps Sarasota 55 and over couples who are moving out of their large homes and downsizing into a smaller home in a retirement community. Want to know More? Call us for a quote today at 941-447-1719!
Is it Better to Live in Sarasota or Bradenton?
Sarasota and Bradenton have a slightly different feel as well as culture. That’s why we recommend where you come for a visit, as well as look at pros vs cons of living in either city after you’ve visited.
Living in Sarasota vs Bradenton, Florida
Niche.com rates Bradenton as a B+ (which isn’t too shabby for a city!) vs Sarasota as an A.
Pros of Living in Bradenton:
- Cost of living is a little lower with median gross rent (for 2017 to 2021) at $1,228, according to the U.S. Census.
- Close to both Bradenton and Sarasota beaches, as well as a short drive to St. Petersburg, and Clearwater beaches and downtown areas as well as the city of Tampa.
- Easy access to Coquina Beach, Anna Maria Island, and Longboat Key resorts and beaches.
- Bradenton is family-friendly and similar to Sarasota, has many outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and walking in nature.
- Home of the highly-rated, largest natural history museum on the Florida Gulf Coast, The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
- Village of the Arts, close to downtown Bradenton, is a unique and eclectic shopping area that includes live music, restaurants, and art studios in restored cottages from the 1920s to 1930s.
- Above average-rated public schools.
Cons of Living in Bradenton:
- Some people feel the commute takes a little longer than Sarasota, but not by much.
- The downtown area in Sarasota has more restaurants, coffee shops, and walking areas.
- Depending on which region of the city you look at, the crime rate can be higher.
- There are more top-rated public schools in Sarasota, though Sarasota schools are tough to compete against, as they are nationally recognized.
Still undecided on whether to live in Sarasota or Bradenton? We suggest staying in a hotel or Airbnb that’s between the two cities for at least a week, so you can get a feel for both. Check out the downtown areas, neighborhoods, beaches, and anything else you’re interested in that each city has to offer. Once you’ve done this, your decision should be a lot easier.
Cities Near Sarasota, Florida
Located in the Tampa Bay Area, and only about an hour south of Tampa—Sarasota is within a short driving distance of many other popular cities and suburbs near the Gulf Coast. That’s a big part of the draw for many people relocating to Sarasota—they love the idea of being near so many other popular cities. It never gets boring!
Venice—Just a 20 to 30 minute drive south from Sarasota, this city also includes what’s known as “Venice Island” accessed by bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway. Named after the famous Italian city of Venice—at one time, it was a requirement that buildings in Venice were designed and constructed in Northern Italian Renaissance style. Residents and visitors appreciate the attractive and romantic look this Italian influence has given the city.
Venice is also known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” and draws many visitors to beaches near the Venice Jetty—Nokomis Beach on Casey Key, Caspersen Beach, and Manasota Key. Locals also report that the Venice Fishing Pier is a favorite spot for finding shark teeth.
Lakewood Ranch—Located within Sarasota County, Lakewood Ranch is conveniently accessed from 1-75 heading north from Sarasota. Recognized as one of the top-selling master-planned communities in the nation, and usually ranked in the number one or number two spot every year nationally—this area continues to draw young families and retirees alike. There’s something for everyone, and Lakewood Ranch is one of the most popular towns near Sarasota.
Bradenton—As mentioned above, Bradenton is a popular area with great beaches and schools and is only minutes from Sarasota. Many people who live in Bradenton work in Sarasota, and vice versa. Though it may not have the cultural and arts institutions, as well as the hustle and bustle of downtown Sarasota—the beaches and proximity to Anna Maria Island will make you feel like you never want to leave. It’s not hard to understand why Bradenton is considered one of the best places to live around Sarasota.
Longboat Key—Both a town and a key, it’s known for 11 miles of white sand beaches, upscale golf courses and resorts, as well as a very low crime rate. Longboat Key has a more laid back and exclusive vibe than the other keys near Sarasota, such as Lido Key and Siesta Key. It connects to Coquina Beach in Manatee County and Lido Key in Sarasota County. A barrier island, it’s located south of Anna Maria Island.
North Port—Often described as an up-and-coming community, North Port is growing rapidly, and has one of the youngest demographics in Florida. Located about an hour south of Sarasota, it’s further inland, yet only about 20 minutes from beaches in Englewood. Residents describe North Port as “a clean and quiet community” with great schools.
Englewood—Recognized for its beaches and peaceful community, Englewood is appropriately described as “a quiet beach town on the Gulf Coast'' by Florida BackRoads Travel. Not far from North Port, Englewood is located in Sarasota County and named by Niche.com as #28 in Best Places to Retire in America. Niche.com also rates Englewood as an A- overall for livability. A little more affordable, and less busy than nearby cities—Englewood is considered one of the best small towns near Sarasota.
Palmetto—Located in Manatee County, and minutes from Bradenton, it’s just a 20-30 minute drive to Bradenton Beach and Sarasota and only 45 minutes to Tampa. Because it’s closer to larger cities like Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater—Palmetto is more densely populated. Many residents appreciate the easy access to Ellenton Premium Outlet Mall with over 9,000 4.4 star average Google reviews. Palmetto’s Historic District is nationally recognized and includes Palmetto Historical Park with museums and historic buildings. Some of these include the 1914 Carnegie Library, one of the first libraries built in South Florida with a $10,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie, and the 1917 James Dixon House, among many other priceless historic treasures.
St. Petersburg—Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, St. Petersburg is a popular and densely populated “resort city” that also has a strong arts culture, a huge variety of beautiful restaurants overlooking the water, and endless options for nightclubs, bars, and breweries. Like Sarasota, the beaches in the St. Pete/Clearwater area are famous and there are many to choose from. When heading into St. Petersburg on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, it’s not uncommon to see kiteboarders taking advantage of beautiful weather and windy days.
Clearwater—Close to St. Petersburg and in the Tampa Bay area, Clearwater is home to the famous Clearwater Beach, a contender for the number one spot nationally, and worldwide—along with Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Sarasota. Like St. Petersburg, there are many hotels and restaurants, as well as nightlife. This city is also home to Clearwater Marine Aquarium where injured dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine life are rehabilitated and released back into the Gulf.
Tampa—If you’re looking to get to the bustling and busy city of Tampa, it’s about an hour’s drive from Sarasota via 1-75. Tampa is home to a major business center, with plenty of skyscrapers, museums, restaurants, as well as the University of Tampa and University of South Florida. Busch Gardens is another popular attraction, with amusement park rides and events year-round. Historic Ybor City, with its converted cigar factories, charms many visitors and residents regularly, both day and night.
Now that you know about the many best places to live around Sarasota, it’s time to come for a visit and see which area you like best.
Come and See What Sarasota Has to Offer
It’s not hard to see why Sarasota attracts so many new residents every year. With a unique history, culture, plenty of ways to enjoy the endless sunshine, along with frequent visits to take advantage of all that surrounding cities have to offer—Sarasota is a true gem.
Are you planning a move to Sarasota?
Sunshine Movers is known in this city as a top-rated and trusted mover, and we’re here to help you with your Sarasota relocation.
Author: Blake Fitzpatrick
When I started Sunshine Movers, I only had one truck and one employee—me. Today, I’m the owner of one of the highest rated moving companies in the Tampa Bay area. I credit my amazing wife, a lot of hard work, and a committed team of outstanding employees for the success of Sunshine Movers.