What’s It Really Like Living In St. Augustine?

Are you considering moving to St. Augustine FL? Wondering if there are alligators? Do you have to worry about flooding, are there any good restaurants or nightlife? Today I am going to answer all of this and more in St Augustine Revealed.
As a Realtor, I get a lot of questions from people looking to move here. Some have never been here before and some have visited as tourists, either way they have lots of questions so we are covering it all.
Whether you have been a visitor or only heard about the “Nation’s Oldest City”, most people’s first impression is the picturesque downtown area, which includes historic districts and the iconic Spanish architecture that creates a  distinct skyline above the harbor.
On your first visit to St. Augustine you probably spent time wandering the boutiques of St George Street, learning about the long history of the Castillo De San Marco, and exploring the many spots for good food, strong drinks, and live music throughout the downtown area. Many folks who think of moving to St. Augustine idealize this charming part of the city and dream about living in one of the gorgeous vintage homes that make it so unique. I get it, I did too.  Many want to live there but 9 times out of 10 buyers aren’t moving downtown and there are a number of reasons why.

It is convenient for fun,  but inconvenient for chores…

Being downtown is great: you are close to restaurants, shops, and year-round events.  But did you know there isn’t a grocery store downtown?  Many people have the idea that living downtown means they can walk to everything like the market, pharmacy, or vet clinic but in actuality you would need to get in the car and driving over bridge drive out to US 1 or over to Anastasia Island to find markets and services. For some that is not a big deal, but for others who expect city-living, like you find in other metro areas it will be. If you are here for a visit and eating out every night you will love the endless options, but if you prefer to shop for fresh groceries on your walk home everyday you just can’t do that downtown.

What about visitors and Traffic

There has been major growth in the tourism industry of St. Augustine over the last 10 years. It is wonderful to welcome so many visitors from near and far to our beautiful town and bolster the local economy of artists, restaurateurs, and sightseeing guides. But this also congests the small streets – especially since the town layout has not changed in over 400 years!- and often leads to long lines and wait times at your favorite places.
During peak tourist seasons like spring break, summer vacation, and the Nights of Lights around the holidays, the traffic can get especially heavy and make a normally 5 minute drive in and out of the downtown area into a much longer ordeal.  If you are living downtown but need to get to work or an appointment during these times, you have to be prepared and patient.
The high demand of tourism downtown has also had an impact on the makeup of neighborhoods. An increase in investors have made many of the once affordable neighborhoods downtown like Lincolnville more expensive to buy in. Even the properties that need repair and renovation are out priced for many buyers, since “flippers” tend to snap them up for resale or to turn into a vacation rentals. While the city has been adapting to accommodate the growing short-term rentals around town, if you do live here you may see new faces in the place next door every few days, which may not give you the sense of community you are looking for.

Finally,  living within the City district

Which extends beyond the historic 10 City of St Augustine Map downtown to areas to the north, west and Anastasia Island –  you will be paying a higher property tax rate of 19 vs the county rates at 13. The municipality really does a great job of maintaining, updating, and celebrating the beauty of the town, and like any city you will pay more to be “central to where the action is.

So is it Worth it?
Some of the areas in historic downtown seem like a real drawback, but if you love the convenience of walking for your morning coffee or cruising the First Friday Art Walk, you can’t beat living here!
Like I said,  the city limit is larger than just the historic district and there are some wonderful neighborhoods to consider that are not in the thick of tourist central but are still good options for people looking for a more urban lifestyle. One in particular is North of the city, so check out this video if you’d like to take a tour.

“Most Common Questions For Folks Moving To Florida”

What is a flood zone and how does that impact living here?

A flood zone is designated by FEMA as the likelihood of a property being inundated by RISING water in a given year.  Technically, every house in Florida is in a flood zone.  It’s just a matter of whether it is in a low, moderate or high-risk flood zone. I actually did a video on flood zones so you should watch that next if you’d like to learn more.  The good news is there are plenty of places to live in St Augustine and St Johns county where you do not need to worry about coastal flooding but of course the closer you are to the coast, the higher the risk.

Keeping an eye on the weather…Are Hurricanes really a problem?

The answer is yes, but this particular area of Northeast Florida historically does not get hit with many. Some major storms were Hurricane Dora in 1964 and Hurricane Charley in 2004 but it wasn’t until 2016 (12 years later) when Hurricane Matthew hit the area wreaking havoc on our little city, followed by Irma in 2017 that caused major flooding.
Since then we’ve seen more Nor’easters than anything else but those pesky storms last for days and can cause flooding as well. Bottom line the coastal area is low lying and flooding is something the residents need to think about during hurricane season but like I said before there are plenty of places to live from add map of Jacksonville to Palm Coast FL Jax to the Palm Coast where flooding isn’t a concern but remember you will still need to make sure you are covered for wind damage because storms are not just about the water. So keeping that in mind…

One negative to living in Florida and being coastal, we have seen a spike in home insurance.

The state’s susceptibility to hurricanes, and a rising rate of insurance fraud have all contributed to the state currently costing homeowners almost twice as much for insurance as in other states. Governor DeSantis instituted a law that will make it harder to take insurers to court in hopes of bringing more private insurers back to Florida so there can be more competition and therefore options and hopefully more affordable ones but until then Floridians have seen an average of a 4% increase in their premiums in 2021, according to insurance agency Matic. Now I did do a video to help you save some money on your premium, you’ll find a link in the description. In any case, your insurance rates will be higher in Florida but you aren’t paying state income tax so it all balances out somewhere.

Are there really Alligators roaming around Florida?

Yes, there are alligators here, but you probably won’t see one strolling down the road.  Florida has a healthy and stable alligator population with about 1.3 million alligators. They inhabit all wild areas of Florida that can support them, such as rivers, swamps and lakes, so maybe you want to stick to the ocean for swimming. There’s a good chance that “if there is water, there are gators”!
But if you’re curious about them,  you can see them SAFELY up close at the Alligator Farm on Anastasia Island! It is a great place to visit with the whole family and is also home to other Floridian wildlife and even more exotic animals from around the world.

Another key feature of our little city that people ask about: Is there any culture and art?

YES! Many people are moving to St Augustine from vibrant areas with theater, dining, and the arts so they are seeking the same thing here  – Don’t worry we have you covered. If you love food, we have an array of restaurants in St Augustine with different types of cuisine such as Peruvian to Mediterranean, Sushi, Mexican, you name it we likely have it.
And of course there is plenty of great, fresh seafood and especially Oysters!  Which is a real southern tradition. In the Winter months it is oyster-roasting time! Oyster roasts are a long-held Southern tradition that is said to originate from the Native American tradition of cooking oysters and other shellfish over an open fire.  The locals even do an Oyster roast on Thanksgiving –  and I think any chance they can get. Now I’m not a fan of Oysters but if you are there are a number of places to go locally or you can harvest your own in designated shorelines.
As for fine arts, there are a number of galleries downtown and in the surrounding area. One of my favorite things to do is First Friday Art Walk. This event takes place on the first Friday of every month where galleries open from 5 to 9, serve wine and treats, invite locals and visitors to peruse the art and have delightful conversation. It’s a fun night and definitely worth checking out. There are also many opportunities for getting creative yourself, from the annual Florida Birding Photo Festival to painting with a twist!

Music – this is one thing St Augustine does VERY well.

You can find live music everywhere. Dozens of bars and restaurants throughout downtown feature musical guests, and you can catch live shows and festivals at the Colonial Oak Park or – my favorite –  The Amphitheater. You definitely do not have to go far to find live music in St Augustine.

Now let’s reveal the cost of Living… Is it expensive to live in St. Augustine?

People are moving to St Johns County in droves from all over the country.  These folks may be relocating because they can work remotely or are enjoying their retirement years. Others are moving into the area as north east Florida continues to grow for businesses and investments. With this growing population and even bigger popularity as a vacation destination, St. Augustine real estate has seen a pretty steep increase in value over the past 5 years. However, coming from other states it is still much more affordable to buy and live here. Essentials like groceries, gas, and medical care are all reasonable but with the rising cost of real estate, many our locals and service industry workers find it hard to find good housing. But here in Florida you are not paying state income tax, so if you do buy a home here it is a MAJOR savings compared to other states!

What about schools in St Augustine?

Here in St.Johns County we can proudly say we have some of the best A rated schools in Florida.  Some of the most sought-after districts in the state can be found in the NE and NW portion of the county.  Creekside, Ponte Vedra, and Bartram are among the Top 3 in the  county so if schools are important for you as a home buyer, St Johns County is a good place to look for a home.  The iconic campus of Flagler College has also long been a draw for liberal arts students, and many alumni move on to becoming thriving business owners and long time residents of St. Augustine.

This all sounds good… but  what’s the ~vibe~ like in St Augustine FL?

St Augustine has long been known as a laid back beach town but in recent years it has grown. With the new restaurants and new construction we have seen a quiet little beach town become bustling year round but you can still find that laid back vibe.
The best thing about St Augustine is there are a lot of options for people moving here. Whether you are retired, a golfer, a surfer or a foodie.  There are communities throughout the county that will fit your needs so if you are considering a move here, watch this video right here it’ll tell you a bit more about the different areas in St Johns County. You can also check out my free relocation guide below.
Download my free RELOCATION GUIDE:
I hope this gave you some insight into the St Augustine area, reach out with any questions. I’m always happy to help!
Thank you so much!
About the Author
Kim Devlin
Kim Devlin is Your St Augustine Realtor. A Relocation Specialist serving Northeast Florida, St Johns County and Flagler County. She enjoys sharing real estate tips and local insight on communities and living in St Augustine Florida. Tune in weekly and be sure to subscribe to her monthly newsletter.