15 Pros and Cons of Living in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach, FL is a suburb of Jacksonville, located on the very northeast corner of the state, bordering Georiga. 

The incorporated town of Fernandina Beach is just 16 square miles in size with a population of 11K residents. However, when most folks talk about living in “Fernandina Beach” they are referring to the much larger “Fernandina Beach, 32034” zip code, which is 56 square miles in size with a population of 37K residents. This includes the unincorporated towns of O’Neil, Nassauville, Amelia City, American Beach, and Franklinton. This article will be covering the entire 32034 zip code.

Is Fernandina Beach, Florida a Good Place to Live?

Yes, the Fernandina Beach area is a good place to live. It has grown a lot over the last decade and Nassau County continues to encourage more and more development. 

The area has everything that makes Florida a great place to retire: great weather, beaches, parks, and golf. Plus, Fernandina Beach has the added bonus of being so close to Jacksonville.

Of course, no place is perfect, and the Fernandina Beach area has some of the downsides of a Florida beach town: expensive cost of living, bad traffic, and the ever-present risk of being obliterated by a hurricane.

But all-in-all, Fernandina Beach should be a serious option for anyone wishing to move to a pricey town in Florida.

10 Benefits of Living in Fernandina Beach, FL: Pros

A photo of the ruins of Fort Clinch. Brick and stone foundations can be seen on the green grass. There are 4 replica cannons pointing out to the blue water.

Let’s first look at why 37K residents choose to call Fernandina Beach home.

1. Good Retirement Communities

Fernandina Beach is open to residents of all ages, but there is a large population of seniors. The median age for the area is 50 years old and the area’s largest age group is between 65 and 74-years old.

Several top-rated assisted living facilities inside town limits are:

  • Fernandina Beach Rehab and Nursing Center
  • Savannah Grand of Amelia Island
  • The Lakeside at Amelia Island
  • The Janes Adams House (Family Extended Care of Amelia Island)

Several 55+ communities outside town limits include:

  • Amelia Island Plantation
  • North Hampton
  • Oyster Bay Harbour
  • Osprey Village

2. Great Weather

The Fernandina Beach area experiences 221 days of sunshine every year, but it also gets some rain on 110 days of the year. It is the perfect combination of sun and rain to keep the area lush with green. Summers do get hot and humid with highs in the 90s, but the winters are a wonderful and dry 60-70 degrees.

3. Plenty of Water and Beaches

A photo of a sunset over a beach. A good amount of white sand, a few clumps of grass, and a bright orange/pink sunset

The Fernandina Beach area has 13-miles of beach, much of which is accessible to the public simply by parking off the main road (A1A). 

Guarded beaches with amenities can be found at:

  • Main Beach Park
  • Seaside Park
  • Peters Point
  • American Beach

Folks looking for other water activities away from the ocean will have plenty of options. Fernandina Beach offers excellent kayaking opportunities on the Amelia River, Cumberland Sound, Lofton Creek, Egans Creek, and more. Get an up-close view of the birds and wildlife along these protected shores. 

The rivers, inlets, and sounds surrounding the Fernandina Beach area offer great fishing opportunities for redfish, sea trout, and flounders. Walk to the jetties of Fort Clinch State Park and enjoy some surf fishing for flounder, sheepshead, and speckled trout. At the south end of the island is a 1-mile long fishing bridge that spans the Nassau Sound, giving you a chance to catch whiting, jack, drum, and tarpon. You can also hop on a boat and do some deep-sea fishing for wahoo, marlin, tuna, amberjack, and shark.

4. Plenty of Parks

If you prefer your recreational activities to be on dry land, the Fernandina Beach area is surrounded by natural resources and protected lands. 

Great hiking spots include Fort Clinch Trail, Egans Creek Greenway, The Sea Islands, Magnolia Nature Trail, and more. Be careful where you walk, because parts of the area are known to have the largest population of rattlesnakes in the country. Enjoy!

Just a short kayak paddle or ferry ride from Fernandina Beach is Cumberland Island, home of the 10K-acre Cumberland Island National Seashore. This national park has the largest stretch of undeveloped coastline in America. The island is accessible only by boat, no motorized vehicles are allowed in the park, and the National Park Service allows only 300 visitors per day on the island. 

Finally, the Fernandina Beach area is just a short drive from the city of Jacksonville, which has the largest urban park system in the country with 80K acres across 262 parks.

5. Plenty of Golf

The Fernandina Beach area is home to several golf courses. The city operates the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Club. This public golf course features 27 holes of decent golfing, at good prices. Folks looking for a more luxurious golf outing can try the Arnold Pamer-designed championship course at The Golf Club at North Hampton, considered one of the best courses in Florida.

6. Close to Jacksonville Jobs

A photo of downtown Jacksonville. There is a river and iron bridge in the front of the picture. Many tall buildings can be seen in the back.

Downtown Fernandina Beach is only 45 minutes from downtown Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida. This provides Fernandina Beach residents access to decent jobs in industries like health, banking, transportation, tourism, and more. Jacksonville is also home to a number of military bases, giving the city the third-largest military presence in the country. 

The close proximity to Jacksonville jobs is likely the reason Fernandina Beach residents enjoy an above-average income ($41K FB individual versus $31K US, and $68K FB family versus $57K US)

Beyond just jobs, Fernandina Beach residents can also travel to Jacksonville to enjoy its art scene, major sporting events, concerts, restaurants, international airport, and much more.

7. Good Hospitals

Given the aged population of the area, it should be no surprise that Fernandina Beach has invested in its health care infrastructure. Inside the town limits is the Baptist Medical Center Nassau, which has ranked well in patient safety.

Residents can make the 45-minute drive into Jacksonville and have access to several top-ranked major hospitals, including:

  • Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, ranked #1 hospital in Florida, and #30 in the country. 
  • Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, ranked in the Top 95% in Florida
  • UF Health Jacksonville, ranked in the Top 95% in Florida

8. Nice Downtown Area

The Downtown area of Fernandina Beach is a great place to explore; just make sure you bring your credit card because there will be a ton of things to buy.

Downtown has over 90 locally-owned restaurants to meet every taste and budget. It also has over 100 locally-owned shops selling art, clothing, and every other fine product imaginable.

Walking the downtown area gives you a glimpse into history. The 50-block historic district has over 400 homes, churches, and businesses on the National Register of Historic Places. You can visit lighthouses, hotels, bars, government buildings, and more, all dating back to the 1800s.

9. Schools are Decent

There are 16 public schools in the Fernandina Beach area, half of which receive an A rating, and the other half a respectable B rating. Students score slightly above national averages on test scores.

10. Crime is Below Average

A photo of a beach. Sand and large rocks in the front, blue water in the back

Crime rates in the Fernandina Beach area are below national averages. The area is safer than 46% of cities of similar sizes, twice as safe as Jacksonville, and twice as safe as the Florida average.

5 Drawbacks of Living in Fernandina Beach, FL: Cons

Next, we’ll consider if there is anything worrisome about the Fernandina Beach area that may make you re-think moving there.

11. Cost of Living/Housing

The Fernandina Beach area is expensive to live in. The overall cost of living is 21% higher than the national average, driven mostly by the cost of housing being 59% higher. The median house price in Fernandina Beach is $439K versus the US median of $294K.

This high cost of living is offset a bit by the higher than average salaries of the Jacksonville area. An individual in FB makes $41K versus the $31K US average, and a FB family brings in $68K versus $57K US.

12. Jacksonville Traffic is Bad

Traffic statistics place Jacksonville as #40 on the list of America’s cities with the worst traffic. However, driver ratings place Jacksonville as the second-worst city to drive in, and one reporter called the city a “gridlocked hellhole”.  An analysis of vehicle insurance incidents shows Jacksonville as being the worst city in Florida for accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations.

Fernandina Beach, itself, is no stranger to a little bad traffic with the downtown area getting congested on holiday weekends. Also, residents commuting to Jacksonville may find the Route 200 stretch from Fernandina Beach to I95 to be problematic. The state continues to invest in long-term improvements to Route 200, but the constant construction only adds to the traffic pain.

13. Industry Sometimes Stinks

Overall, the Fernandina Beach area is beautiful in its natural and human designs. However, future residents should be aware that industry does exist in the area. In the Northwest of Fernandina Beach are the large paper/pulp/polymer factories owned by Rayonier and WestRock. These have been known to produce a sulfur smell, which has improved over the last few years and is often blown away from town by the ocean winds. 

About 20-miles away are the:

  • Jacksonville Northside coal power plant 
  • Jacksonville International Airport
  • Mayport Naval Station
  • The traffic of I95/I295

All of these are capable of producing some level of noise and air pollution.

These industrial factors likely will not be a deal-breaker for folks in love with the Pros of Fernandina Beach, but potential residents should be aware that they are moving to a suburb of the largest city in Florida, with the 3rd largest military presence in the country, so Fernandina Beach may not give a perfect small-town feeling. 

14. Hurricane Risk

A satellite photo of large hurricane. We see the curvature of the earth, some stars, and a large white cloud takes up most of the photo

Fernandina Beach sits on a barrier island. A barrier island’s natural purpose is to absorb the energy of ocean storm waves and winds, thus protecting the coastal bays and wetlands that lie to the west of the island. Potential residents of Fernandina Beach should remind themselves that their home will be sitting on a barrier island, designed by nature to absorb the pummeling energy of major storms.

Real estate companies often advertise Fernandina Beach as one of the least likely locations in Florida to take a direct hit from a hurricane. It is indeed true that the area has only seen three hurricanes in the last 100 years (‘28, ‘64, ‘79). 

However, data shows Fernandina Beach got hit with 9 hurricanes during the late 1800s. The worst was a large Category 3 storm in 1898 that caused a 4-foot storm surge, “inundating Fernandina Beach”, covering Fort Clinch with 8 feet of water, and causing $500K in damage (equivalent to $16MM in today’s money). 

The Fernandina Beach government classifies their island as a Category 1 Evacation Zone; this means that any hurricane, regardless of size, that is forecasted to hit near Fernandina Beach may trigger a mandatory evacuation of the island. The island has had three mandatory evacuations over the last few years (’16, ’17, ’19). Residents of Fernandina Beach need to accept the stress involved with mandatory evacuations occurring every few years. 

Residents should also be aware of the storm surge flood maps. A Category 3 storm would bring enough storm surge to cover a large portion of the island with water, as it did in 1898. A Category 5 storm could cover nearly the entire island with water.

As the climate continues to warm, hurricanes are becoming stronger and more common, and the risk to Fernandina Beach will continue to grow.

15. Climate Change Risk

Real estate companies also like to advertise Fernandina Beach as having an elevation of 25 feet above sea level. This is true, but only for a portion of land on the northern end of the island. A lot of the island is below, at, or just slightly above sea-level.

Should sea levels continue to rise, certainly the homes on the shoreline and Route A1A will be at risk. And according to sea level flood maps, under a worst-case scenario, Amelia Island may lose about one-half of a mile of land on each of its four sides.

Related: Florida Cities Least Impacted by Hurricanes

Is Fernandina Beach Safe to Live?

A picture of a protected shoreline. Small amount of water up front, sand, marsh grass, and trees towards the back. There are 7 birds flying from left to right, perhaps pelicans.

Yes, Fernandina Beach is a safe place to live. Crime rates in the Fernandina Beach area are below national averages. The area is safer than 46% of cities of similar sizes, twice as safe as Jacksonville, and twice as safe as the Florida average.

Is it Expensive to Live in Fernandina Beach?

Yes, the Fernandina Beach area is expensive to live in. The overall cost of living is 21% higher than the national average, driven mostly by the cost of housing being 59% higher. The median house price in Fernandina Beach is $439K versus the US median of $294K.

This high cost of living is offset a bit by the higher than average salaries of the Jacksonville area. An individual in Fernandina Beach makes $41K versus the $31K US average, and a Fernandina Beach family brings in $68K versus $57K US.

Places to Live in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach is home to several top-rated assisted living facilities inside town limits are:

  • Fernandina Beach Rehab and Nursing Center
  • Savannah Grand of Amelia Island
  • The Lakeside at Amelia Island
  • The Janes Adams House (Family Extended Care of Amelia Island)

As well as several 55+ communities outside town limits:

  • Amelia Island Plantation
  • North Hampton
  • Oyster Bay Harbour
  • Osprey Village

And some of the best communities open to residents of all ages are:

  • Amelia Park
  • Azalea Point
  • Beach Walker
  • Ocean Village
  • Old Town Fernandina

Is Fernandina Beach a Good Place to Retire?

Yes, Fernandina Beach is a good place to retire, and this is no secret judging by the fact a good portion of the population in the area is above 65 years old. 

Retirees will enjoy good weather, great beaches, decent golfing, and a thriving downtown area. There are several 55+ communities, several assisted living facilities, and some great hospitals.

Hopefully, you were diligent in saving and investing in your younger years, because the retirement homes in the Fernandina Beach area won’t come cheap. The average house price in the area is $439K, and nicer homes will be a lot more.

Related: 19 Cheapest Places to Live in Florida

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