retirement

Venice, Fla.: A Great Place to Retire for Your Health

You’re never far from water and white-sand beaches in this gulf-coast city. You’re not far from quality health care, either.

Wander around Venice’s historic neighborhoods and you’ll notice two things: You’re never far from the water, and there’s bound to be a park no more than a few blocks away. As you head west, the wide, palm-tree-lined sidewalks give way to white-sand beaches and expansive water views. As the sun begins to set over the Gulf of Mexico, beach-goers gather for a drum circle. Come sunrise, a group practicing yoga will take their place. It’s one of 10 small or midsize cities we found that offer first-class health care.

Venice stats

Population: 322,000

What $300,000 will buy: 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a lake view in a gated off-island community

Best place to exercise: Venetian Waterway Park, an 8-plus-mile multi-use trail with water views

5-star hospitals*: Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota

Venice has a slow pace but offers plenty of amenities. In the fall and winter, the city’s population roughly doubles as snowbirds flock to the area.

Locals can stroll the historic district and stop in the numerous shops and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, there’s a farmers market. You can catch a show at the Venice Theatre or a performance by the Venice Symphony at the Performing Arts Center.

Venice has more than 30 parks, including the 37,000-acre Myakka River State Park. You can kayak or paddleboard along the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs through the city. Cyclists can cruise around town or hop on the 10-plus-mile Legacy trail that extends north to Sarasota.

Betty Robertson, 77, and her husband Jim, 78, visited Venice for decades before retiring to the city in 2006. “We liked Venice for its small-town feel, the availability of seafood and access to the seaside,” says Jim. The couple spend time attending art shows, festivals and other events downtown.

The inventory of available homes is tight, says Steve LaFountain, president of the Venice Area Board of Realtors. Homes tend to sell quickly, and about 40% of sales are all-cash transactions. On the island—which is connected to the mainland by three drawbridges—prices start at about $450,000 for a small, single-family home built in the 1950s or 1960s, while homes on the mainland tend to be newer and more affordable, starting at about $300,000 for a single-family home, or roughly half that for a condo. Homes along the water typically top $1 million.

With all the snowbirds, rentals tend to book a year in advance, says Victoria Stultz, a local real estate agent. Expect to pay from $3,000 to $5,000 a month, with prices a little lower off-island.

Right now, Venice Regional Bayfront Health serves the area. Top-ranked Sarasota Memorial Hospital is about 18 miles away, but it is moving ahead with plans to build a Venice location that should open in about three years.

Florida is one of the most tax-friendly states in the country for retirees. There’s no state income, estate or inheritance tax.

* Rating developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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