By Paula Willits
Almost every “mature” newcomer I meet in the Nocatee area moved down to North Florida. They were sick of the cold, gray winters. They refused to scrape ice off their car windows ever again. They were tired of risking a heart attack when they shoveled snow. And they longed for a warm paradise in which to spend their golden years.
Me? I moved up to North Florida. Having lived in South Florida since 1971, I was sick of the long, hot summers. I refused to start each day in a “sauna” of humidity ever again. I was tired of sweeping sand out of my house. And I longed for a more cool paradise to spend my golden years.
I’ve been in this area for 3 1/2 years now and have not been disappointed. Besides the more temperate climate – a touch of winter without the mountains of snow and sidewalks of ice – I have discovered some unexpected bonuses:
- Boots. I bought my first pair of leather boots here. I feel fashionable in my old age.
- Lower Taxes. The property taxes are so much less than in South Florida, I don’t feel guilty buying a winter wardrobe. (I now own 5 pairs of boots!)
- Exercise. I have an incentive to get out of bed in the summer: If I walk the dogs before 8 a.m., it’s cool enough for me to enjoy the world. Not so you-know-where.
- Slim puppies. My dogs are not overweight because I walk them every day.
- Slimmer me. I have lost weight now that I lost my excuse for not walking in the summer.
- Low-cost insurance. Homeowners’ insurance rates are so low compared to hurricane-threatened south Florida, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. (But don’t tell the insurance companies or guess what will happen?)
- Cool sand. The public beaches have sand cool enough to go barefoot without burning the soles of your feet. (If you’ve ever braved the south Florida beach without shoes, America’s Got Talent might let you audition to stroll across a bed of hot coals.)
- Fun driving trips. I can drive to Savannah and Charleston in a few hours instead of it taking 9 hours just to leave Florida. Bye-bye friendly skies!
- Music I like. South Florida has music, but not much folk and blues. Here, the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall is only 15 minutes away from my house in Nocatee, nearby St. Augustine is brimming with talented folk/blues artists, and the Mudville listening room in Jacksonville serves up an array of talented singer/songwriters. Do I hear a Halleluiah? (I love gospel too!)
- Dearth of snowbirds. No “season” here = few “snowbirds.” Why is that important? You can get into most restaurants that don’t take reservations year-round. In South Florida, count on waiting two hours or more for a table in the winter months. No food is worth that, even if it means I’m consigned to the kitchen. (Save your pity for my husband.
- Real trees. There are fewer palm trees. I am sick, sick, sick of palms. The worst ones look like giant, skinny telephone poles with fronds only at the top. They provide zero shade. And what’s attractive about tall, barren, gray trunks? North Florida has real trees – the dense, bushy green ones that lower your FPL bills. Of course, those moving down here insist on having at least one palm in their front yard. But when they grow tired of bragging to their friends stuck in blizzards, they’ll come around. I’m sure of it.
Paula Willits, formerly an executive editor at John Wiley & Sons publishing, retired in 2014. She lives in Del Webb at Ponte Vedra in Nocatee with her husband and two dogs.