A reasonable cost of living, abundant sunshine and plentiful entertainment and cultural opportunities in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties contribute to a high quality of life. This region on Florida’s west coast is often referred to as “Tampa Bay,” where diverse communities come together to reflect the best Florida has to offer. Whether you prefer living downtown, in a quiet golf course community, on a waterfront or in a historic neighborhood, Tampa Bay has a broad mix of lifestyle options. The Tampa Bay community is supportive of MacDill but is not considered a military town. The cost of living is higher than in most cities in the South.
The counties’ communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The Florida Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Visit www.floridarealtors.org to find expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home.
Midway along the west coast of Florida, Hillsborough County has 1,048 square miles of land and 24 square miles of inland water. More than 84 percent of the county is unincorporated. Tampa is the county seat and boasts a vibrant beachfront and a metropolis. The city is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a large fishing fleet, exquisite dining and world-class entertainment.
Life in Tampa ranges from relaxed days basking in the sun to nights filled with live music, theater productions, fine dining and dance clubs moving to the rhythm of the people. Housing options vary widely, from condominiums and apartment complexes to beachfront properties and stately mansions.
There are 158 miles of shoreline on Tampa Bay. A narrow strip of Hillsborough County extends west to the Gulf of Mexico, roughly along the Tampa Port Shipping Channel. Hillsborough County, which takes its name from Wills Hill, British secretary of state to the colonies from 1768 to 1772, was first mapped and explored by the Spanish in the early 16th century.
About 10 miles east of Tampa is the Greater Brandon area, an unincorporated section of Hillsborough County. Brandon — named for founder and landowner John Brandon, who arrived in 1857 from Mississippi — has grown rapidly since the 1980s when Interstate 75 began to bring traffic through the area. The 2010 Census, the most recent official count, puts its population at 103,483.
The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway provides direct access to MacDill Air Force Base and downtown Tampa from Brandon. Parks and green spaces aplenty offer outdoor basketball and tennis courts, golf courses and skate parks.
Mean travel time to work is 26 minutes. Median rent in Brandon in 2014 was $1,083 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage were $1,350.
302 W. Reynolds St.
Plant City, FL 33563 813-659-4200
Plant City lies 25 miles east of Tampa on Interstate 4. According to local lore, the city was originally named Ichepucksassa after an Indian village, but confusion about the spelling and pronunciation eventually prompted the city’s postmaster to change the name to Cork, his hometown in Ireland. In 1885, the townsfolk honored Henry B. Plant a year after he extended the South Florida Railroad to what is now known as Plant City. And in keeping with the city’s theme, the commercial and residential downtown area has been designated as a U.S. historic district.
Citrus groves, farm land, pastures and strawberry fields surround the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.”
This residential community is 27 square miles with a population of 38,200, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 24 minutes. Median rent in the city is $857 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,252.
306 E. Jackson St.
Tampa, FL 33602 813-274-8211
This is the seat of Hillsborough County and its largest city. Native Americans originally inhabited the area, including the Tocobaga and the Seminole. White settlers founded a village near the Fort Brooke U.S. Army outpost in the early 19th century, and in 1887 the Florida Legislature established the charter for the city of Tampa.
The city is now the 53rd largest in the United States and home to several billion-dollar companies’ corporate headquarters, including Wellcare Health Plans, OSI Restaurant Partners and Cott Corp.
Tampa is home to the 2003 Super Bowl XXXVII Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. Along with major sporting events, Hillsborough County offers many exciting attractions such as Busch Gardens and Adventure Island Water Park, Tampa Bay cruises and downtown Ybor City, nicknamed Florida’s Latin Quarter for its wrought-iron balconies, brick-lined walkways, colorful architecture of cigar factories, and fine shops and restaurants.
This city covers 113 square miles with a population of 377,165, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 23 minutes. Median rent in the city is $960 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,489.
11250 N. 56th St.
Temple Terrace, FL 33617 813-506-6420
The residents of this city named for the “Temple” orange trees and the “Terraced” terrain live just northeast of Tampa at the confluence of three major interstates: I-4, I-75 and I-275. In 2008, the Arbor Day Foundation bestowed the crown of Tree City USA on the town. It is known for its rolling landscape, Hillsborough River views and majestic trees, including the most sand live oaks in Central Florida.
This city covers 7 square miles with a population of 26,515, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 23 minutes. Median rent in the city is $750 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,460.
Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast, is a 280-square-mile peninsula bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The county is 38 miles long and 15 miles wide at its broadest point.
The name Pinellas is derived from the Spanish words “punta pinal” meaning “point of pines,” an accurate description when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in 1528. Narvaez and 400 soldiers probably were the first Europeans in the area, primarily looking for gold and silver. Earliest inhabitants of Pinellas were Native Americans, and many large Indian shell mounds have been found throughout the county. One of these is at Pinellas County’s Philippe Park in Safety Harbor.
Pinellas, originally a part of Hillsborough County, became a separate county in 1912. When first formed, its population was 13,193. The 2015 Census estimates put Pinellas County’s year-round population at 949,827, making it the most densely populated county in the state.
Pinellas provides an ideal year-round climate. Cold winds are tempered in winter and warm breezes are cooled in summer as they blow over the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.
The county enjoys a year-round reputation as a tourist destination with attractions appealing to singles, couples, retirees and families. Pinellas County’s top key business sectors are health services, tourism services, manufacturing and financial services.
The county is served by Interstate 4, which runs east and west and connects it with Florida’s east coast. I-75 and Highway U.S. 19 are the north and south connections.
112 S. Osceola Ave.
Clearwater, FL 33756 727-562-4090
The city stretches over more than half the Pinellas Peninsula as well as the barrier islands that make up Clearwater Beach. During World War II, it became a major training base for troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. These days the community is known for pristine white sand beaches, clear gulf waters, sunsets at the pier and plenty of hospitality.
Properties — condos, villas, town houses and waterfront property — offer a tropical atmosphere with an array of housing choices.
This residential community is 25.5 square miles with a population of 114,361, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 23 minutes. Median rent in the city is $953 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,514.
201 Highland Ave.
Largo, FL 33770 727-587-6700
This once-rural farming community on Florida’s Gulf Coast has become the third-largest city in the state’s most densely populated county. It has also been a near-annual recipient of the National Arbor Day Tree City award during the past two decades.
Part of the Tampa Bay area, the city is 4 miles south of Clearwater, 17 miles northwest of St. Petersburg and 23 miles west of Tampa. Before the turn of the 20th century, Largo citrus was shipped by the barrel to enthusiastic customers in the North, earning it the name “Citrus City.”
This residential community is 17.6 square miles with a population of 83,065, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 22 minutes. Median rent in the city is $903 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,237.
175 Fifth St. N
St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-7111
The Sunshine City ranks fourth among major cities with nearly 16 percent of the residents age 65 or older. Peter Demens, a Russian immigrant who built the Orange Belt Line railroad, named the tourist and retirement center after his beloved Russian city. In 1914, the St. Louis Browns moved their spring training camp to the fledgling resort and commenced a love affair between baseball fans and tourists that blossomed into a community of pelicans, porpoises, endless sunshine and sailboats.
This residential community is 62 square miles with a population of 261,000, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is 23 minutes. Median rent in the city is $934 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,376.