City Guides

What You Should Know About Living in Palm Beach County

skyline of buildings in Palm Beach, Florida

When you think of Palm Beach, you may think of high society, golf, country clubs and charity balls.

But the wealthy city of Palm Beach is actually just a small part of the vibrant and diverse collection of communities that make up Palm Beach County. The largest city is West Palm Beach, home to a thriving arts community, a vibrant downtown and all the culture and amenities you'd expect in a major city. More than 110,000 people call West Palm Beach home.

Palm Beach County, Florida's largest county in land mass, has a population of 1.485 million people. They live in 39 municipalities, ranging from West Palm Beach to the town of Cloud Lake, which has only 136 residents. Other major cities, beyond Palm Beach (population 8,500) are Boca Raton, Jupiter, Wellington, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, each with its own unique character.

It's also an easy drive to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and you can reach both those cities via commuter train.

If you're thinking about living in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, or planning a move here or another city in Palm Beach County, here are some things to know.

All the cities are NOT the same

Palm Beach County provides a particularly diverse collection of living options among its municipalities. If you want an urban living experience, try downtown West Palm Beach. Family-friendly suburbs? Wellington and Boca Raton top the list – though we will warn you that people either love or hate Boca Raton. Friendly beach town? Delray Beach and Jupiter are two choices, with Jupiter the smaller and quieter choice. Those interested in an artsy up-and-coming vibe might consider Lake Worth.  Briny Breezes is a private oceanfront mobile home community with about 410 residents, most of them retirees. There also are farming communities in the western part of the county, such as Okeechobee and Pahokee. And, of course, high society prefers the wealthy island town of Palm Beach, where the median home value is more than $1 million.

Plan to spend time at the beach and in other natural areas

Palm Beach County has miles of beautiful beaches as well as other natural areas. There are 14 oceanfront and inlet parks with county lifeguards. You can snorkel near the shore, with snorkeling areas available in some parks. Palm Beach County is also far enough north to have waves big enough for surfing, something you won't always find in Miami.

You'll also find plenty of beautiful natural areas away from the beach, including Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Mounts Botanical Garden, and Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. If you like gardening, you will find Palm Beach County a wonderful place to plant and marvel at the results.

The down side of nature: Expect to live with giant flying cockroaches, iguanas, alligators and insects. They're easier to get used to than you think.

Palm Beach County is a great place to play golf

person hitting a golf ball at a golf course

Presidents aren't the only people who enjoy playing golf in Palm Beach County, which offers plenty of options at multiple price ranges for lovers of the game, or those who want to learn. Palm Beach County bills itself as Florida's Golf Capital, and there are good reasons for that, including 160 golf courses. The top course is at the PGA National Resort & Spa, site of the PGA Championship event. But the county also has numerous other challenging courses, both private and public.

The thrift shore shopping is great

Palm Beach County is a great place to shop for secondhand goods, undoubtedly because of all the wealth. The town of Palm Beach itself has several thrift or consignment stores worth visiting, but you can find good secondhand stores all over the county. Someone wealthier than you may very well have just donated the piece of clothing or furniture that you have always wanted but thought you could not afford.

Pay attention to traffic patterns

Like the rest of South Florida, Palm Beach County has a lot of traffic, especially mornings and evenings. You want to be realistic about commute times when you're searching for a home. West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale is an easy drive on a Sunday afternoon, but not so easy on a Monday morning. Be sure to get a SunPass so you can use Florida's Turnpike without stopping to pay tolls.

You’ll find only one school district, but…

In Florida, each county is a school district. There are no city school districts. But, as in most cities, school quality varies a lot by neighborhood, so if you have school-age children, do your research before you narrow down your neighborhood choices. The school district provides a tool you can use to check which schools serve a particular address.

Palm Beach County still has a lot of agriculture

More than 14,000 farms raise commercial crops or livestock on more than 500,000 acres in Palm Beach County, and the county is the top agricultural producer in Florida.  Among the crops are vegetables, sweet corn, ornamental plants, and sugar cane, the top crop.

When you’re finally ready to call West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, or any of the bustling neighborhoods in Palm Beach County home, let Palm Beach self storage help you get settled.

About the author

Teresa Mears

Teresa Mears is a website publisher, writer, blogger and editor in South Florida who was raised to be frugal. After working as a newspaper reporter and editor, she moved her career online. In addition to running Miami On The Cheap, Florida On The Cheap, Fort Lauderdale On The Cheap, Palm Beach On The Cheap, Living on the Cheap and other websites, she writes about personal finance for U.S. News & World Report and other publications.

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