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Old 08-29-2018, 11:06 AM
Location: Cape Elizabeth, ME
31 posts, read 43,531 times
Reputation: 18


Hi All,
Me, my wife and two dogs are trying to decide on Safety Harbor or St. Augustine for a six month stint this winter from Nov-April or May. It's basically impossible for us to find something to rent having two dogs, so we put up housing wanted ads and have people come to us that are dog friendly in places we are interested in trying out. So we have good options in these two towns right now. We have spent winters in Jupiter, Santa Barbara, and Tucson so far.

We liked all of them for different reasons. Jupiter was our first experience spending extended time in Florida. It was nice but almost too busy right on the cusp of the South Florida craziness. Santa Barbara is gorgeous although busy, but is so far away. We have a good option there but are weary of the drive, Tucson (Oro Valley) was nice away from the business of Tucson proper and great hiking in the St. Parks. Santa Fe, NM is our favorite -great hiking and energy out there and quiet but amazing town, but not really a winter destination because it is too cold for us. One of the big pluses for Florida is that we are driving from Portland, Maine and that ride out to West is definitely a tough one. We have heard nice things about both areas but have never visited either.

A little about us...We live in Portland, Maine half the year and like it although it is getting very popular and busy. 40 years old, vegans, active, love biking, running, hot yoga (looks like there are some good places in Clearwater just 10 mins away called Heat and another is called Pure), rollerblading, hiking, walking our dogs, swimming, not into "nightlife" - we're in bed early. We also love beaches but not busy beaches during the day and we really just go at sunrise or sunset to walk in the quiet. We enjoy places that are smaller but not dead and have a bit going on but not over the top, if that makes sense. We work from home so no problem there. Would be cool to have a vegan community to hang out with, and just generally cool people to spend some time with and make new friends. It seems there might be a bigger one in the Tampa area than St. Augustine just because of population density.

Having not been to either place, from what I have read, Safety Harbor is a very desirable place to live in Pinellas County because it is quiet and safe but close to all the areas around it for activities, etc.-Dundedin, Honeymoon Island, St. Pete. We are definitely not interested in being in a busy and congested place. St. Augustine peaked our interest because we love small historic cities but don't really know much about it other than it is suppose to be a quaint town with a college and art scene. The weather in both places looks great during the winter although I know St. Aug. will be cooler which is fine. Hey, we are coming from Maine, so anything is better in the winter! Obviously St. Johns County is smaller and less populous, not sure about the surrounding areas being fun to visit. I'd love to hear any feedback from people who have spent time in both places. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks so much in advance for taking the time to read my post :-)
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Old 09-15-2018, 12:08 AM
1 posts, read 592 times
Reputation: 20
I live in Clearwater, very close to Safety Harbor. And my sister lives in St. Johns, so I have some experience with St. Augustine (more with the surrounding area). Summer temps between the two are about the same, but there is a distinct difference in the winter. I think you'd like both; I feel like you've already got a good feel already for the pros and cons. We love both Safety Harbor, and Dunedin .... and St. Augustine is on our consideration list as I want to be closer to family.

Pinellas county is the most densely populated county and feels congested in the winter for sure, but St. Augustine city also swells with tourists and I feel like there are more options outside of Safety Harbor. There are more places to side trip to as well. Safety Harbor on its own is so small it kind of keeps the same vibe all year long, just gets more active with events during the winter, whereas I feel like St. Augustine changes personality more during the winter, gets touristy - but it does have definite historic charm, especially charming around the holidays when it's all lit up. The rest of St. Johns county doesn't have the noticeable tourist traffic like the city of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach do and it's easier to do the beach there .... being in St. Augustine you'd probably get to it more simply by being closer. But I agree with your assessment of the surrounding area. IMO, the rest of St. Johns county doesn't have that much interesting going for it - very suburban blah. Now, driving out to Clearwater Beach here in the spring is a total nightmare, IMO - it's very crowded, it's a touristy beach with high rise hotels and condos. There are other beaches without that stuff, Honeymoon Island, Ft DeSoto ... the character of the beaches changes with the towns up and down the coast ... but honestly we haven't been out to either of those two in years so I can't really vouch as to how crowded they get. But Nov, Dec, Jan and May not as bad. Very different kinds of beaches between the two places. Safety Harbor has a nice park on the bay (not for swimming) and there are a bunch of walking/biking trails around our area ... one of which wraps around the bay side into Safety Harbor.

I'm sure you'd be happy with either for different reasons - which is no help at all, is it? :-) I'd give the edge to this area, just cuz I already do. Since you're just visiting, try one this year and the other the next!

PS A little jelly of your snowbird ways at age 40. I'd like to do that in reverse.

Edited to add a last thought: Safety Harbor has a feel of community - like I said, it's small.
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Old 09-27-2018, 09:43 AM
Location: Cape Elizabeth, ME
31 posts, read 43,531 times
Reputation: 18
Hi Lesliealine,
Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. It means a lot to get the experience of a local who has spent time in both areas. It was very helpful to read your words. We are super excited to try Safety Harbor for a few months and probably will take a trip over to St. Augustine while we are there. Maybe we'll even hit Disney World. We've been wanting to go there as adults (we're really big kids). Although I am worries about spoiling my childhood memories of it being Perfect :-) Anyways, thanks again for taking the time, we're excited to explore Honeymoon Island, Ft. DeSoto, and Dunedin as well. It does seem like the area has so much to offer!
With Gratitude,
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