The Best of the First Coast

What's hot and what's cool about Northeast Florida real estate.

Best Whole Package

The fact that the community of Nocatee, developed by The PARC Group, has its own zip code (34268), pretty much says it all. When completed, this 9,000-acre "new coastal town" will encompass 14,000 homes, offices, retail stores, restaurants, parks, schools, churches and a town center. Top that off with the largest water park in Northeast Florida, and who needs to ever leave home?

Best New Clubhouse
Amelia National Golf & Country Club

After a challenging round of golf at the Tom Fazio-designed course at Amelia National Golf & Country Club, returning to the community’s spectacular new clubhouse has to be one of the day’s most exquisite pleasures. Designed by the firm of Ervin Lovett & Miller, this two-story beauty features all the best elements found in French-Louisiana estates—an inviting courtyard, a sweeping verandah and incredible views of greens, lakes and forests.

Best Parks and Trails

When construction on Palencia began, developer Hines promised an eco-friendly community—and delivered one. A stroll along the Tolomato River Boardwalk or an afternoon spent gazing at the marshfront views from the community’s estate neighborhoods confirms the fact that "development" and "nature" don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Best Marina Community
Ortega Landing

The stunning, 192-slip Ortega Landing marina, with concrete floating docks and a clubhouse from which to watch the sunset (or sunrise), can house vessels up to 77 feet in length.

Also overlooking the Ortega River is MLG Development’s first phase of River Homes at Ortega Landing, a first-class condominium community in a one-of-a-kind location.

Best Multifamily Community to Live, Work and Play
Tapestry Park

Every business owner would love to be able to leave work and walk home. And in Tapestry Park, home could be as close as upstairs. This
52-unit condominium community will be nestled within a European Village of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and a boutique hotel. Homes start in the mid-$200s and offer the option of living on the second floor above street-level retail and office space and townhomes.

Best View of the St. Johns River
Old San Jose on the River

McGarvey Residential Communities arguably snatched up one of the most desirable pieces of riverfront property on Jacksonville’s Southside several years ago. And the company has certainly made the most of the opportunity. Soon lucky residents of luxurious condominiums at Old San Jose will be enjoying spectacular St. Johns sunsets from their balconies or launching their cruisers to take a short jaunt to downtown Jacksonville. The first homes will be completed this summer.

Best Community by the Sea
The Surf

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea. This could be the theme song for Brylen Homes’ community, The Surf, which is taking shape in Amelia Island. The project will consist of 37-single family homes and townhomes featuring distinctive West-Indies architectural design. Prices begin in the $480s.

Best Coach Home Community
Laterra Links at World Golf Village

These two-story, end-unit homes have been catching on lately, and the community of Laterra Links, located in World Golf Village, has taken the concept to an unparalleled level. Residents receive complimentary memberships to The King & The Bear and The Slammer & Squire golf courses in addition to enjoying a gorgeous 7,000-square-foot amenity center and pool. Best of all, posh PGA Tour Spa Laterra is located right across the street.

Best Traditional Neighborhood Development
Amelia Park

Northeast Florida is a hotbed for Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TNDs). And nowhere has the concept been more gracefully executed than at Amelia Park. Now in its third and final phase, this refreshingly retro community boasts all the elements of an ideal TND, including homes with charm and character, community parks, a town center, schools and stores all within a five-minute stroll.

Best New County Milestone

Speaking of TNDs, Jacksonville" target="_blank">Clay County is getting its first with Morrison Homes’ long-awaited Kindlewood. This charming, walkable community will offer homes featuring broad front porches, rear-entry garages and large sidewalks to encourage socializing. Six model homes recently opened with prices starting in the $190s.

Best Place for Singles
Villa Medici

Villa Medici, a condominium community developed by Crosswinds, was designed to impress—from the grand fountain at the entrance to the European-inspired architecture of the clubhouse. And its Southside location puts it squarely in the middle of one of Jacksonville’s hot spots for young singles, with a wealth of shopping, dining and entertainment options. But perhaps the best reason to live in this amenity rich community is the price—from the mid-$100s.

Best Place for Shopaholics

Esplanade, a Woods Partners-developed condominium community, is located in the heart of fabulous St. Johns Town Center. Living within an upscale shopping village? Better get the credit limit raised on your Mastercard.

Best Community Amenities
Eagle Landing at OakLeaf Plantation

Once again, the amenities at Eagle Landing have wowed us. A sidewalk café, a lake house with canoe and fishing rentals, movies on the village green and an ice cream parlor are just a few of the unique features of this East-West Partners community. And there’s the summer camps and kids’ activities planned by a full-time, year-round recreational staff. And the championship golf course. And on and on and on.

Best Communities for Active Adults
Villages of Seloy and Riverwood by Del Webb

In this category, there was a tie. The Retirement Corporation of America-Florida’s Villages of Seloy in St. Augustine is a standout for its spacious low-maintenance homes in the company’s signature "pinwheel" design. These casually sophisticated homes are chock full of designer amenities and are all positioned as end units with an abundance of shared greenspace. And Nocatee’s age-restricted gated community of Riverwood caught our attention with its Tuscan-inspired architecture and proximity to all things Nocatee. The community will also have a gracious amenities center with a meeting/recreation center and a full-time lifestyles director.

Best Sunrise/Sunset
Serenata North

The Cronk Duch Partners-developed community of Serenata North, formerly called Sage Beach, will be a standout for its West Indies-inspired architecture. But even the prettiest homes may be overshadowed by the vast ocean and marsh views. And with only 28 homesites available, the vistas are going fast.

Best Affordable Golf Course Community
Laurel Island

Our reigning favorite in this category, Laurel Island just keeps getting better. Located on the marsh-hemmed coastline of Southeast Georgia, this picturesque community offers homes priced from the high $100s. Residents also get a one-year membership to the Laurel Island Country Club, which includes the Davis Love III-designed Laurel Island Links golf course.

Best Equestrian Community
Bartram Farms

Horse-loving homebuyers will be in heaven when they visit this expansive equestrian community—especially after seeing the authentic Amish horse barn that serves as the sales center. Much of Bartram Farms has been seeded with horse-preferred sanitized Bahia grasses, and each parcel—ranging from two to ten acres—includes expanses of upland. Nearby boat ramps offer access to the St. Johns River while eight large lakes add plenty of waterfront views to charm both man and beast.

Best Fresh New Look
Bella Terra

The newest Palencia neighborhood, Bella Terra by ICI Homes features stunning European Collection homes boasting entry courtyards, tiled roofs and vaulted ceilings. Combine architectural charm with Energy Star certification and we can only say, "Bella!"

Best New Twist on an Existing Community
The Reserve at the Sanctuary

If you’ve always wanted to live at the beach, take a look at The Reserve at the Sanctuary, developed by Commercial Jacksonville. One of the perks of living in this gated, 12-home community is that you can stroll via pavered sidewalks to the beach. Prices start at just over $3 million.

Best Architectural Theming
Sea Colony

We can’t think of a better theme for Northeast Florida architecture than, well, Northeast Florida architecture. Especially when it is done as well as Sea Colony, a 299-home community in St. Augustine Beach. Picturesque pastels, columned front porches and ocean-view balconies abound while private dune walkovers ensure that every residence has convenient beach access. And to maintain even more of Old Florida, one-third of the property has been set aside for conservation.

Best Innovative Amenities
Rolling Hills and St. Johns Forest

Dog parks are all the rage. And canine residents of East-West Partners’ Rolling Hills at Lake Asbury will have at least two pristine acres upon which to roam and play in this 562-acre master-planned community. And residents (sorry, pets, only two-legged ones) of St. Johns Forest have access to a roller hockey court along with basketball, tennis, swimming and other sporting facilities. It’s easy to see why the community won a 2006 Best in American Living Award for amenities.

Best Location with Something for Everyone
I-95 and International Golf Parkway Interchange

We can’t have a "best" list without mentioning this hot spot. Although it is best known for Davidson Development’s World Golf Village, this sector of St. Johns County continues to attract commercial and residential projects galore. And with several major projects on the books, including Ben Carter Properties’ open-air Esplanade mall, this burgeoning boomtown between St. Augustine and Jacksonville is one to keep an eye on.

Best No-Hassle Country-Club Living
Providence Island

Providence Island is a beautiful townhome neighborhood in Queen’s Harbour Yacht & Country Club, a picturesque golf and yachting community bordering the Intracoastal Waterway near the Beaches. Providence Island offers country-club living with no fuss and no muss. It’s a great downsizing option where residents can take advantage of all the amenities Queen’s Harbour has to offer.

Best Condo Community on the Books
East San Marco

Who doesn’t love San Marco, with its unique blend of commercial and residential, historic and modern, casualness and sophistication? The only thing missing is a grocery store. Developers The St. Joe Company and Regency Centers are taking care of this small oversight with East San Marco, an urban-chic, mixed-use development encompassing townhomes, condominiums, retail space and a neighborhood Publix. Details on the project are still pending, but expect it to be a special project befitting its special location.

Best Master-Planned Community on the Books
Sawmill Creek and Rivertown

We predict these upcoming projects will be some of the most interesting developments to watch over the next eighteen months: Palm Coast has been growing by leaps and bounds, and we can’t wait to see Sawmill Creek, a golf-course community coming to the heart of Palm Coast Park. Set on the former site of a water-powered sawmill among the hardwood canopies of Hulett Branch, the community will include over 1,350 homes and a 15,000-square-foot residents’ club. And we’re still excited about RiverTown, The St. Joe Company’s 4,170-acre community in St. Johns County. RiverTown boasts 3.5 miles of St. Johns River frontage and plans call for a 58-acre riverfront park and a town center. Models are now open.