10 Oldest Cities In Florida

We scoured the internet to determine the towns and cities in Florida that have been around the longest.

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You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.

That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.

That’s older than America for those playing at home.

So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Florida? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?

Because even if your Florida city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.

And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.

These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Sunshine State according to their ‘date of foundation’:

  1. St. Augustine (Photos)
  2. Tampa (Photos)
  3. Melbourne (Photos)
  4. Port Orange (Photos)
  5. Gainesville (Photos)
  6. Ocala (Photos)
  7. Sebastian (Photos)
  8. Maitland (Photos)
  9. Orlando (Photos)
  10. Lakeland (Photos)

For being 453 years old, St. Augustine doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Florida? That would be Miami Beach — a brand spanking 3 years old.

Read on for a look at the oldest places in Florida or feel free to check out the best places to live in Florida or the safest.

How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Florida… Or Is It Settled?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.

So what did we do instead?

Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!

For the majority of cities in Florida, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):

  • Founded
  • Settled
  • Incorporated
  • Approved
  • Chartered

And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.

If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.

All in all, we were able to collect data on 246 out of 451 in Florida with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 54.5% completion rate.

We then ranked them from oldest to newest with St. Augustine turning out to be the matriarch of Florida at the ripe old age of 453.

Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.

1. St. Augustine

St. Augustine, Florida

Source: Public domain

Population: 13,952
Founded: 1565
Age: 453
Founded in 1565 by the Spanish conquistador, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the contiguous United States. In 1562, a group of Huguenots led by Jean Ribault arrived in Spanish Florida to establish a colony in the territory claimed by Spain. They explored the mouth of the St. Johns River, calling it la Rivière de Mai (the River May), then sailed northward and established a settlement called Charlesfort at Port Royal Sound in present-day South Carolina. Spain learned of this French expedition through its spies at ports on the Atlantic coast of France. The Huguenot nobleman René de Laudonnière, who had participated in the expedition, returned to Florida in 1564 with three ships and 300 Huguenot colonists. He arrived at the mouth of the River May on June 22, 1564, sailed up it a few miles, and founded Fort Caroline.

2. Tampa

Tampa, Florida

Source: Public domain

Population: 368,087
Founded: 1849
Age: 169
When the pioneer community living near the US Army outpost of Fort Brooke was incorporated in 1849, it was called ‘Tampa Town’, and the name was shortened to simply ‘Tampa’ in 1855. The etymology of the name is unclear. The word ‘Tampa’ may have meant ‘sticks of fire’ in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived south of today’s Tampa Bay. This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months. Other historians claim the name means ‘the place to gather sticks’. Toponymist George R. Stewart writes that the name was the result of a miscommunication between the Spanish and the Indians, the Indian word being ‘itimpi’, meaning simply ‘near it’.

The first iteration of the name ‘Tampa’ first appears in the memoirs of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive and traveled through much of peninsular Florida. He spelled it ‘Tanpa’ and describes it as an important Calusa town on the west coast. While ‘Tanpa’ may be the basis for the modern name, archaeologist Jerald Milanich states that the Calusa village of Tanpa was on the shores of Charlotte Harbor, which is about 65 miles south of Tampa Bay. A later Spanish expedition did not notice the mouth of Charlotte Harbor while sailing north along the west coast of Florida and assumed that the current Tampa Bay was the bay they sought, thus accidentally transferring the name on Spanish navigational charts. Tampa Bay was labeled Bahía de Espíritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit) in the earliest Spanish maps of Florida, but became known as Bahía Tampa (Tampa Bay) as early as 1695.

3. Melbourne

Melbourne, Florida

Population: 79,640
Founded: 1867
Age: 151
Evidence for the presence of Paleo-Indians in the Melbourne area during the late Pleistocene epoch was uncovered during the 1920s. C. P. Singleton, a Harvard University zoologist, discovered the bones of a mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) on his property along Crane Creek, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Melbourne, and brought in Amherst College paleontologist Frederick B. Loomis to excavate the skeleton. Loomis found a second elephant, with a ‘large rough flint instrument’ among fragments of the elephant’s ribs. Loomis found in the same stratum mammoth, mastodon, horse, ground sloth, tapir, peccary, camel, and saber-tooth cat bones, all extinct in Florida since the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago. At a nearby site a human rib and charcoal were found in association with Mylodon, Megalonyx, and Chlamytherium (ground sloth) teeth. A finely worked spear point found with these items may have been displaced from a later stratum. In 1925 attention shifted to the Melbourne golf course. A crushed human skull with finger, arm, and leg bones was found in association with a horse tooth. A piece of ivory that appeared to have been modified by humans was found at the bottom of the stratum containing bones. Other finds included a spear point near a mastodon bone and a turtle-back scraper and blade found with bear, camel, mastodon, horse, and tapir bones. Similar human remains, Pleistocene animals and Paleo-Indian artifacts were found in Vero Beach, 30 miles (48 km) south of Melbourne, and similar Paleo-Indian artifacts were found at Lake Helen Blazes, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Melbourne.

After the Civil War, pioneer families arrived, and Melbourne was founded in 1867 by former slaves.[citation needed]

4. Port Orange

Port Orange, Florida

Population: 60,315
Founded: 1867
Age: 151

5. Gainesville

Gainesville, Florida

Population: 129,394
Founded: 1869
Age: 149
Gainesville is located at 29°39’55’ North, 82°20’10’ West (29.665245, 82.336097), which is roughly the same latitude as Houston, Texas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 62.4 square miles (161.6 km2), of which 61.3 square miles (158.8 km2) is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) is water. The total area is 1.74% water.

Gainesville’s tree canopy is both dense and species rich, including broadleaf evergreens, conifers, and deciduous species; the city has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation every year since 1982 as a ‘Tree City, USA’.

6. Ocala

Ocala, Florida

Population: 57,812
Founded: 1869
Age: 149
Archeological investigation has revealed that the area was inhabited by varying cultures of indigenous peoples from as early as 6500 B.C., and there were two lengthy periods of occupation. The second lasted through 500 A.D. In early historic times, the Timucua inhabited the area.[citation needed]

7. Sebastian

Sebastian, Florida

Population: 23,923
Founded: 1870
Age: 148
In 1715, several Spanish ships loaded with treasure (known as the 1715 Treasure Fleet) encountered a storm off the shores of the Treasure Coast and were lost. It is estimated that only a portion of the sunken treasure has been found. The value placed on the treasure lost from the 1715 fleet has been estimated at over $500 million USD.

8. Maitland

Maitland, Florida

Source: Public domain

Population: 17,066
Founded: 1872
Age: 146
Maitland is one of the oldest incorporated suburban municipalities in central Florida. The area was previously inhabited by Timucuan Native Americans. The town was originally named for a nearby Lake, which honored Captain William Seton Maitland, who fought in the Second Seminole Indian War, and was slain in the battle of Wahoo Swamp. A small military outpost was built in 1838 on the western shore of Lake Fumecheliga (later Lake Maitland) during the Second Seminole War. After the Civil War, The area began to grow, and a post office opened at Lake Maitland in 1872. Around this post office, a small town grew. The area was put into extensive citrus production.

9. Orlando

Orlando, Florida

Population: 269,414
Founded: 1875
Age: 143
Before European settlers arrived in 1536, Orlando was sparsely populated by the Seminole tribe. There are very few archaeological sites in the area today, except for the former site of Fort Gatlin along the shores of modern-day Lake Gatlin south of downtown Orlando.

After Mosquito County was divided in 1845, Fort Gatlin became the county seat of the new Orange County in 1856. It remained a rural backwater during the Civil War and suffered greatly during the Union blockade. The Reconstruction Era brought on a population explosion, resulting in the incorporation of the Town of Orlando on July 31, 1875 with 85 residents (22 voters). For a short time in 1879 the city revoked its charter, and was subsequently re-incorporated. Orlando was established as a city in 1885.

10. Lakeland

Lakeland, Florida

Source: Public domain

Population: 104,165
Founded: 1875
Age: 143
The first Paleo-Indians reached the central Florida area near the end of the last ice age, as they followed big game south. As the ice melted and sea levels rose, these Native Americans ended up staying and thrived on the peninsula for thousands of years. By the time the first Spanish conquistadors arrived, more than 250,000 Native Americans were living on the peninsula.[citation needed] Some of these first early tribes were the Tocobago, Timucua, and Calusa. In 1527, a Spanish map showed a settlement near the Rio de la Paz. The arrival of the Spanish turned out to be disastrous to these Native American tribes. Within 150 years, the majority of the pre-Columbian Native American peoples of Florida had been wiped out. Those who had not succumbed to diseases such as smallpox or yellow fever were either killed or enslaved. Little is left of these first Native Americans cultures in Polk County except for scant archaeological records, including a few personal artifacts and shell mounds. Eventually, the remnants of these tribes merged with the Creek Indians who had arrived from the north and became the Seminole Indian tribe.

Florida became a state in 1845, and Polk County was established in 1861. After the American Civil War, the county seat was established southeast of Lakeland in Bartow. While most of the early history of Polk County centered on the two cities of Bartow and Fort Meade, eventually, people entered the areas in northern Polk County and began settling in the areas which became Lakeland.

Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Florida

So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Florida. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Florida.

And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Sunshine State.

And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Florida:

  1. Miami Beach (Founded in 2015)
  2. Florida City (Founded in 2015)
  3. Lynn Haven (Founded in 2015)
  • 10 Safest Places In Florida
  • These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In Florida
  • These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Florida
  • Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Florida

    City Rank Age Year Founded
    St. Augustine 1 453 1565
    Tampa 2 169 1849
    Melbourne 3 151 1867
    Port Orange 4 151 1867
    Gainesville 5 149 1869
    Ocala 6 149 1869
    Sebastian 7 148 1870
    Maitland 8 146 1872
    Orlando 9 143 1875
    Lakeland 10 143 1875
    Daytona Beach 11 142 1876
    Sanford 12 141 1877
    Bartow 13 136 1882
    Naples 14 132 1886
    Fort Myers 15 132 1886
    Rockledge 16 131 1887
    Zephyrhills 17 130 1888
    St. Petersburg 18 126 1892
    West Palm Beach 19 124 1894
    Miami 20 122 1896
    Fernandina Beach 21 116 1902
    Fort Myers Beach 22 114 1904
    Ormond Beach 23 114 1904
    Thonotosassa 24 114 1904
    New Smyrna Beach 25 114 1904
    Pensacola 26 114 1904
    Green Cove Springs 27 114 1904
    Warrington 28 114 1904
    Lake City 29 114 1904
    Key West 30 114 1904
    Milton 31 114 1904
    Jacksonville 32 114 1904
    Treasure Island 33 114 1904
    Middleburg 34 114 1904
    Tallahassee 35 114 1904
    Eustis 36 114 1904
    Palatka 37 114 1904
    Mount Dora 38 113 1905
    Jensen Beach 39 113 1905
    Sebring 40 113 1905
    Country Walk 41 113 1905
    Holly Hill 42 113 1905
    Cocoa Beach 43 113 1905
    Port St. John 44 113 1905
    Apollo Beach 45 113 1905
    Orange City 46 113 1905
    Lantana 47 113 1905
    Fish Hawk 48 113 1905
    Goulds 49 113 1905
    Satellite Beach 50 113 1905
    Oldsmar 51 113 1905
    Port Salerno 52 113 1905
    Pine Castle 53 113 1905
    Niceville 54 113 1905
    South Miami 55 113 1905
    Elfers 56 113 1905
    Palmetto 57 113 1905
    Atlantic Beach 58 113 1905
    Auburndale 59 113 1905
    Englewood 60 113 1905
    Tavares 61 113 1905
    World Golf Village 62 113 1905
    Yulee 63 113 1905
    North Palm Beach 64 113 1905
    Lake Mary 65 113 1905
    South Daytona 66 113 1905
    New Port Richey 67 113 1905
    Brownsville 68 113 1905
    Panama City Beach 69 113 1905
    Vero Beach 70 113 1905
    Lake Wales 71 113 1905
    Hudson 72 113 1905
    Marianna 73 113 1905
    Cape Canaveral 74 113 1905
    Neptune Beach 75 113 1905
    Dade City 76 113 1905
    Wildwood 77 113 1905
    Wimauma 78 113 1905
    Belle Isle 79 113 1905
    Macclenny 80 113 1905
    Gulf Breeze 81 113 1905
    Mims 82 113 1905
    Heathrow 83 113 1905
    Pahokee 84 113 1905
    Indiantown 85 113 1905
    Fort Meade 86 113 1905
    Tequesta 87 113 1905
    Defuniak Springs 88 113 1905
    Orlovista 89 113 1905
    High Springs 90 113 1905
    Okeechobee 91 113 1905
    Mount Plymouth 92 113 1905
    Fellsmere 93 113 1905
    Newberry 94 113 1905
    Lake Alfred 95 113 1905
    Mascotte 96 113 1905
    Floral City 97 113 1905
    Live Oak 98 113 1905
    Trinity 99 113 1905
    Kathleen 100 113 1905

    About Chris Kolmar

    Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

    He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

    If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

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