Duval County VS. St. Johns County

Duval County VS. St. Johns County

Trying to Decide on Where to Relocate To? Here’s an insider look at the differences between Duval and St. Johns County!

Duval County Vs. St. Johns County

Lifestyle is a key relocation factor for most buyers.  Perhaps you are one such buyer and you have narrowed your search to Duval and St. Johns counties, however, you are still on the fence and unsure as to which location will best suit your interests, needs, and wants.  The Aitken Home Team is pleased to present a brief overview of both counties in hopes of assisting you in the process of narrowing your search.

DUVAL COUNTY, established in 1822, is the seventh most populated county in Florida and is currently home to just over 957,500 residents.  Considered to be somewhat conservative for an urban county, Duval is one of the most military-friendly places in the U.S.  Comprised of 762 square miles of land and 156 square miles of water, this amazing county is home to the largest city by land area in the country: Jacksonville.

Duval is a mecca of beach access along its 15-mile coastline and presents an urban vibe with a metropolitan atmosphere.  

Atlantic Beach boasts two miles of glorious white sand with eighteen ocean beach access points.  The City of Atlantic Beach has 65 acres of dedicated parkland, including the Dutton Island Preserve on the Intracoastal Waterway.  

Atlantic Beach made the list of “Top 10 Under-the-Radar Beach Towns” in 2016.  This beach town is unique in that it seems far from metropolitan hustle and bustle, yet it is only moments from the action of city life.  Atlantic Beach has an Outer Banks (North Carolina) feel and it is a popular destination for many “in-the-know” surfers and vacationers.  

Neptune Beach, located on Pablo Island, lies east of Jacksonville and stretches through both Duval and St. Johns while extending from Naval Station Mayport at its northern tip to Vilano Beach in the south and across from St. Augustine. 

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, southeast of Duval County, is smaller and less populated at just over 264,500 residents.  St. Johns is comprised of more water and less land than that of Duval as there are 221 square miles of gorgeous Florida water to enjoy and 601 square miles of land.  St. Johns has become a rather popular place to live and has increased considerably since 2000.  In fact, the local school system has grown rapidly in order to accommodate such growth. 

St. Johns County is home to six of the best beaches in Florida.

Ponte Vedra Beach is known for its elegant resorts and challenging golf courses.  This amazing beach also features a life-size statue of Ponce De Leon.

Vilano Beach is a charming, more tucked away little beach town full of shopping, dining, and beach cottage rentals.  It is extremely popular with the surf and kit border crowd due to the coquina sands.  

Anastasia State Park/Beach features quartz sand and is one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida and its northern three miles are for beach walkers only.  Evidence of civilization is well hidden beyond its dunes.  

St. Augustine Beach affords visitors the ideal beach vacation featuring tropical seaside restaurants, sunny places to stay, an impressive fishing pier, a beachfront park, and many additional perks.  St. Augustine has a laid-back vibe as evidenced by Barney’s Beach Service which lugs around beach gear so you don’t have to!

Butler Beach features private homes and condos, yet it offers multiple public accesses.  Its surrounding park houses an incredible dune ecosystem that offers protection for some local endangered species.  

Crescent Beach features a natural crescent moon shape shoreline and miles of white sand.  This is one of the most scenic and “unspoiled” beaches and attracts eco-tourism and beachcombers.  

Regardless of where you choose to live, you will have an equally impressive plethora of beaches from which to choose; each with its own unique vibe and ability to cater to any mood.  


While price isn’t likely to be the most important aspect of your search, you might be interested to learn that home prices are typically higher in St. Johns than they are in Duval.  Both counties have experienced substantial increases in property values.  St. Johns homes have appreciated by roughly 9% in the past year while Duval holds steady at just over 8% appreciation in the last twelve months.  Both counties are predicted to gain an additional 9%+ appreciation in 2021 making them an equally beneficial investment.  


St. Johns County is ideally positioned to attract visitors and industry.  Established in 1821, St. Johns is now one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S., especially when it comes to job and income growth.  While the county’s economic base is diverse and primarily tourism-related, it consistently promotes a strong balance of local employment opportunities, including industrial and office-related jobs.  St. Johns is well known for its economic initiatives developed to enhance the growth of existing businesses and attraction of new ones making it an entrepreneurial location of choice and the booming economic center of Jacksonville. 

Duval County has an unemployment rate of 3.7%, the same as the U.S. national average.  The county has experienced job market growth by 2.7% over the last year and future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 44.4%, higher than the national average of 33.5%.  Duval County industry is comprised largely of health care and social work assistance.  Second to that is retail trade and the accommodations and food industry.  The highest paying industries in Duval are currently utilities, professional, scientific, and technical services, and management of companies and enterprises


Duval County has a district enrollment of over 129,000 students, making it the 21st largest school district in the U.S. and 6th largest school district in Florida. The district’s 196 schools are traditional neighborhood and magnet schools, charter schools, and alternative schools, all of which serve students of various needs.  DCPS has achieved an overall ranking of “B,” according to the Florida Department of Education’s school grade system, which is based on the New Florida Standards and Florida Standard Assessments (FSA) test results.  Duval County schools offer at least one choice program, special program, or acceleration program to students.  Sixty-four schools offer magnet programs: dedicated magnets, which do not have set boundaries, and non-dedicated magnets, which are neighborhood schools that also have magnet programs.  Duval also contains thirty-four charter schools within its boundaries, 89% of which scored an A, B or C grade.  Most of the charter schools are on a waitlist lottery system due to high demand.     In 2015, Duval’s Stanton College Preparatory school and Paxon School for Advanced Studies were named among the top 25 most challenging high schools in the U.S. 

St. Johns County is now Florida’s top-performing school district according to Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores.  The district received Energy Star’s Top Performer and Leader from the EPA award in 2011 and boasts an impressive special education department geared toward assisting students who are on the spectrum as well as those diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cognitive disabilities.  In addition, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is funded and operated by the state.  St. Johns County schools received a state government grade of “A” for their work with the students and FCAT grading from 2004 to 2014.


It is likely you will have friends and family who will want to visit once you decide where to live.  

Owned and operated by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Jacksonville International Airport services both Duval County and St. Johns County and is a civil-military public airport.  Located in Duval County, this airport is thirteen miles north of downtown Jacksonville and is home to a Delta Sky Hub and houses the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base in the southwest quadrant of the airport.    This airport is a major hub for United, Delta, American, and Southwest airlines.  Whether you are commuting or receiving visitors, Jacksonville International offers ease of flights, varying costs, and many itinerary choices. 


Duval County is home to some heavy-hitting comfort food restaurants and is known for nine “distinctively Duval” dishes: fried chicken from Beach Road Chicken Dinners, the Camel Rider at The Sheik, Tommy’s Breakfast in a Cup, fried seafood at Singleton’s Seafood Shack, fried gator tail courtesy of Clark’s Fish Camp, the garlic crab tray at Seven Seas Crab House, The French Pantry’s bruschetta, the soul food dinner at Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro and Angie’s Grom sliders. In addition, Duval County boasts many waterfronts and fine dining establishments as well as many restaurants which serve food from around the world.  Locating good food and a great view is as easy as 1-2-3 in Duval County.  

From tiki bars to Michelin stars, St. Johns County boasts a melting pot of multi-cultural cuisine and waterfront dining.  Whether going for a morning cup of coffee or heading to a romantic anniversary dinner on the water, St. Johns has it all.  Seafood lovers flock to local places such as Black and Blue Grill, The Reef, and The Floridian to name a few places.  There are also many family dining options for a more relaxed vibe such as Los Portales Mexican Grill and Aunt Kate’s.  Once again, it is not hard to find what the stomach wants in St. Johns and easy to locate whatever dining experience one could ever hope for.  

St. Johns County and Duval County are home to many chef-owned restaurants and everything to tickle the taste buds.  Both counties offer a host of restaurant options as well as late-night and fie dining experiences.  


Duval County is home to U of F Health Jacksonville, a teaching hospital and medical system of the University of Florida. Part of the larger University of Florida Health System, includes the 603-bed U of F Health Jacksonville hospital, the 92-bed U of F Health North hospital, associated clinics, and is the Jacksonville campus of Uof F’s Health Science Center.   Together with U of F Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, U of F Health Jacksonville (formerly Shands Jacksonville) is one of two academic hospitals in the UF Health system and serves 19 counties in Florida and several in Georgia.  The downtown campus is home to North Florida‘s Level I trauma center and, in 2006, became home to one of the nation’s few proton therapy treatment facilities. In 2018 UF Health Jacksonville was certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center for its excellence in acute stroke care. Through its association with the University of Florida, it offers classes and degrees through the university’s College of MedicineCollege of Nursing, and College of Pharmacy.

St. Johns County is home to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, the only full-service hospital in the county. Flagler is a not-for-profit facility established in 1889. The organization offers “Centers of Excellence” in bariatrics, heart, cancer, maternity, orthopedics, and sinus.  The hospital has a 14-bed nursing home unit that was rated above average on October 5, 2010, from CMS of the Department of Health and Human Services. Flagler established the Bailey Family Center for Caring on January 8, 2011, on the hospital campus. The 12-bed, 11,700-square-foot facility is the first inpatient hospice center in St. Johns County, Florida, and the fifth for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. 

Cost of Living / Retirement

The cost of living in Duval is 13% lower than the Jacksonville average and 14% lower than the national average.  Duval housing is 31% lower than the national average.

The cost of living in St. Johns rose 1.5% from one year ago, yet it is still 7.8% lower than the national average. The largest increases were found in transportation, food, and housing. 

The average cost of independent living in Saint Johns County is $3,475/month. This is higher than the national median of $2,485. The average cost of independent living in Duval County is $2,560.  

Duval Vs. St. Johns Summary

The difference between Duval County and St. Johns County boils down to lifestyle.  

St. Johns is a peaceful, safe area with some of the top healthcare systems in the country, premier shopping, restaurants and so much more.  In addition, St. Johns County is home to the historical city of St. Augustine and is an easy drive away from Jacksonville’s legendary NFL football events.  St. Johns County residents enjoy the best of both worlds: the energy and excitement of living close to a major city and the perks of living in a safe and peaceful community with everything you need nearby.

Duval County is the perfect place for those who enjoy the rich culture of fine dining, galleries, museums, and various art and music festivals as well as the relaxation of beach life.  The St. Johns River also affords ample recreation for boaters and sailors.  In addition, Duval County is home to seven major state parks and preserves as well as the federally owned Fort Caroline National Monument and Kingsley Plantation.

To learn about the housing markets for these counties, click here or call us at (904) 544-5252.

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Phil Aitken, Owner/Broker
Phil Aitken is the Owner/Broker with Your Home Sold Guaranteed Realty - Phil Aitken Home Team and has over 13 years of Real Estate experience. Phil’s faith and desire for his family’s continued security fuel his business growth and leadership. The Phil Aitken Home Team continues to profoundly impact the people of Jacksonville via supporting several faith-based organizations. Phil gives back a portion of every real estate transaction to The Tim Tebow Foundation and Rethreaded. Find Phil's full story here.