Best places to retire to in the South
Published 6:30 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023
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Best places to retire to in the South
When Americans retire—at age 64 on average—they’re doing so later than in past decades. But they still want to make the most of their time, and money. That often involves a move.
In 2021, over 250,000 people at or close to retirement age migrated to the South from other regions in the U.S. Most of them moved from the Northeast, according to Census data.
Southern states offer warmer weather, lower cost of living, and tax-friendly environments for retirees compared to more expensive states in the Northeast or on the West Coast.
Florida would have dominated the top 50 best places to retire in the South, but Stacker limited each state to no more than 10 spots, which still left plenty of room for charming towns in other southern states. The rankings use data from Niche.com, which includes various factors like weather and access to health care.
Keep reading to find the perfect spot to retire in luxury.
You may also like: Best small towns to live in across America
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#50. Chevy Chase Village, Maryland
– National rank: 196th best place to retire
– Population: 1,871
Chevy Chase Village is a small community outside the nation’s capital at just under half a square mile. It’s perfect for retirees looking for a walkable neighborhood filled with historic homes, mature tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks, and close-knit residents heavily involved in the community.
#49. Ocean City, Maryland
– National rank: 195th best place to retire
– Population: 6,957
Sitting on the Atlantic coast, Ocean City is a popular spot for part-time and full-time residents during the warmer months. Retirees can enjoy the beach and the famous Ocean City Boardwalk. Fishing enthusiasts fit right in Ocean City, also known as the “white marlin capital of the world.”
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#48. Indian Hills, Kentucky
– National rank: 194th best place to retire
– Population: 3,011
A suburb of Louisville, the sleepy little town of Indian Hills is a small and tight-knit community nestled along the Ohio River. Many retirees live there among the picturesque rolling Kentucky hills.
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#47. Flat Rock, North Carolina
– National rank: 193rd best place to retire
– Population: 3,354
This quaint historic town sits only 30 miles south of Asheville. Established in 1807, Flat Rock is also known as the “little Charleston of the mountains” due to its significant number of summer homes. For more than 80 years, Broadway-quality theater and musicals have been performed at the Flat Rock Playhouse.
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#46. Emerald Isle, North Carolina
– National rank: 190th best place to retire
– Population: 3,691
The name Emerald Isle tells you everything you need to know about this magical community in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. This barrier island offers miles of sandy beaches and emerald blue-green water. Many residents prefer riding their fat-tire bicycles to driving.
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#45. Summersville, West Virginia
– National rank: 189th best place to retire
– Population: 3,316
Smack-dab in the middle of the state, Summersville offers a slow pace of life surrounded by a lush rural environment. Be sure to climb the 122 steps of the Summersville Lake Lighthouse for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the state’s largest lake before attending a tasting tour at the Kirkwood Winery.
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#44. Sea Breeze, North Carolina
– National rank: 188th best place to retire
– Population: 1,646
Sea Breeze was originally a resort destination for African Americans during the Jim Crow era and is now home to the National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education. The Heritage Day celebrations in Freeman Beach-Seabreeze celebrate and pay tribute to the area’s African American history. Some descendants of original land owners Alexander and Charity Freeman still live nearby today.
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#43. Little River, South Carolina
– National rank: 185th best place to retire
– Population: 9,692
Famous for its annual Blue Crab Festival and historic live oak trees, Little River is the perfect spot for retirees who want a slower pace of life. Only 20 miles north of the more well-known Myrtle Beach, the community is home to generations of charter and commercial fishermen and shrimpers. Little Rock has two Las Vegas-style casino boats with twice-daily tours into international waters, where gambling is legal.
#42. Isle of Palms, South Carolina
– National rank: 180th best place to retire
– Population: 4,371
A short 25-minute drive from Charleston, the Isle of Palms is a small beach community stretching 7 miles on South Carolina’s Atlantic coast. Colorful coastal houses along the wide beaches occupy one side of the barrier island while the marshy inlets of the Intracoastal Waterway are on the other side.
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#41. Surfside Beach, South Carolina
– National rank: 179th best place to retire
– Population: 4,470
The 2 miles of pristine coastline in Surfside Beach are cleaned daily, and retirees can rest easy knowing lifeguards are always close-by in case of an emergency. This quaint beach oasis is home to seven parks.
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#40. DeCordova, Texas
– National rank: 176th best place to retire
– Population: 2,981
With above-average schools and a large gated community, DeCordova is an ideal town to raise a family and retire. The planned community boasts a large country club with a 27-hole golf course and marina on Lake Granbury.
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#39. Meadowlakes, Texas
– National rank: 171st best place to retire
– Population: 2,274
Meadowlakes is a fully gated residential community in the Texas Hill Country along the shores of Lake Marble. Crime in Meadowlakes is almost nonexistent. The community is built around the award-winning Hidden Falls Golf Course; many homes in the area sit on pecan orchards.
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#38. North Decatur, Georgia
– National rank: 170th best place to retire
– Population: 15,833
A liberal-leaning community close to Atlanta, North Decatur is the perfect spot for retirees looking for a quirky urban-suburban feel. The community is a foodie and art-lover paradise with many funky shops in its walkable downtown.
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#37. Weston Lakes, Texas
– National rank: 169th best place to retire
– Population: 3,846
Most retirees in Weston Lakes, live in a large gated residential community with over 1,500 homes. Weston Lakes is mostly rural and looks to stay that way: Its population isn’t expected to ever climb above 5,000.
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#36. Olmos Park, Texas
– National rank: 167th best place to retire
– Population: 1,856
The bustling metropolis of San Antonio surrounds Olmos Park. Retirees living in Olmos Park can enjoy the benefits of a small-town feel with big-city life nearby.
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#35. Prospect, Kentucky
– National rank: 165th best place to retire
– Population: 4,961
Prospect is a suburb of Louisville and is consistently rated one of the top places to live in Kentucky. Before the 1960s, Prospect was primarily full of farmers and wealthy families who commuted from Louisville. Multiple country clubs tucked between the rolling hills of Kentucky horse farms offer retirees a variety of activities.
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#34. Clear Lake Shores, Texas
– National rank: 162nd best place to retire
– Population: 1,371
Clear Lake Shores is known as “the yachting capital of Texas.” It is a serene lake community and Houston suburb where retirees are more likely to drive their golf carts than cars.
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#33. St. Simons, Georgia
– National rank: 157th best place to retire
– Population: 15,291
St. Simons is a large barrier island off the coast of Georgia. Dripping Southern charm and a laid-back vibe, this coastal town is consistently rated one of the most romantic towns in the country. With a rich history and iconic Southern live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, this picturesque town is perfect for retirees who enjoy the beach but also want a walkable downtown full of locally owned restaurants and boutiques.
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#32. Southern Shores, North Carolina
– National rank: 152nd best place to retire
– Population: 2,931
Southern Shores is a woodsy residential town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Southern Shores has no public beach access, with spots on the sand strictly limited to residents and a few rental properties. Unlike other nearby islands in the Outer Banks filled with beach mansions, many houses in this town are Southern Shores Flat Tops—small cement homes resembling the one-story midcentury architecture reminiscent of Palm Springs, California.
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#31. Sunset Beach, North Carolina
– National rank: 147th best place to retire
– Population: 3,994
Sunset Beach is the southernmost Brunswick Island in North Carolina. No highrises or busy boardwalks make it the perfect town for retirees who love the beach but hate the crowds. The unique location of this island allows residents to watch both the sunset and the sunrise over the water.
#30. Palm Valley, Texas
– National rank: 136th best place to retire
– Population: 1,909
With an average yearly temperature of 83 degrees and a crime rate far lower than the state average, this quaint southern Texas town is a perfect spot to retire with peace of mind. Palm Valley is only a short drive to the blue waters of South Padre Island and the Mexico border.
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#29. Pinehurst, North Carolina
– National rank: 131st best place to retire
– Population: 16,382
The town of Pinehurst in central North Carolina is home to many active-duty and retired military families because of how close it is to Fort Bragg, which is soon to be renamed Fort Liberty. But the town pre-dates the fort and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park as well as the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, a four-hour drive west.
Named the safest town in North Carolina multiple times, Pinehurst’s downtown prides itself on farm-to-table restaurants and unique boutiques.
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#28. Carolina Shores, North Carolina
– National rank: 130th best place to retire
– Population: 4,391
Carolina Shores is in the southeasternmost corner of North Carolina. Carolina Shores has seven planned communities within its boundaries and offers a slower pace of life for retirees than its touristy neighbor Myrtle Beach.
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#27. Emerald Bay, Texas
– National rank: 118th best place to retire
– Population: 1,023
Emerald Bay in East Texas is a planned community with an 18-hole championship golf course on the serene Lake Palestine. Mild winters allow retirees to enjoy outdoor activities like swimming, tennis, and golf year-round.
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#26. Westminster, Louisiana
– National rank: 112th best place to retire
– Population: 2,713
Westminster is a suburb in East Baton Rouge Parish east of the mighty Mississippi River. Over 25% of its residents report having French ancestry. For retirees looking for love, this may be the perfect town to find a partner; more than half the population lives alone.
#25. Parole, Maryland
– National rank: 93rd best place to retire
– Population: 17,505
Parole is a suburb just outside Maryland’s capital city of Annapolis. During the Civil War, the area served as a parole camp for as many as 10,000 Union prisoners. Its proximity to Annapolis allows retirees to enjoy all a city has to offer without dealing with the constant crowds, traffic, and crime.
#24. Orange Beach, Alabama
– National rank: 89th best place to retire
– Population: 6,130
Orange Beach retirees live in a beachgoer’s paradise with miles of white sand beaches and the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Year-round sunshine and warm weather make this a perfect home for outdoor enthusiasts.
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#23. St. James, North Carolina
– National rank: 78th best place to retire
– Population: 5,889
St. James is a residential community on the southeastern coast of North Carolina. The tight-knit community is largely made up of transplants from outside the state. Retirees moving to St. James from far away will feel immediately welcomed and at home.
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#22. South Kensington, Maryland
– National rank: 68th best place to retire
– Population: 8,494
South Kensington embodies small-town living away from busy city life but within a short driving distance to the metropolises of Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis. The town is a food paradise and rich in art galleries with a year-round farmers market for residents to buy fresh produce and local goodies.
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#21. Hollywood Park, Texas
– National rank: 64th best place to retire
– Population: 3,343
Hollywood Park is a post-World War II residential community where most properties are private residences on large lots on land surrounded by mature oak trees. This is an ideal town for retirees who want more space than traditional retirement communities.
#20. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
– National rank: 56th best place to retire
– Population: 40,000
With over 12 miles of gorgeous beach coastline, Hilton Head Island is one of the most popular destinations in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Between May and October each year, loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs by the hundreds on Hilton Head Beach. Many retirees volunteer with the Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island and Turtle Tracker organizations helping with the conservation of this delicate species.
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#19. Chevy Chase, Maryland
– National rank: 55th best place to retire
– Population: 9,801
Chevy Chase is known for its immaculate tree-lined streets and colonial-style homes just a few miles outside the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital. It is a culturally and politically diverse enclave with a small-town feel and many long-time residents.
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#18. Windy Hills, Kentucky
– National rank: 52nd best place to retire
– Population: 2,290
Early pioneer families from Virginia and Pennsylvania built the historic homes in Windy Hills. The town has retained its historic charm. Many residents live within walking distance of locally owned restaurants and boutiques.
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#17. Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina
– National rank: 44th best place to retire
– Population: 1,284
Pine Knoll Shores was first designated as a Tree City USA in 2000 for its commitment to maintaining and growing its tree cover. Its many natural reserves and the pristine coastline are free of tourists and commercial developments, perfect for retirees who aren’t fans of big crowds. It’s also home to the North Carolina Aquarium.
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#16. Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
– National rank: 43rd best place to retire
– Population: 9,292
Legend has it that the infamous pirate Blackbeard made his home in this fishing village when he wasn’t at sea searching for treasure. Today the southern Outer Banks town is known as the “seafood capital of South Carolina.” For retirees who enjoy the outdoors, Murrells Inlet offers plenty of options on and off the water.
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#15. Shenandoah, Texas
– National rank: 40th best place to retire
– Population: 2,955
Shenandoah covers just over 2 square miles north of Houston. Everything in Shenandoah is within walking distance, including its nearly 50 restaurants. For retirees who prefer the outdoors, Shenandoah’s urban trails connect to the 220-mile Woodlands trail system.
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#14. West Lake Hills, Texas
– National rank: 33rd best place to retire
– Population: 3,302
West Lake Hills is a family- and retiree-friendly town with homes surrounded by tree-lined streets and rolling hills just 6 miles west of downtown Austin. The town has nine award-winning schools, which may attract retirees who want to live near their grandkids.
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#13. Garden City, South Carolina
– National rank: 23rd best place to retire
– Population: 11,193
This coastal city has everything from fishing to incredible restaurants. Retirees are encouraged to participate in the July 4th golf cart parade. Garden City Beach’s 668-foot-long fishing pier is a hotspot for local fishermen by day and transforms into a live music venue in the evenings.
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#12. Whiskey Creek, Florida
– National rank: 14th best place to retire
– Population: 5,508
Whiskey Creek is located in South Fort Myers and is known for its reasonable home prices compared to the rest of South Florida. Legend has it that bootleggers used Whiskey Creek to transport their illicit beverages to the Caloosahatchee River and beyond.
#11. Jensen Beach, Florida
– National rank: 13th best place to retire
– Population: 13,592
Jensen Beach, once known as the “pineapple capital of the world,” is located right between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach on Florida’s east coast. The town is known for its historic homes painted in bright Caribbean colors and locally owned fine-dining seafood restaurants.
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#10. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
– National rank: 12th best place to retire
– Population: 1,588
Rehoboth Beach may only encompass 1 square mile, but it is still Delaware’s largest beach resort. It is branded the “nation’s summer capital” in honor of the many D.C. residents who flock there in the summer months. The mile-long boardwalk is famous for its quirky shops and annual festivals.
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#9. Cypress Lake, Florida
– National rank: 11th best place to retire
– Population: 12,766
Cypress Lake is a small suburban neighborhood in Fort Myers home to several 55+ retirement communities with top amenities. The area gets its name from its many picturesque cypress trees and lakes.
#8. Siesta Key, Florida
– National rank: 9th best place to retire
– Population: 5,587
Siesta Key is a barrier island off the coast of Sarasota in the Gulf of Mexico. Siesta Key is known for its “powdered sugar” white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. The free Siesta Key Breeze Trolley provides retirees and tourists free rides seven days a week from one end of the island to the other.
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#7. Gulf Stream, Florida
– National rank: 8th best place to retire
– Population: 885
The small beach town of Gulf Stream is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and boasts the last remaining stretch of land with an Australian pine canopy that once ran from Jacksonville to Miami. The trees were planted to help combat high winds in the 1920s. A large majority of the residents in Gulf Stream are retirees.
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#6. Hillsboro Beach, Florida
– National rank: 7th best place to retire
– Population: 1,964
The small town of Hillsboro Beach is a tiny peninsula between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. The peninsula is only 900 feet at its widest part. The one-road town has no commercial properties and only about 50 homes.
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#5. Dutch Island, Georgia
– National rank: 6th best place to retire
– Population: 1,338
Dutch Island is a suburb of Savannah surrounded by a saltwater marsh and the Intracoastal Waterway. The whole town is a private gated community with roughly 500 homes on over 500 acres. Plentiful amenities are open to all residents, so long as they pay the community’s annual fees.
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#4. South Palm Beach, Florida
– National rank: 5th best place to retire
– Population: 1,855
South Palm Beach is a tiny residential town a little over half a mile long with only one road on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the scenic Intracoastal Waterway in South Florida. With year-round warm weather, bathing suits and flip-flops are typical attire for retirees in this laid-back beach town.
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#3. Indian River Shores, Florida
– National rank: 4th best place to retire
– Population: 4,255
The small town of Indian River Shores can be found on another Florida barrier island. The population doubles during peak tourist months. Indian River Shores is entirely made up of gated communities and has a very active retired population.
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#2. Highland Beach, Florida
– National rank: 3rd best place to retire
– Population: 3,907
Highland Beach is a tiny town between Delray Beach and Boca Raton on the scenic A1A highway. This sleepy beach oasis has no stoplights. Many residents join sea turtle conservation efforts, because the turtles lay their eggs on Highland Beach eight months out of the year, from March to October.
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#1. Pelican Bay, Florida
– National rank: 1st best place to retire
– Population: 6,257
Pelican Beach tops the list as the best place to retire in the South. This 3-mile town has world-class amenities like tennis, golf, kayaking, sailing, a vibrant arts scene, water-side dining, social clubs, an electric-powered tram, and exclusive private beach access.