Close your eyes and envision your ideal home in your retirement years. The chances are good that you’ve got a stunning setting in mind as part of that dream.
Beauty certainly means different things to different retirees. You may picture the red rock mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona, or the storm-tossed seas of Portland, Maine, while others imagine living among the Spanish moss and Old-World architecture of Savannah, Georgia.
We’ve chosen a variety of locations, each set in beautiful surroundings where the lifestyle, cultures and recreational possibilities are suited to retirees. There’s no science involved in our choices. They are not the balmy locations that many retirees dream of, although we write about those too.
Our selection process was entirely subjective, just as your quest for a perfect home in retirement will be. But keep reading, and you might get some ideas.
Greenville, South Carolina
In the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, this town of about 72,000 gets lots of attention for its retirement assets, including the city’s natural surroundings.
Greenville is ideally situated. It’s surrounded by state parks and located just about smack dab between Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Georgia capital of Atlanta. State residents age 60 and older enjoy free access to the classes at the local University of South Carolina.
Wisconsin is famous for lakes, and Madison has several right in and around the town.
Wisconsin’s capital city is found on several lists of best places to retire, and it topped Money.com’s list in 2020. The city itself — home to around 269,000 people — is flanked by two lakes and contains an arboretum and lakeside nature preserve.
Among other attractions: Residents age 60 and older may audit certain classes for free at the local University of Wisconsin campus, and the big-city life of Chicago is just a couple of hours away by car.
Madison’s housing costs are manageable, as Money.com points out. There is, however, one major downside: snow.
Should you join the roughly 147,000 residents of Savannah for your retirement? There’s a good case to be made for it.
The city’s famed historic architecture makes a beautiful backdrop for the town’s attractions, including its cuisine, arts, culture, the signature live oaks and evocative Spanish moss.
What’s more, Savannah is more affordable than many retirement meccas. The median home price in July 2022 was $278,598, according to Zillow.
Here’s a contrarian idea: Retire to Alaska.
Granted, Alaska’s not your typical retirement dream spot. It’s a lot colder than Florida.
And yet, if you’d love spending your time fishing, hiking, sea kayaking, bear watching and making friends in a small, close, arts-minded community surrounded by snow-covered mountains and glacial fjords, Homer (population 5,719) could be perfect.
What about the cold? Well, yes, it’s cold. But Homer gets considerably less snow than some other Alaska regions, according to the City of Homer’s relocation guide.
Full disclosure: Forbes, which recommends retiring in Homer, notes a downside: the town’s “tsunami potential.”
Eureka (population 26,489) is another slightly unusual retirement suggestion. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, on Highway 101, a road with stunning views along the U.S. West Coast. About midway from Portland, Oregon, to San Francisco, Eureka is hundreds of miles from either city with not much else of note in between. For some, that would be exile from civilization. For others, it’s paradise.
With festivals and performances, galleries, restaurants and visitors from around the globe, Eureka has plenty of culture. The small Victorian port city is “the market and cultural center of a beautiful region filled with iconic redwoods — the world’s tallest trees — and stunningly beautiful rugged remote ocean landscapes,” the city’s website says.
“Flag,” as some locals call it, is just south of the Grand Canyon at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
This town of about 77,000, puts the “life” in lifestyle. There’s a thriving restaurant scene and foodie culture, a public university, outdoor recreation and spectacular mountain scenery. Flagstaff is 27 miles north of Sedona, Arizona, and a couple hours’ drive from Phoenix.
Through Northern Arizona University, an innovative initiative, the Senior Companion Program, links Americorps volunteers with residents 55 and older who are homebound, providing them with companionship, transportation and help at home with chores.
Portland, Maine, is located at the southern end of one of the nation’s most beautiful states. Portland has about 68,000 residents.
With a working waterfront, 19th-century architecture and microbreweries, Portland is located on a peninsula along Casco Bay, looking north to the fjords and islands of the Maine coast.
If that’s not enough for retirees, you’re just two hours away by car from vibrant Boston, the cultural and economic capital of New England.