10 Best Places to Retire in North Carolina
From mountain towns to beach cities, these are the best places to retire in North Carolina.
The state of North Carolina boasts beaches, the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, and year-round moderate weather. College towns, historic cities, farming communities, and coastal areas provide a range of lifestyles and beautiful places to live, with something for every retiree. And it's not just scenic beauty and diverse cities that make North Carolina a good place to retire: There is no state tax on Social Security benefits, and state income tax is modest at about 5.25 percent.
In order to determine the best places to retire in North Carolina, we considered ratings from Niche.com, which factors in data about housing access, cost of living, crime, weather, outdoor activities, and more to rate cities with a letter grade, along with additional data on housing prices, safety ratings, and nearby amenities.
Related: 11 Best Cities to Retire in the U.S.
If you love the beach, an easy-going lifestyle, and a small-town atmosphere, the Outer Banks city of Duck might be an ideal place to retire. There’s a one-mile boardwalk for morning strolls, shopping, and dining, plus free guided walks to learn about the island's flora and fauna. Local events include a jazz festival, Independence Day parade, winter holiday celebration, summer concerts, and outdoor fitness classes.
Duck gets high marks on safety, nightlife, and housing metrics from Niche.com, and according to Redfin.com, the overall cost of living in Duck is about five percent lower than the national average.
For retirees who enjoy history, outdoor activities, and the advantages of being near a larger city, Belmont is an attractive retirement destination. Located about 12 miles west of Charlotte, Belmont is a growing city. Its Downtown Belmont Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its fine vintage architecture, while two colleges (Belmont Abbey College and Gaston College) bring a youthful element to the city.
According to data from Salary.com and BestPlaces.com, the cost of living in Belmont is slightly less than the national average, and Belmont received an overall rating of A from Niche.com.
If you plan to hit the links in retirement, Pinehurst might be the right destination for you. Known for its golf courses and pleasant small-town style, Pinehurst is centrally located two hours from the coast, three hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and one hour from Raleigh. And there’s more than golf, with outdoor activities, museums, art galleries, wineries, and farms to visit in the greater Sandhill area. The Village of Pinehurst offers a variety of programs for adults as well.
Named by SmartAsset.com as one of the best places to retire in North Carolina for its healthcare access and large population of retirees, Pinehurst received an overall rating of A from Niche.com.
A suburb of Wilmington, Carolina Beach will delight retirees who enjoy its vintage feel, lively nightlife, world-class fishing, and miles of beaches and picturesque sand dunes. Its classic boardwalk features shops, restaurants, and entertainment along with ocean breezes. Music festivals and events make summer especially exciting in the Carolina Beach area, and nearby Wilmington offers museums, restaurants, performing arts, and historical sites.
Niche.com gives Carolina Beach an overall A- rating with high marks for health and fitness, nightlife, and outdoor activities. According to Niche.com, about 70 percent of residents own their homes, and Realtor.com estimates the median home price as $695,000.
Laurinburg is located in the south-central part of North Carolina with convenient access to Charlotte, Raleigh, and the coast. Outdoor activities abound with the nearby Lumber River providing opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and fishing. Golf courses, wineries, historical sites, and art museums offer activities for a variety of interests.
The city is one of the more affordable retirement destinations on this list; according to Realtor.com, the median home price in Laurinburg is $159,000, and Niche.com gives the city an overall B- rating, with a B+ for cost of living.
Retirees seeking outdoor activities, a lively downtown, and mountain views might consider Marion, located about 36 miles northeast of Asheville. Residents enjoy Marion’s restaurants, art galleries, and festivals along with nearby state and national parks that offer opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and biking. Want to spend more time with Mother Nature without breaking a sweat? Take a drive on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.
Marion is a Certified Retirement Community according to Retire NC, meaning it meets the criteria for “providing amenities, services, and opportunities for retirees to enjoy active and productive lives.” According to Realtor.com, the median home price is $275,000.
Located minutes from Greensboro in the northern part of the state, Reidsville is an affordable community combining a small-town feel with nearby big-city amenities. Two public lakes, parks, walking trails, and an active community make Reidsville an attractive retirement destination. Cheering for high school football games, playing golf, or enjoying street art and vintage homes — there’s much to do in Reidsville.
Reidsville is a Certified Retirement Community, and the Reidsville Center for Active Retirement Enterprises (RCARE) offers trips and activities including bowling, bocce ball, pickle ball, dancing, card games, and fitness classes. Realtor.com estimates the median home price at $205,000.
Once the capital of North Carolina, New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola and the inspiration for novelist Nicholas Sparks. This 300-year-old city, set on the Neuse River, is located about 30 miles from the Atlantic Coast, so residents are never too far from the beach. Historic homes, downtown condos, and gated communities provide a range of housing options, and boating, hiking, biking, and golf are among outdoor activities. Cultural opportunities include art galleries, concerts, and performances at the New Bern Civic Theater.
New Bern received an overall grade of B+ from Niche.com, and Realtor.com estimates the median home price at $330,000. New Bern is also a Certified Retirement Community.
Located south of Greenville and about 20 miles from the coast, Winterville is a small but growing family-oriented community that's big on local flavor. Strawberry picking at the town’s farms, the annual Watermelon Festival, and eateries serving up fresh seafood and Carolina-style BBQ are some of the town's tasty attractions. And better yet, Winterville is another Certified Retirement Community.
Niche.com named Winterville one of the best places to live in North Carolina and awarded it an overall A grade. The city is listed as one of North Carolina’s safest cities by SafeWise, and according to Realtor.com, the median home price is $315,000.
This community is located in the “Research Triangle” of North Carolina, near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and the universities of Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. Residents can look forward to festivals and events like the North Carolina Symphony’s Summerfest Series at Koka Booth Amphitheater, set among 14 forested acres next to Symphony Lake.
Called “one of the best places to live in North Carolina” by Niche.com, Cary received a grade of A+, and it was named one of North Carolina’s safest cities by SafeWise. The median home price is $575,000, according to Realtor.com.
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