11 Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Note: We wrote Part 2 of this article in April, 2014. See “Part 2: 10 Affordable Places to Retire on the Coast
June 15, 2010 — What’s not to like about retiring to a place on or near the water – except maybe the price that usually comes with that lifestyle. Until the polar icecaps melt some more, no one is making any more ocean front property, which means that as a rule only wealthy people can afford to pay for the privilege of watching the sun come up and down over the water from their front porches. Fortunately for the careful shopper though, there are different kinds of waterfront, so there actually are some affordable waterfront properties.
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The first place we started when researching this article was our own Retirement Ranger. When we took our free, 10 question quiz we tried to keep it simple – we specified only 2 environmental selections – “coastal” and “lakefront”. The only other choice was “lower than average” cost of living. The Ranger came back with 50 choices, from which we chose 11 (although quite a few more towns were reasonable choices).


The results from the Retirement Ranger highlight where the bargains are. For one, lakes with big coastlines offer some relative bargains. Likewise, towns near rivers and bays can offer waterfront living with spectacular views without spending megadollars. Finally, if you choose a place on the ocean that is far from a big city or in the right region, you might be able to snag a relative bargain. We offer this list of 11 affordable waterfront places to retire, but urge you to use the Retirement Ranger and search on this and other sites for more ideas. Please note that most of these choices are located on a large body of water, but a few towns are close, but not actually on the water. Also, see end of article for a discussion of some of the drawbacks of living near the water.

- Boynton Beach FL – Boynton Beach has always been the step-child to its more prosperous neighbors like Delray Beach and Palm Beach. It’s the same ocean, just a few miles north or south. Boynton Beach, like most of south Florida, has had a real estate meltdown. Right now, prices are reasonable. The median home price in 2006 was over $350,000 – in the first quarter of 2010 it was $150,000 (houses/condos close to the water will be more). There are many communities not far from or even on the beach that the careful shopper can choose from.

- Leesburg, FL – This waterfront town in central Florida boasts 6 public beaches on 3 lakes, plus a yacht club. The centerpiece of the town is a former WPA project, the Venetian Gardens Waterside Park on Lake Harris. There is a community college plus a number of active adult communities to choose from.

- Myrtle Beach, SC – Myrtle Beach is a bargain. It offers low-cost housing, 120 golf courses, and of course – the Grand Strand, a great sandy beach that runs uninterrupted for almost 60 miles – from Pawley’s Island in the south to North Myrtle Beach.

- Port Charlotte, FL – An amazing 40% of the homes in Port Charlotte have water access, thanks to a maze of canals and estuaries, complete with hundreds of species of marine life. There are dozens of active adult and 55+ developments /neighborhoods to choose from.

- Lake Eufaula, OK – This area in east central Oklahoma is a popular resort and a low-key, relaxing retirement spot. Lake Eufaula has approximately 143,000 acres of water and over 600 miles of shoreline. Average home prices according to one source were about $80,000 in early 2010, although other sources reported them to be a bit higher.

- Paris, TN – Paris is situated between 2 giant lakes, one of them being among the largest man-made lakes in the world. Paris is a small town of about 10,000 in northwest Tennessee, 15 miles from the vast and popular Land Between the Lakes recreation area. Homes often sell below $100,000.

- Murphy, NC – The downtown is beautiful with tree lined streets and many historic buildings restored to their original state. The climate is mild and the scenery is breathtaking with mountains, lakes (several large ones like Lake Hiwassee), and streams. Find homes in the low to mid $100′s.

- St. Petersburg, FL – St. Pete offers a happy compromise in a very livable city,with many desirable neighborhoods and plenty of culture and recreation. Since St. Pete is on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, almost everything is near the water. Prices in the low $100′s.

- Blue Ridge, GA – Blue Ridge is on the border near Tennessee and North Carolina, and has about 1200 residents. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. Lake Blue Ridge, the Toccoa River, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail all draw tourists.

- Port Isabel, TX – Port Isabel is a beach town and a popular resort, as well as being a retirement destination. Fishing, beach going, and relaxing are popular activities. The area is quiet and the weather is warm in the winter.

- Hayesville, NC – Lake Chatuge near Hayesville has over 130 miles of shoreline, much of which can never be developed. The artists’ community in Hayesville is diverse and growing, which gives the town another dimension.

Drawbacks of Living Near the Water
There are always 2 sides to any story. And living near the waterfront is not a total picnic. Consider these drawbacks:
- High insurance costs. Particularly in Florida, hurricane and flood insurance can be very costly and hard to get.
- Natural disasters. Related to above, it is no fun to be evacuated or have your home destroyed. As one of our commenters noted below, hurricanes are a very real threat to just about anywhere on the coast. Some towns have been hit over and over again.
- Man made disasters. The oil spill in the Gulf points out the type of disaster that might await many Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi owners of property on the waterfront. Indeed, some newspaper reports cite that a new wave of foreclosures could come to the Gulf Coast in the wake of the oil spill.
- Taxes. Waterfront properties tend to be worth a lot and appraised accordingly for taxes, so your property taxes will be higher than comparable homes inland.

What do you think?
Give us your suggestions for affordable places to retire on the water. Or throw cold water on ours, for that matter. Use the Comments section below – we would love to hear from you.

See Also:
AffordableRetirements.com
The Affordable and More Best Places to Retire List

Posted by John Brady on June 14th, 2010
Comments (25)
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

25 Comments »
LaMarTEK says

You missed the boat on this one. Part of the Cost of Living includes insirance and nearly all of the waterfornt locations you selected are in hurricane pronae areas, thus high insurance. Also, you forgot about humidity. While the locations you selected might be nice in the winter time, they are nearly unbearable in the summer and also have high electric costs for air conditioning. You completely missed the western half of the country. The west has many waterfron locations that are very affordable and yet are low humidity in the summer. The west tends to cool off at night and thus has a much lower AC requirement.

June 15th, 2010 | #

V. Bittler says

When running through your list, other than the coastal locations, snakes kept creeping into my mind’s eye. Don’t think that would work – never relax.

June 16th, 2010 | #

Jim Utter says

Where do I go to see the entire affordable list of 50 waterfront locations?? – - thanks for the good information that you provide – - lots to think about – jim

June 18th, 2010 | #

Admin says

Hi Jim,

Good question. You can generate the list by taking our free Retirement Ranger http://www.topretirements.com/retirementranger/
When you take it, choose “No preference” for all questions where this is an option – except the question for “Environment” (select “lake” and “coastal”) and the question for “Cost of Living” (select “Lower than Average”). When you get the email you will see the results, or just click on the “Recent Results” link at top left, after you take. You can then retake with more selective criteria to narrow it down. Good luck!

June 18th, 2010 | #

Andy says

Boynton Beach is such a great place to live. You are correct in saying that Boynton is the step-child of Palm Beach but in my opinion it’s one of the greatest places to live. If you can find great water front property (because now is the time) and you have the money to invest go for it. There are some killer deals out there.

June 23rd, 2010 | #

11 Good Reasons for Choosing a Retirement Town | Topretirements says

[...] 8. Near the beach or a lake. We see from our Retirement Ranger questions that having access to a beach is very important to many people. For them being close could mean a 3-hour drive – that is still accessible. Living on the coast or a lake is a retirement dream for many, and we can see why. See this article: 11 Affordable Places to Retire on the Water [...]

July 6th, 2010 | #

how to find affordable retirement | Topretirements says

[...] Also: 11 Affordable Towns on the Waterfront How to Retire in Style and on a Budget Posted by John Brady on July 27th, 2010 Comments (0) [...]

July 27th, 2010 | #

sally says

I live in the Seattle area and am moving to Oregon at retirement… There are some lovely areas near both rivers and ocean there but no west coast towns are mentioned! Why is that?

July 28th, 2010 | #

Sunny says

What about great water views? Being on the water has all the drawbacks mentioned above, but living back from the waterfront – yet with a view – eliminates at least some of them, and the housing will be somewhat less as well. So how about a list of affordable water views —- that includes the west?

Thanks for all the great articles.

September 30th, 2010 | #

» 10 Very Affordable… and Great Places to Retire Topretirements says

[...] further reference: Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront Most Affordable Places to Retire (2010) How to Find an Affordable Place to Retire Most Affordable [...]

September 13th, 2011 | #

V.J. Kernick says

Are there other regions which also offer affordability in retirement near the water? I don’t relish living with the humidity, insects, and hurricanes that are prevalent in the “southern” areas of our country. Can affordable retirment on the water be found anywhere on the west coast? (And I don’t mean Alaska)

Thanks,
V.J. Kernick

September 17th, 2011 | #

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October 10th, 2011 | #

Bill says

What about Cape Cod Massachusetts?

June 11th, 2012 | #

Deborah Lehan says

1question and 1comment:
To Sally- could you share your favorite location(s) in Oregon? I’d like to consider the area as well.
To Bill: the Cape is a wonderful place to retire and although MA was on the “worst state list” I think there are as many different towns as there are personalities looking to move there.
Summer traffic is. Nightmare, and places like Hyannis are very built up… I hear a train will run from Boston to the Cape this summer…

May 26th, 2013 | #

JEAN says

What about San Diego county, there are many small very desirable cities in that area?

July 28th, 2013 | #

Linda says

Any thoughts about Saratoga Springs, N. Y., or anywhere in Saratoga county? I was originally considering Cape May and Atlantic counties in N. J., but the recent bad storms have me re-thinking that. Also, those areas often experience power outages.

July 29th, 2013 | #

Chuck says

I’d think twice about some of the areas north of Tampa. Sink holes are common which has a lot to do with the cheap real estate. Florida is not the bargain that it once was. I loved living there but, the cost of living has escalated as the real estate market is bouncing back. If you want a low cost of living, I’d have to suggest Tn. I’ve lived in both places, and while I prefer Fl., it’s just too expensive in most of the state.

July 29th, 2013 | #

Lana says

Bill, Cape Cod has many retirees. I’ve lived here for 14 years and during those years, we’ve only had 3 major snowstorms although last winter was a doozy. The summers are cooler than the greater Boston area while the winters are milder. The winter of 2011 had no snow. The real estate prices are still moderate. The senior centers are quite active and the beautiful beaches are never more than a 15 minute drive no matter where you live on the Cape. We love the Cape.

July 29th, 2013 | #

jeb says

To Bill
Can you giv e the name of places on the cape that are 50+ communities. The Cape is my favorite place on earth. I’ve always heard it is very expensive to live there. Any info would be appreciated.

July 29th, 2013 | #

Loralee says

I am familiar with San Diego, I am in Calif a lot. It is very expensive to live there. San Diego is struggling for money, the real estate taxes are high, lots of traffic, and the summer if very very crowed, but the weather is one of the best ever. Great place to visit and vacation. Just keep in mind you need a good amount of money to live there comfortably!!

July 29th, 2013 | #

Gary D says

Struggling with where we want to retire. One thing for sure is to get out of Louisiana. The food is great, but need to escape Hurricanes.!!! We have son who lives in Rio Rancho, NM and would like to live close to him, plus we like the mountains and the low humidity. We have looked at Santa Fe, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; and Sedona, AZ and a few places in Colorado and Utah. If anyone has lived or is living in these areas and would like to comment on how things are, it would be greatly appreciated.

July 30th, 2013 | #

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[…] Coast series, we’ve provided 10 coastal towns that are reasonably affordable. Part 1, “Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront“, came out in 2010 (it included some towns where the waterfront was on a lake, this one does […]

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