At The Lake – Where the (Retirement) Living is Easy

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

July 22, 2012. Note: This is Part 2 of a series. Part 1 on retiring at the lake was published in 2011. This installment lists more great lake towns for retirement. We hope you will add your ideas for the best lake retirement spots in the Comments section.

In our recent survey on “where to live” preferences, living on the beach was the third most popular choice. Although we wished we had also provided a “lake” option, we guess that being near the beach and living on a lake are close to being interchangeable, although not exactly the same. If we had listed the lake choice, we are pretty sure it would have been highly rated.

After all, who wouldn’t want to wake up to the sound of a loon or the gentle lap of waves on the shore. Or having the grandchildren come for the weekend and frolic in the water or enjoy a boat ride. Not to mention the pleasure of an early morning or late night dip in velvet lake water.

The good news is that the world is filled with lakes and ponds of every size and description. Some are edged by major cities (Chicago or Madison WI), while others have bucolic towns on their shores (many in New York, Georgia, the Carolinas, Michigan, and Minnesota). Still other lakes tend to be more pristine, perhaps with the occasional camp or cottage and just down the road from the nearest town (Maine and New Hampshire). Choosing just 10 lake towns here means that we have omitted dozens if not hundreds of other great candidates. We have tried here to focus on lakes where it is possible to live on or near the lake, and where there is some kind of nearby town for entertainment and the necessities of life. Note that some of the lake towns suggested by members in Part 1 are included on this list.

Pluses and Minuses
The advantages of lakeside living are pretty obvious. Great scenery, instant year round recreation, a magnet for grandchildren – those are just a few. Another is that living on a lake is a lot less treacherous than living on or near an ocean beach, where hurricanes are much more of a serious menace.

There are some downsides to living on the lake. In Part 1 of this series one of our members mentioned how noisy they can be, especially from speedboats and screaming kids. Maintenance can be an issue, with docks needing a lot of attention. Many lakes are remote, so if you need a jug of milk or medical attention you could be looking at a long drive. Then there is the expense; the access and views from waterfront property are always going to mean higher prices than more inland locations. Particularly in the colder parts of the country, year round living on a lake can be tough. It can be very cold and windy, and many lake-side communities are so seasonal that it can be a very lonely winter.

10 More Lakes for Retirement
In the Topretirements.com database we found 88 towns that we’ve identified as “Lake towns”, and 173 active adult or 55+ communities classified as being on or near a lake. You can see all of those by using the “Search” feature in the main top navigation of every page, then select “Lake” as an environment (you can narrow your search by selecting specific states, etc.).

Lake near WInter Haven

Winter Haven, FL. This suggestion came in from David Lane, a frequent contributor here and big fan of this town. Here is why David suggested it: “Winter Haven, located Florida midway between Orlando and Tampa. The city boast 50 lakes within its limits filled with fish, lots of wildlife and boating opportunities. The city has lots of housing appropriate for the retiree. Many of these properties, including condos, have sweeping views of the lakes. The price is right with many well under $95,000!! There is lots to do in this city of 35,000.”

Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Montana. Many people have described this lake and the surrounding mountains as one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Certainly the pictures make it appear so. There is the lake, a growing town, and superb outdoor recreation including a great ski area, Big Mountain, just outside of town. Real estate is above the national median – according to City-Data.com the median home in Whitefish sold for $260,000 in early 2014.


Lake Norman, mentioned by Jan Cullinane, is near Cornelius, NC, and not far from Charlotte. Jan mentioned its reasonable home prices; nice weather; being close to a friendly, walkable city; and all the amenities a lake has to offer.

– Carol Dunn McKay brought Kentucky Lake to our attention, a gigantic lake near Murray, a Kentucky-college town, and Paris, Tennessee. Both of these towns are frequent nominees for “best place to retire” lists.

Lake Frederick in the Shenandoah Valley (near Winchester VA) was nominated in Part 1 by Jan Sedaka. She described it as “120 acres of pure-blue quiet. At the Shenandoah Active Adult Community, where homes surround the lake, only electric motors are allowed. No jet skis, no windshield bugs, no harsh winter winds bearing down on the lake — just sun and lake and sky and mountains. Paradise.”

Lake Lynn Dam on Cheat Lake (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cheat Lake is a beautiful 13 mile long reservoir in a small town of the same name near Morgantown, West Virginia and the southwestern border of Pennsylvania. West Virginia is a friendly place for retirement, and Morgantown is the home of the Mountaineers of the University of West Virginia. About 8,000 folks live on or near the lake and experience its quiet charm. Cheat Lake has 3 marinas located towards the river end of the reservoir. They are Edgewater Marina, Lakeside Marina and Sunset Beach Marina.

Lake Martin near Auburn, Alabama is rated one of the top lakes in the country for fun, recreation, and beauty. There are many second homes owned by folks from Birmingham and even Atlanta. Lake Martin includes many popular attractions, including eagles nests, natural sand beaches, restaurants, camping areas and popular islands. The lake has several landmarks, such as the Kowaliga Bridge, and several marinas.

Caddo Lake is gigantic bayou and lake on the Texas/Louisiana border. It is one of Texas’ few non-oxbow natural lakes and is the 2nd largest in the South; although it has been added to by the Caddo Dam. According to Wikipedi, it has the largest cypress forest in the world . There are some small towns on the lake in both Texas and Louisiana. One of the best potential spots for retirement is Jefferson, which is a tourist center. There are homes for sale on the lake with a range of prices.

Table Rock Lake is one of the popular draws for the nearby town of Branson, Missouri. There are several commercial marinas along the lake, and Table Rock State Park is located on the east side of Table Rock Dam. Branson, popular with tourists, is of course an interesting attraction in its own right. Known as “Family Friendly” Las Vegas, it features 100 live shows in over 50 theatres, plus museums and amusement parks.

Lake Maxinkuckee, the second largest natural lake in Indiana, borders the town of Culver, IN. The shore is lined with beautiful homes and the Culver Academies, a distinguished college-prep boarding school. The Town of Culver is the hub for eating, shopping and living.

Bottom Line
Living on a lake can be a safer and sometimes less expensive option than trying to live near a beach. For folks looking for waterborne fun, lake-side living is hard to beat. So when you are considering a place to retire, don’t forget to check out towns and developments near lakes.

Comments and Suggestions. Can you add the advantages and disadvantages we’ve listed here for retiring near a lake? How about some more great lakes that it would be wonderful to retire on? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For more information:
Part 1: Best Places to Retire on a Lake (2011)
Great Mountain Towns for Retirement
Great College Towns for Retirement
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront
5 Big Reasons Why Small Towns Are Great Places to Retire
10 Great Walkable Towns for Retirement

Posted by Admin on July 22nd, 2014

5 Comments »

  1. This comment came in from Richard:
    I think you should look at Ocean Shores, WA. There are 2 lakes, 23 miles of canals, Grays Harbor waterfront, and Pacific ocean waterfront as well as a PGA golf course all within the city limits of this 6 mile lone peninsula.

    by Admin — July 23, 2014

  2. “Velvet lake water. “. I love that description ! I’ve often said that swimming in our own lake is like swimming in silk, but velvet is so much more tactile. We live (summers only) by Long Pond, Plymouth, MA, and attest to the lovely experience of this environment. I’m sitting on our screened loving the scent of the pine forest that surrounds us, the sweet breezy feel of the air, the birds chirping all my about. Beaches always seem to me to be scaldingly hot, blindingly bright (or damp and overcast), and LOUD — the waves, the ungainly sea birds hawking for a meal, the beach goers. It’s a lovely, restful environment for sure. My heaven.

    by PatKennedy — July 23, 2014

  3. I was surprised that there were none on the Western of the US. I would love to find a town like Prescott, AZ next to beautiful mountain lake!

    by John — July 23, 2014

  4. Holiday Island, where I live, is a wonderful small community situated on the southern arm of Table Rock Lake in northwestern Arkansas. We have about 2500 residents and enjoy not only the beauty of a lake and mountains, with lots of wildlife, but also have the amenities of two golf courses, two pools, tennis, pickle ball, a marina and public boat launch, a handicap accessible fishing pier, as well as many social clubs and activities. We have great weather here, with each season showing us a different landscape. Tourists come to this area to view the beautiful fall colors when our forested mountains come alive with gorgeous reds and golds. We are an hour’s drive from Branson and also just 5 miles north of Eureka Springs, Arkansas–which is a charming Victorian village, with great shopping and restaurants, and a festival or parade practically every weekend! Holiday Island offers all types of housing, from weekend cabins in the woods, to elegant golf course houses, secluded areas to more populated neighborhoods, and lake views to woodsy views–single family homes, condos, duplexes, and apartments. Wide price ranges. The people who live here are very friendly and welcoming to newcomers. I love it here….it’s a wonderful place to live! Check out Holiday Island on topretirements.com under Arkansas or our website, holidayisland.us

    by Linda — July 23, 2014

  5. It must be very difficult to narrow the field when compiling a “Top Ten” list, and retirement opportunities on a lake would need to have been particularly challenging. I would like to make a plug for Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A clear, beautiful lake offering a full complement of aquatic pursuits, and surrounded by a full gamut of housing possibilities. The Lake is within an hour’s driving distance of both Lynchburg and Roanoke, and has become a popular retirement location for folks from both up north and further south.

    by Robert Lange — July 27, 2014

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Salary Data