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10 Great Lake Towns for Retirement

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Note: Were you looking for our “5 Medicare Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make” article? Use the link in the previous sentence or go the “Blog” in the navigation at top.

July 19, 2022 — This is the time of year when life doesn’t get much better than living on a lake. With the loons calling, gentle waves lapping at the dock, and the sun setting during dinner on your screened in porch, life is good. Retiring on a lake has so many lifestyle advantages including fishing, boating, and swimming. Not to mention that your kids and grandkids will only be too eager to come for a visit.

Here are 10 great lake towns for retirement. We picked them not only because they are on beautiful lakes, but because many also have an interesting town nearby. We look forward to your suggestions on other “best” lake towns for retirement.

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 is located 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 plenty of housing appropriate for the retiree. Many of these properties, including condos, have sweeping views of the lakes.” Real estate here is not as expensive as in Florida’s coastal areas.

Lake Frederick in the Shenandoah Valley (near Winchester VA) was nominated 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.”

View of Cheat Lake

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.

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.

Greensboro, near Lake Oconee


Lake Oconee is the 2nd largest in Georgia, and is home to several very large active communities. Those residents tend to go to Greensboro-Oconee. GA for more fun. The downtown is charming and busy. The lake was only built in 1979 so it is a relatively young area.  

Charlevoix, MI. When it comes to great lake towns it would be hard to pass up this one. “Charlevoix the Beautiful”, as it calls itself, is an old seasonal town in northwest Michigan. It is located on an isthmus between Lake Michigan and Round Lake, adjacent to the shores of Lake Charlevoix. In addition to boating the area has extensive rails to trails.

Skaneateles, in New York’s Finger Lake Region, has the benefit of being one of the prettiest and most interesting towns in the area. But by no means should you discount the many other lakes here.  Its quaint downtown offers a toy shop, a chocolate shop, unique stores, bakeries, art galleries, pubs and a wine bar. The clear blue lake provides recreation activities as well as the backdrop for the many events that take place in the waterfront park.

Gull Lake courtesy of Zhans33 and WIkipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0/

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, has to have a lake that would be perfect for you. Many families here have a lake cottage that has been in the family for 50 or more years. Lake town possibilities are endless, but one good example is Nisswa. With its miles of lakeshore and endearing charm, it is a resort town in the central part of the state. Surrounded by lakes, Nisswa is part of the Brainerd Lakes Area. Some of these are Nisswa Lake, Roy Lake, Gull Lake, Lake Hubert, Clark Lake, Round Lake, and North Long Lake. Summertime visitors have been coming here for more than a century.

Detroit Lake is in Oregon’s central region about 50 miles from Salem. The Detroit Lake Recreation Area is big with boaters, fishermen, and other water sports lovers. The nine-mile long lake also feeds creeks and rivers. 

Marblehead, Ohio. Marblehead is a great little town on Lake Erie that is part of the area known as Vacationland. It is referred to as Lake Erie’s Shores and Islands, which includes the nearby islands of Put-in-Bay and Kelley’s Island, which are very popular during the summer months. These islands offer a unique experience of living on the lake.

Bottom line

Living on a lake in your retirement can be a wonderful experience. While some lakes are expensive places to live, there are so many possibilities you might be able to find one within your budget.

For further reading:

Comments: Did you retire on a lake, or would you like to? Please share your hopes and experiences in the Comments section below, including any suggestions about the lakes you love.

Posted by Admin on July 19th, 2022

15 Comments »

  1. We built a home on the Lake Chickamauga area of the TN river, 4 years ago. I pinched myself every morning for the first year because I couldn’t believe this was actually my life! We wake up to a different weather situation on the lake daily. It seems like we are on vacation! It is so beautiful and interesting to watch the boats and the waterfoul everyday. Then, there are the amazing sunsets! If you can swing a SW view, I highly recomend that. It’s like God paints a gorgeous scene for us every evening. When we first rented here, we wanted to be sure to be done in the kitchen every evening to go sit by the window or outside to view the amazing sunsets! There are so many lake activities to partake in, if you live with lake access as well. Unfortunately, lake home prices and building have really jumped the past couple of years.

    by Caps — July 20, 2022

  2. Every time one of these “best of” articles comes out all the suggestions are in the East or Florida. Why don’t you give equal listings for East, Central, West parts of our country? I am in the West and personally have no intention of moving 4,000 miles. I am asking for equal representation and geographic consideration for these lists. Thanks.

    by P Eldridge — July 21, 2022

  3. P. Eldridge, perhaps (in the discussion of best lake areas) it is because there are many more 55+ communities on lakes in the East and in Florida….

    I am not trying to be snarky, but much of the West is experiencing record-breaking, extreme heat and drought. Lake Mead, and other lakes out West, are under considerable stress with alarmingly low water levels (and falling). This is very concerning, no matter from which perch one is viewing it from. I hope Mother Nature will begin to provide relief soon.

    by Monika O — July 21, 2022

  4. Yes would like to have reviews in the West. Arizona and California. Especially new ones.

    by Lori Elwood — July 21, 2022

  5. Thanks for the comment P Eldridge. You raise an important point. We do try to balance East vs. West. There are more 55+ communities in the East, but still. In this particular article we tried to find more western lake towns, but struggled. There are lakes in the West obviously, but many of them are big reservoirs where it is rarely possible to actually live on the lake (or if so quite expensive). We did find a lake in Oregon and ones in Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. If others have suggestions, we would love to hear them!

    by Admin — July 21, 2022

  6. I am retired in Phayao, northern Thailand. 17,000 people and just enough western amenities to make it comfortable for a westerner. Lake Phayao with a backdrop of tall mountains is a very nice place to retire and extremely affordable.

    by James Reed — July 21, 2022

  7. Admin – thank you for replying and offering an explanation. Yes, it’s hot and yes, there are a lot of reservoirs, not natural lakes. Plus the geography can be rugged, uninhabitable mountains. But surely there must be someplace west of the Mississippi River that qualifies? Sometimes it seems like reporting is so East Coast heavy that I wonder why I keep reading these newsletters. I do read them because I’m hopeful one day I’ll discover something great. I do appreciate all the work that goes into topretirements, and I’ve been a subscriber for years. It can’t be all hopeless way over here on the edge of the continent.

    by P Eldridge — July 21, 2022

  8. One lake-living spot in western Missouri is Lake of the Ozarks. There are thousands of homes and some condos around it. It’s not a retirement community, and most places are second homes, but it’s overall pleasant. Summers are hot and winters are fairly cold. Like most other places, prices have gone up, but there is a variety of homes to choose from. Beautiful springs and autumns.

    by Clyde — July 22, 2022

  9. Skaneateles is the correct spelling for the beautiful crystal-clear lake just outside Syracuse, NY. When we were kids (living in Syracuse) we looked forward to spending every summer weekend at Skaneateles Lake. The farmer charged for each car. The cows stayed behind the fence and watched us swim and picnic all day! The water is cold and deep but you can see right to the bottom of the lake. The changing room was the “doll house” that the farmer built for his daughter when she was a little girl. It was larger than some of the “tiny houses” that have gained popularity in the past few years. Some of my best childhood memories occurred at Skaneateles Lake!

    by Ann M. Miller — July 22, 2022

  10. I have read all these articles for years and agree with several others about seeing more options for the West. I live in Washington State and there are lots of nice areas here to retire to and Oregon has a whole coast of beautiful places. I’d like to see some options from here too.

    Sharon

    by Sharon L Alexander — July 23, 2022

  11. I’ve been to Skaneateles NY, in the Finger Lakes. The town is quaint. But the area is a bit yupified. My friend who we visited lives in nearby Syracuse. He tells me that a whole bunch of rich famous types from NYC have bought places along the lake. I never saw any when I was there. We didn’t get out on that lake – we stayed on the less famous but quite nice Otisco lake. I think I’d get tired of Skaneateles because there’s not really much there for permanent folks. I bet they do most of their commerce in summers. thanks.

    by JoeC — July 27, 2022

  12. I agree with JoeC’s comments about Skaneateles Lake in NY; indeed the town of Skaneateles has become very pricey lately. But I would call everyone’s attention to the other ten lakes in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State. The natural beauty of the area, the moderate cost, and proximity to big city attractions and services when and if needed are big selling points for retirees. We live in a lakefront home on Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls, for example, and Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca are all within an easy one hour drive. Like other lake areas, prices have trended upward recently but are still relatively reasonable. We have noticed in the past 2-3 years an influx of folks from Boston and New York who can work from home, or have purchased a second home for family vacation or eventual retirement. On that point, I should note that NYS does not tax social security nor does it tax federal, state or military pensions.

    by Shelby — July 29, 2022

  13. Consider Holland, Michigan as we did for retirement. Manageable size, pretty downtown, booming industrial base, in the fastest growing county in Michigan.

    Oh,we are sited adjacent to Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa, so water oriented activities abound. Come to the West Coast of Michigan for a surprise taste of coastal life, minus the salt water!

    by Robert — August 6, 2022

  14. Robert,

    I still have wooden shoes from Holland, Michigan that I got as a child. We went there as a side trip one summer from my grandparent’s home, who lived on a small last in southeast Michigan. It was lovely at that time, and very clean in Holland, and apparently still is. How are the winters, however? I am sure that is a consideration of many of us here.

    Thank you!
    Jennifer

    by Jennifer Lee — August 7, 2022

  15. Jennifer, climate change has moderated the winters here. We have been here since 2019, but old timers talk about significant snowfalls long ago. Other locales on this list have more severe winters. Downtown Holland has heated sidewalks and streets, and is expanding the heated area, so no snow and ice downtown to contend with.

    No question we get our fair share of overcast skies, but summers are spectacular! Choose your time to hibernate: from cold northern blasts here, or oppressive heat and humidity in the southern U.S.!

    by Robert — August 8, 2022

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