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10 Prettiest Retirement Towns in the Carolinas

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

April 9, 2019 — The Carolinas are extremely popular retirement states, with good reason. Their winters are warmer than in the midwest and northeast, taxes and the cost of living are agreeable, and there are many great retirement towns. Here are some of our favorite retirement towns in Carolina, based on how attractive they are. The competition for prettiest retirement town in the Carolinas is pretty stiff, in fact you probably have some of your own favorites. Please share your suggestions in the Comments section at the end.


Beaufort, SC. The Old South lives on in the quaint seaside charm of this town, pronounced b’yoofurt. Known as the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands”, the Spanish came here in 1514 and it was chartered by the British in 1711. It lies in the Sea Islands or “Low Country” area of South Carolina near Hilton Head.

The Holy City

Charleston, SC. Some might argue that Charleston is the prettiest town in the South, if not the U.S. Founded in 1670, it was one of the biggest cities in America well into the 1800s. Charleston’s popularity is based on that long and colorful history as well as its streets lined with majestic and Spanish moss draped live oaks. Historic pastel-colored homes look out over the waterfront.

Downtown Greenville

Greenville, SC. Although a small city that is growing fast, Greenville has one of the best downtowns in America. The best way to see it is to hike or bike along the river trails, and when you get to the gigantic waterfall, walk up the steps. There you will be in the heart of town with museums, sidewalk cafes, and shops all walkable.

May River in Bluffton

Bluffton, SC. This pretty town is popular with tourists and retirees alike. It is just off of Hilton Head Island and near the Georgia border.  The town is located on a bluff overlooking the May River in an area long known for tourism. The old town near the river has art and antique galleries and the Riverfront Pocket Park and Garden.


McClellanville, SC. . Located midway down the Atlantic coast, this tiny collection of towns is surrounded by the Francis Marion National Forest. It has traditionally derived its livelihood from the sea and coastal marshes by fishing, shrimping and oystering.


Clemson, SC. This college town has lots of excitement due to the students and their athletic endeavors. It also has a busy and pretty downtown and nearby are Lake Keowee and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city has a comprehensive plan with an historic preservation component comprised of two historic districts.

new bern nc
Old church in New Bern

New Bern, NC. One of the oldest cities in America, New Bern has a beautiful city plan with parks and a river as features. The shops and restaurants are supported by a lively crowd of retiree residents and tourists.

Downtown Highlands restaurant scene

Highlands, NC. You get to Highlands after climbing a long way through the mountains, thinking there couldn’t be a flat piece of ground anywhere for a town. But oh boy, here it is, an affluent and charming place that is popular with weekenders and retirees who come for cool summers, beautiful scenery, interesting shops, and wonderful restaurants. Bobby Jones and his friends built a perfect golf course in town.

Mountains seen from Asheville

Asheville, NC. People either love this fast growing small city in NC’s western region, or not. We fall into the former, with its exciting streets, plentiful restaurants, stores, museums, and rolling hills. The area surrounding Asheville seems to have countless active adult and 55+ communities.

Pinehurst Village

Pinehurst Village , NC. Famous for its golf courses and as a shrine to the sport, Pinehurst is almost too perfect. Every building and home is beautiful and exudes quiet elegance. It’s a very peaceful place to live amidst the trees.

Southport harbor

Southport, NC. If you ever watched the TV show Dawson’s Creek you have seen this coastal gem located on the Atlantic coast near the North Carolina’s southern end.  The town was an active seaport in colonial times and remains one of the few active fishing villages in North Carolina.

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Posted by Admin on April 8th, 2019


  1. North Carolina is definitely a beautiful state to retire in. Asheville is lovely with blue ridge mountains and expensive houses. It is popular with young people for its new breweries downtown. Asheville is friendly and pleasant. Southport is a very lovely, small town with a nuclear power plant. Wilmington is a wonderful town but we found it too beach oriented as they have several fantastic beaches. Chapel Hill was pleasant with its university town vibe. North Carolina is an amazing state fir retirement. I am personally extremely fond of Asheville but it does get quite cold during winter.

    by Jasmine — April 10, 2019

  2. I’d like to know what it would be like in the Carolinas for a mixed race couple. Is racism alive and well there or better than in the past?

    Editor’s comment: Yours is certainly an important question as it relates to your future happiness. Our advice is the same we would give on almost any topic like this – you need to visit the places you might be considering and see for yourself. You can look at cities/towns for their racial and political composition to do some prep work, as well as look online for how other people in your situation like where they live. Racism can be anywhere, sad to say. But it is very hard to generalize, certainly on the state level and the local areas as well, many towns and neighborhoods in the Carolinas will be welcoming, and there are probably others not so much. University and college towns might be a good place to start, as well as the cities. Good luck!

    by Robin — April 10, 2019

  3. Robin, In the year we lived in Myrtle Beach we met several mixed race couples and observed many mixed race young couples (dating?) and groups of teens enjoying the Broadway At the Beach area. In visiting different cities and town in both NC and SC over the years I see them to me much MORE fully integrated than places in the Northeast where you find towns and cities that are not.

    by Jean — April 11, 2019

  4. Hmm, the Spanish discovered Beaufort in 1514? I thought we have gotten past thinking Europeans had discovered anything seeing as how there were people living here already.

    Editor’s comment: Better to say: the Spanish came here in 1514.

    by Bob — April 11, 2019

  5. Robin, You didn’t ask about Tennessee, but i thought i’d tell you about my closest friends who are a mixed race couple. They’ve been in Greeneville TN (NE corner of the state) for about 13 years. They are well-loved by all who know them and are well-integrated into the community. Mike is on the board of directors for a local ballet and appears in the community theatre. Likewise, their children are in mixed race marriages. There has been no bigotry or discrimination that i know of. No one bothers with their skin color. They are simply accepted as individuals just like anyone else. Basically, they are well loved because they are friendly, interesting, welcoming people!
    Just wanted you to know. Hope you find your happy place!

    by ella — April 11, 2019

  6. I think you forgot to look at Hendersonville, NC . . .

    by Patty MacDuff — April 11, 2019

  7. Robin, I have lived in NC most of my life. I think even the more rural areas like where i live are very accepting if you are very accepting. What i mean by that if your accepting of how people live here that most people will be just as accepting of you. I go to church with a mixed race couple and their children and they fit right in with everyone else . As it is a small Baptist church in a rural area the stereotype would be that we aren’t accepting but we are. On the other hand if you are, perhaps subconsciously the type person who is easily offended where people intend to offend or not, it might not be the place for you. People that see things they dont like and start talking about how ignorant people around here and how it is so much better in ( fill in the blank) probably aren’t a good match. If a Confederate flag on someones private property property offends you, just keep that to yourself but it is their property and their right . People will treat you with just as much respect as you treat them.

    by Colonel Mike — April 16, 2019

  8. One town on my list for prettiest in Edenton, NC. Strikingly beautiful village on the water with very nice downtown.

    Editor’s note: Thanks Erik! See our article on Edenton, it is a gem! “A Town So Pretty It Hurts” (with lots of great photos)

    by Erik — April 16, 2019

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