The Best Walkable Places to Retire in South CarolinaBest Retirement Towns and States
March 1, 2023 — A few years back one we featured the Best Places to Retire in South Carolina in one of our Blogs. Not only were they attractive places to retire, but most had the added advantage of being very walkable towns. The piece prompted a lot of interesting discussion and Comments. It even inspired one of our Members, Judith, to go and visit many of them on a two week trip. Happily for Topretirements, she then reported back to the Blog on her experiences.
We have reprinted her trip report below. Even better, when we contacted Judith about this article, she reported that she had gone back to many of the same towns a few years later She provided us with her notes on that tour, which are in bold below. We added a few additional details to some of those places to retire (they are in italic). Here goes:
Judith’s Trip Report to SC Best Places to Retire
I did a two week tour of South Carolina from Sept. 21 to Oct. 6 (2016). It’s a quiet Saturday morning now, and I have time to put down my thoughts, for those who asked.
Travelers Rest, SC. I entered the state of South Carolina on the freeway from Asheville, NC, which allowed me to pass through Travelers Rest. I was charmed! Loved the tall pines and rolling hills. Just beautiful. I must return for a second look. Editor comment: With a population of about 5,000, Travelers Rest went unnoticed until the recent development of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This 20 mile multi-use greenway system runs along the Reedy River connecting the old railway system between Greenville and Travelers Rest.
Greenville, SC. Would have been perfect perhaps 10 years ago, but it’s gotten so big now and so complex. If only there were a magic wand to go “POOF!” and erase everything built over the last few years. I’m just too late to the party on Greenville. And I’m sad, because I can see what it used to be. Editor comment: Here is what someone else had to say about Greenville: Downtown Greenville is unique in that it is located right at its scenic falls, and along a beautiful park and trail system. Home to many restaurants, boutiques, and weekly festivals, the downtown is busy even on Sunday mornings.
Clemson, SC was a side-trip from Greenville. I loved the college campus and little town. Really liked it a lot. I’m going to go back when I make another trip to the state. Editor comment: Clemson University is the cultural center of the city. The university’s cultural and sporting facilities provide cultural and recreational opportunities for active adults 55. On game days the 80,000 stadium fills the town with excitement. There is plenty to do and see. Lake Hartwell runs through town, Lake Keowee is nearby.
(second trip): Clemson is now off my list because of prices. I was interested in a small community of new-traditional homes there called Patrick Square, but the prices escalated too quickly and priced me out. There wasn’t anything else in Clemson that interested me.
Aiken, SC. Absolutely loved Aiken. Rolling hills, pretty vistas, very adorable old-timey main street downtown. Also has all the shopping and medical I would want. I’m not a horse person, but nonetheless felt I could fit in there. I didn’t see a single soul walking around in riding gear though. My main objective in Aiken was to explore the Woodside Plantation community, which I could not have entered unless with a realtor. I stopped at Coldwell Banker and a lovely woman (Patti) spent two hours driving me around W.P. and Aiken. I could be quite content to live in this town. Negatives? Well, I’ve thought about it, and here’s what I think. It’s isolated. Is that good or bad? Both. Will friends and family go “Ugh!” at the thought of just getting there? Or would I feel that way when wanting to fly anywhere? Worth thinking about.
(second trip): I crossed Aiken off my list because I kept getting bit by no-see-ums, to the point I just couldn’t put up with it (this was January, if that matters). People have since told me those little devils are all throughout S.C., but Aiken was the only place I was bitten by them. And so ferociously! I don’t know what to make of it, except that Aiken is now off my list. Pity, because I really liked Woodside Plantation.
Summerville, SC. Way more spread out than I had imagined for a town that size. With the exception of the area around the freeway interchange, it’s pretty, with tall trees everywhere. There was an Italian festival going on downtown, where I hear there’s always something interesting going on. Wide variety of housing types and prices. My budget is in the $300’s or less, so no problem finding lots of candidates. Seems like a real nice community. I lean towards living in a community where I would be a “member.” That might be a 55+ place like Cresswind, or an all-ages like Summers Corner or Carnes Crossing on the other side of I-26. Or even a more middle-class neighborhood like Trillium (around $200K), where the houses all have front porches and the garages are in a rear alley. There’s a community pool too. I really liked Summerville. A top contender.
(second visit): Pretty much off my list now. I re-visited The Ponds and Summer’s Corner and really like both, but lean towards The Ponds because of its 55+ neighborhood, Cresswind. Unfortunately, the home prices have gone up a lot more than a lot of other real estate I’ve looked at, and that really annoyed me. That’s why I’ve cooled on Summerville, although I do take a peek now and then.
Beaufort, SC. On the drive from Summerville to Beaufort, all of a sudden the terrain switched very dramatically. I came out of the forest and into the swamp. Visually I found that lacking in appeal. I toured Celadon, a new-traditional development in Ladys Island just a few minutes from central Beaufort. The homes are like those in Summers Corner – love this style and will try to buy this type of home. What concerned me about Celadon is that the neighborhood is entirely shrouded by a mossy tree canopy. I like a lot of light in my home, and as much as I loved this neighborhood I feel that I’d become depressed with all the shade. Took a quick drive through CitiWalk and it’s just too small. Would not offer anything for seniors looking for a feeling of community. Editor comment: The second oldest city in the state, its history is reflected in the horse-drawn carriages that roll along streets in the town’s charming historic district overhung with Spanish moss.
Bluffton, SC. I spent the evening in old town Bluffton, which was a lot smaller than I’d expected. I got the feeling that it’s a tourist kind of downtown. Overall, it was hard to figure out where I’d fit in Bluffton. I liked the look and feel of the town, but didn’t see enough to know. So don’t put much stock in my opinion here. I liked it enough to go back, I’ll say that. One thing to note is that it’s only 30 min to the Savannah airport. Also, the new branch of Univ South Carolina Beaufort is right there in Bluffton. I wanted to drive through Sun City Hilton Head, so I tailgated my way through the security gate and drove through really quickly. It’s pretty, and I’d definitely make time on a return trip to give it a proper look. It’s also pretty large, meaning there’d be tons of activities for seniors. One negative I see online quite a bit is the heavy, heavy traffic heading in and out of Hilton Head island. They say it’s only getting worse. Big boulevards, you drive for miles and miles to get anywhere. I made time to drive through Hampton Lake, and it was probably a good fit for me in terms of lifestyle, loved the fantastic pool and clubhouse facilities. Homes more expensive than comparables in Summerville, but about the same as Celadon in Beaufort.
(second trip): I re-visited Hampton Lakes in Bluffton, but was unable to find anything small enough for me. I don’t want anything over 1600 sq ft. Hampton Lakes is more suitable for people who want at least 2500 sq ft. The two other places I still like in the Bluffton area are Sun City and Margaritaville, and I’ve been following home listings in both of those places ever since. I’m attracted to them because they offer so much for seniors.
Savannah, GA. On my second trip I was able to finally visit Savannah. Drove around quite a bit and even spent one night. But the town felt “gritty” to me; that’s the feeling it gave me. I was never considering it as a potential retirement possibility, but Savannah is one of those “someday I’ll go visit” places I just had to experience.
Summary of trip 1: So that’s it, folks. I knew as soon as I got to SC that I really liked it and that this would just be a quick survey of the towns I’d discovered and liked on TopRetirements.com. I’ll come back in about a year for round 2. I’ll rent a furnished apartment or long-term airbnb (which is what I stayed in every night of this trip) and I’ll stay at least 6 weeks. I want to return to Travelers Rest, Aiken, Clemson, Summerville, and Bluffton.
Summary report after Trip 2: Overall, my problem is that I just can’t seem to get my California home fixed up to the point I can sell it and get out of here. Approaching 70 now, I can’t say I’ll ever leave my current home, but I sure spend a lot of time online looking at places I might like to move to someday. My horizons have broadened, and lately I’ve been looking at Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Bottom line: I’m just an old, confused woman!
Thanks Judith! Your reports and very interesting and valuable.
Judith’s explorations show the importance of seeing places for yourself, spending time there and even going back for repeat visits to get an accurate view. There is no substitute for personal experience – no one else’s opinion counts for more than your own! Coming up soon we will write a Blog on walkable places to retire in North Carolina. If you have experiences with towns in either the Palmetto or Tar Heel States, please share them with us.
The original article:
10 Great Places to Retire in South Carolina (many great comments)
Great article Judith! I’m originally from SC and looking to move back after 20+ years. I’m finding the same as you with my trips back. Areas that look great the first trip are quickly becoming overpriced and/or crowded. I’m also expanding my search to nearby states. Hope we both find a great place to settle in soon.
by Patrick — March 1, 2023
I love when people comment on personal experiences of towns visited, and appreciate Judith taking the time to share her opinions. I agree with Patrick, it is a great article. We have visited a few places in SC, mainly just from driving through on our way to Florida. I thought Greenville was a great town, I think mainly because of the downtown where we had a fun day and enjoyed a great lunch. As for Aiken, we did not visit and I know nothing about it, but I’m not sure I would write off a town or community that I liked due to no-see-ums. (Trust me, I hate those little bugs, but they are everywhere and I fight them off summer evenings at our home in Pennsylvania). Nevertheless, I wish more people would give their opinions and comments about towns they visited or live in -no matter what state. It is helpful and nice to read an inside scoop. Maybe there are some hidden gems in SC that Judith doesn’t know about ?
by Jem — March 1, 2023
I think I have decided on SC too but can’t decide where. I’ve taken one trip but need to go back soon and make a decision. I’m pretty sure I want to be around Charlotte, whether it be NC or SC. SC is less expensive, for sure. LOTS of 55+ communities. I’m looking at Del Webbs, Cresswinds and a Trilogy. I just don’t want to be out in the boonies. It is SO beautiful there, so much to do, and will be such a nice change from southern California.
by SandraF — March 2, 2023
I really enjoyed the overview of all the South Carolina towns. Sandra Have to admit though a little prejudice/no a lot prejudice ( NO …..NOT TALKING ABOUT RACE or RELIGION) . Went to college in Charleston “The Citadel” and lived in Denmark, SC for a few years. So, I really like the Low Country part of SC . My experience form researching places in and around Beautiful Charleston is – that area too is quite pricey. I liked Beaufort and much of the surrounding area after a visit in Nov. 2022. I would like to hear comments from others about the cities in the Northern Costal areas, North of Charleston to up to Myrtle Beach . ( including Costal NC )
Also , as far as walkable cities go- Both my wife and I are Handicapped . Information about accessible cities with GREAT healthcare would be most appreciated.
I presently live in Southern NJ ,( The actual Garden Spot of the Garden State and a Great place to live -GO PHILLIES!. – GO EAGLES ! BUT even here the lower NJ taxes and high car insurance are still quite high.
by Sam — March 2, 2023
No-see-ums are in most of these places with the exception of upstate SC.
by Debra — March 3, 2023
Sounds like Judith should look for a retirement home closer to where she lives now.
So many people who decide to move south for better weather and lower cost of living give up after a few years and “move back” to familiar climes
by Sandra Warwick — March 4, 2023
Sandra, you are quite right. Although Judith has done a great job of research to find a home, her journey could be titled, “Perfect, the Enemy of Very Good.” I have been to all the towns she visited, and seemed to like, and they are substantially as she described them (although I was bitten by Aiken’s charms, not its bugs). Of course, each place has some little flaw; it even rains in San Diego occasionally, but that doesn’t keep the city from having the generally accepted “best” weather in the U.S. Judith started her explorations in 2016 and, six years later, she has basically written off an entire state and is ready to expand her search to three other states where she can count on ever-increasing real estate prices and some little thing wrong with every town. If we do the math, that’s another 18 years of exploration (3 states x six years each). Judith, if you own your home in California, its value has risen in tandem with prices in the areas you are looking at. If that is the case then price increases for a retirement place should not deter you. (The history of real estate is that prices do rise over time.) If you are a current renter, then Sandra’s advice is right on; consider staying where you have been most comfortable — and travel for pleasure rather than research.
by Larry — March 5, 2023
Yes, Sandra you are quite right indeed.
by Judith Masc — March 6, 2023
The article is very good but I’m still confused. I don’t know what to choose.
by Laura — March 6, 2023
We live in Summerville. We moved from suburban DC. We chose Summerville because we wanted a smaller town near a larger city. Why? Greater choice of wonderful restaurants, shopping, etcetcetc. We don’t shop anymore but window-shopping is very inexpensive for us but friends and guests love to go to the “City.”
The greater reason is the larger area of superb Doctors. The Medical University of South Carolina along with the Roper/St Francis medical system gives us the very best. My doc at MUSC is a Harvard Med graduate. My cardiologist is from U/Penn medical school. My Internist is from UNC/Chapel Hill. I am 80, spouse is 70.
Lived here since 2016. Could not be happier. Our doctors seriously watch out for us.
Yes, this place has GROWN. Yes, this place has gotten more expensive. Yes, traffic is crazy. We leave our house after 9 am and return around 3:30 the latest. But, you tell me if the same hasn’t happened everywhere.
We could not be happier. We have friends in Naples, Fl, St Augustine, Del Ray Beach, Fl, Sarasota, Even our friends in the mountains above Blacksburg, VA complain about traffic, prices, etcetcetc. Ya gotta bite it!
Frankly, I would suggest you stay where you are. Make the most of it. The move across the country will kill you.
All the best!
by Hjack — March 12, 2023