Best Lakes To Retire On: Your Guide to Serenity and Adventure


by Leslie Baker Posted on January 10, 2024

Imagine waking up to the serene view of a sparkling lake, the gentle sound of water lapping at the shore, and the comforting feeling that you’re on a never-ending vacation. This is the charm of lakeside retirement — a perfect blend of beauty, relaxation, and delight. 

Whether it's the lure of peaceful mornings or the excitement of available water-based activities, retiring on a lake provides an unmatched lifestyle. So, naturally, it’s easy to see why you would be interested in spending those golden years by the water. But what are the best lakes to retire on? Here are our top picks, along with details about their unique advantages and the vibrant lifestyles they offer.

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A picturesque lakefront yard with a picnic bench at sunset

What Are the Benefits of Retiring on a Lake?

Retiring on a lake offers unparalleled access to nature that many find ideal for their golden years. Not only does it result in a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, but this connection with nature can also significantly enhance mental well-being. In fact, studies have shown that exposure to natural environments can help improve your working memory and cognitive flexibility. 

The lifestyle at a lakeside retirement is equally appealing. With easy access to water, retirees can indulge in a variety of recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, or simply enjoying leisurely walks along the shoreline. The proximity to water also tends to moderate the local climate, resulting in cooler summers and milder winters, which is especially beneficial for those seeking comfort in their retirement years. 

And in many cases, lakeside living also offers a lower cost of living compared to urban centers, with more affordable housing options and a reduced need for spending on entertainment, thanks to the natural amenities at your doorstep. It also gives you plenty of opportunities to get involved in the community and find camaraderie among your neighbors, since so much time is spent outdoors. 

Retiring on a Lake — Pros and Cons

Pro: Natural Beauty and Tranquility

Living by a lake in retirement offers a daily indulgence of natural beauty and tranquility. The picturesque views of the water, often accompanied by lush greenery and diverse wildlife, provide a serene backdrop that can certainly enhance your quality of life. What’s more, this peaceful environment is known for its stress-reducing effects, promoting mental and emotional well-being.

Con: Isolation and Difficult Access

Some lake communities can be somewhat isolated, leading to challenges in accessing urban amenities like specialized healthcare, shopping centers, and entertainment options. This isolation might not suit everyone — especially those who enjoy the vibrancy and convenience of city life.

Pro: Recreational Opportunities

Lakeside living opens up a plethora of recreational opportunities that are both enjoyable and beneficial for health. Retirees can engage in activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and kayaking, which not only keep them physically active but also provide opportunities for social interaction and community involvement. Weekends on the boat are also going to be a lot easier to enjoy after you move!

Con: Property Maintenance

Living by a lake often requires additional property maintenance. Issues such as humidity and potential water damage can increase the need for regular upkeep. Likewise, homes in these areas might be more prone to natural challenges like flooding or erosion, requiring extra vigilance and potentially higher insurance costs.

Pro: Moderate Climate

Many lakeside areas enjoy a moderate climate, which is particularly appealing for retirees. The proximity to water often results in milder summers and warmer winters compared to inland locations, making the weather more comfortable year-round and conducive to outdoor activities.

A crowded lakefront beach

Con: Seasonal Crowds

Popular lake destinations can attract seasonal crowds, especially during the summer and around holidays, leading to increased noise, traffic, and a general disturbance of the otherwise peaceful environment. This influx of visitors might detract from the tranquility that many seek in a lakeside retirement setting.

A lakefront home on the left and a beachfront home on the right. Overlaid text reads, “Retiring on a Lake vs. the Beach”

What Are the Benefits of Retiring on a Lake?

Lakes and beaches offer two distinct lifestyles, each with its own set of characteristics and considerations. For example, property prices and the overall cost of living tend to be lower in lake regions — especially those that are inland and away from major urban centers. This can make lakeside retirement more accessible for those on a fixed income. In contrast, beachfront properties often command a premium, reflecting their high demand and limited availability, which can significantly increase the cost of living in coastal areas.

Weather patterns are another aspect to consider. Lakeside environments typically offer a moderate climate, with the water body acting as a temperature stabilizer. This leads to cooler summers and milder winters, making it comfortable for year-round living. Beachside retirement, on the other hand, usually involves warmer climates — particularly in tropical or subtropical regions. While this can be appealing for those seeking sun and warmth, it can also mean dealing with high humidity and, in some cases, extreme weather events like hurricanes or tropical storms.

Lifestyle and recreational activities between the two also vary. Lakeside living usually offers a quieter, calmer environment that’s ideal for fishing, boating, and enjoying nature. Beachside living, meanwhile, tends to provide a more dynamic environment with a wider range of activities, including beach sports, ocean swimming, and often a more active social scene, particularly in popular tourist destinations.

And it's important to consider personal health and mobility needs. Beach areas may offer better access to healthcare facilities and services — especially if they are near larger cities or developed tourist regions. Lakeside locations, particularly those that are more remote, might have limited access to specialized healthcare services. Additionally, the terrain and climate at each location could have implications for those with health and mobility concerns, making accessibility an important factor in the decision-making process (whether you’re thinking about lakefront or beachside living).

Both lakeside and beachside retirements offer unique experiences and benefits. The choice ultimately depends on your individual preferences and lifestyle desires, as well as practical considerations, like your budget, health, and the type of community you wish to be a part of in your retirement years.

How Much Money Do You Need To Retire on a Lake?

Retiring on a lake can be a dream come true, but it's important to consider the associated costs, to ensure it fits within your retirement budget. 

As of Summer 2023, the average listing price for lake homes and lots combined in the United States had increased to approximately $538,100 each, up from around $479,600 in the spring, according to Lake Homes Realty. But in addition to the purchase price, potential homeowners should budget for general maintenance, which can be higher for lakefront properties due to factors like moisture, erosion, and possible flooding. These maintenance costs can add thousands of dollars annually.

Community fees are another consideration. Many lakefront communities charge fees for amenities like private beaches, clubhouses, and marinas, which can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per year. Property taxes also vary, but they tend to be higher for waterfront properties due to their desirable location.

And you’ll want to consider the cost of typical monthly expenses, like utilities, insurance (including flood insurance, which can be crucial for lakefront properties), and transportation — especially if the lake home is located in a more remote area.

The Best Lakes for Retirement

Now where is the best lakefront living exactly? Our top picks for best places to retire on a lake include Lake Tahoe, the Finger Lakes, Lake Norman, Tellico Lake, and the Lake of the Ozarks. Here’s more info about each one.

A large, multi-story home on the shores of Lake Tahoe

1. Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California

Lake Tahoe's community is perfect for retirees who appreciate natural beauty and a range of outdoor activities, from skiing and hiking to boating and fishing. With its varied rental and housing options, it caters to different budgets and lifestyles, making it an attractive choice for a fulfilling lakeside retirement.

A yellow, red, and blue hot air balloon floating over Middle Falls in Finger Lakes, New York

2. Finger Lakes, New York

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: N/A
  • Great for: Nature enthusiasts, culture and history buffs, peaceful, community-oriented lifestyle

Nestled in upstate New York, Finger Lakes is a haven for retirees seeking tranquility amidst natural beauty. The region, famous for its 11 glacial lakes and lush vineyards, offers a slower pace of life ideal for relaxation and leisure. Outdoor activities abound, from boating and fishing  to hitting the trails. Local favorites include the Keuka Outlet Trail and Cascadilla Falls

The area is also rich in cultural experiences, with numerous museums, historic sites, and a vibrant wine culture. Small towns around the lakes boast a welcoming community vibe, making it easy for newcomers to integrate and form lasting friendships. Retiring in Finger Lakes means embracing a lifestyle where nature's beauty and cultural richness come together, offering a fulfilling and serene retirement experience.

An overhead shot of the docks at Lake Norman, North Carolina

3. Lake Norman, NC

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): $1,750
  • Average home value: $457,000
  • Great for: Water sports enthusiasts, community-oriented retirees

Lake Norman is a gem for retirees seeking a peaceful yet vibrant lifestyle. As one of the best lakes to retire on in North Carolina, not to mention the largest man-made lake in the state, it's a paradise for water enthusiasts, offering boating, fishing, and picturesque waterfront dining experiences. The area surrounding Lake Norman buzzes with activities, from charming local festivals, like the Amazing Maize Maze, to golf courses and hiking trails.

Health and well-being are well-supported, too, since Lake Norman Regional Medical Center is so close by. And for those seeking an engaged community life, the area boasts notable retirement communities like The Peninsula Club, which offers luxury living combined with a strong sense of community and an active lifestyle. 

With its idyllic natural beauty, a plethora of recreational options, and a supportive community environment, Lake Norman stands out as an ideal destination for retirees looking to enjoy their golden years in a dynamic yet calm setting.

Lakefront cul-de-sacs and residential roads on the Tellico Lake reservoir in Tennessee

4. Tellico Lake, TN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom):  $1,675
  • Average home value: $627,000
  • Great for: Water sports enthusiasts, community-oriented retirees

Tellico Lake is definitely one of the best lakes to retire on in Tennessee, as it offers a harmonious blend of leisure and practicality. This picturesque lake is a playground for those who love the outdoors, with ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and serene lakeside walks. And the nearby towns provide a quaint but vibrant setting, rich in entertainment options that range from local music events to artisan markets. Tellico Village, nestled right up against the shoreline, is a particularly popular community for residents to settle in.

Healthcare accessibility is a key advantage here, with top-notch facilities readily available at places like the University of Tennessee’s Medical Center, Fort Loudoun Medical Center, and the Summit Medical Center. 

With its beautiful landscapes, plethora of recreational activities, and a supportive community structure, Tellico Lake emerges as a premier choice for retirees seeking a fulfilling and relaxed lifestyle.

Castle ruins overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri

5. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): $1,575
  • Average home value: $339,000
  • Great for: Adventure seekers, social butterflies

Retiring at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri means embracing a lifestyle where natural beauty meets endless entertainment. This vast lake, with its meandering shoreline, offers retirees a playground for boating, fishing, and tranquil lakefront living. The area is also renowned for its golf courses, with over a dozen to choose from, ensuring a delightful experience for golf enthusiasts. 

Entertainment is never far away, though, with a vibrant calendar filled with music festivals, car shows, and waterfront dining options that cater to all tastes. And notable retirement communities, like Timberlake Village, offer a luxurious yet comfortable living experience, complete with amenities that promote an active and social lifestyle.

When it comes to healthcare, the region is also well equipped with several top-tier facilities, like the Lake Regional Health System

Basically, Lake of the Ozarks is not just a retirement choice; it's a lifestyle choice for those seeking a blend of relaxation and vibrant community living.

Q: Where are the most affordable lake homes?
For retirees looking to stretch their dollars further, there are more affordable lake towns offering a high quality of life. These include: Smithville Lake in Missouri, Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, and Beaver Lake in Arkansas.
A PODS truck carrying a container down a residential street

Retiring on a Lake: Making the Move

When the time comes to make your lakeside dream a reality, consider the convenience of a PODS portable moving container. Not only can the professionals at PODS help simplify the moving process, but they can also recommend local packing and loading help, making your transition to lake life as smooth as possible.

Retiring on a lake offers a unique blend of tranquility, community, and adventure. And with the right planning and location, it can be the perfect setting for a fulfilling and peaceful retirement.

This content was created with the assistance of artificial intelligence. It was then fact-checked, proofread, and edited by the real-life intelligence of the PODS Blog team. 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.
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