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Here Are Our Choices for the Best Places To Retire in the South in 2024

Retirement

by Matt Lyons Posted on December 21, 2023
Many retirees find it best to relocate before living out their golden years, particularly because they desire warmer weather, a lower cost of living, better tax rates, and more age-appropriate activities. And where can you find some of the best places to escape those colder temperatures and higher living costs — among other perks? Why the South, of course! But which places rank as the best places to retire in the South? Here are our top 12 picks. 

Pros and Cons of Retiring in the South

While the South offers just about every amenity desired by retirees — from a low cost of living and beautiful weather to great healthcare and the best golf courses in the country — naturally, there are going to be drawbacks that might take a little time to get used to. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making your final decision.

Major pros of retiring in the South include:

  • Warm weather: If you’re in search of warm weather year round, the South is certainly the region to consider. In fact, southern states like Florida and Louisiana are among the hottest states in the country.
  • Low cost of living: Compared to the West Coast and other areas farther north, the cost of living in many of the states throughout the South are much lower. Mississippi and Alabama, for example, are among the cheapest states.
  • Favorable taxes for retirees: Southern states like Texas and Florida have no state income tax, and other states like South Carolina offer big retirement income deductions.

One of the biggest drawbacks you’ll face when retiring in the South? The high risk for various natural disasters. Unfortunately, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and landslides are all common. And while that southern heat makes it easy to enjoy the outdoors most of the year, sometimes the temperatures get a bit too hot for comfort in the summertime. Pests like mosquitoes, ants, and spiders are also common throughout the South. 

If you decide to retire in a popular resort destination like Hilton Head Island, you will also have to deal with larger crowds, more traffic, and busier restaurants throughout certain parts of the year. 

Pros and Cons of Retiring in the South

Q: What’s the best place to retire in the South?
A:
Southern Living and Investopedia agree that Chattanooga is one of the top-ranking best places to retire in the South. And the suburb of Lookout Mountain is one of the best places to settle down close by.

Q: Where is the cheapest place to retire in the Southern U.S.?
A:
With a cost of living lower than the national average and cheaper housing prices than in other areas of the state, the city of Metairie in Louisiana is one of the cheapest places to retire in the South.

Q: What state is the best, financially, to retire in?
A:
Out of every state that doesn’t take a cut of retirement income, Mississippi has some of the lowest property taxes in the country, making it very affordable for retirees overall. 

Q: Where do Southerners retire?
A:
Florida is definitely one of the best places to retire in the South, and Pelican Bay in Naples tends to be a very popular location there among retirees.

Best Places To Retire in the South

Whether you get your entertainment from exploring the outdoors; shopping; or learning about local art, culture, and history, the South offers it all. Check out these 12 picks for the best places to retire in the South. 

Aerial view of a golf course in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. There is a densely wooded area between the golf course and the beach. Luxury homes line the edges of the golf course.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
(Source: Visit Hilton Head via Facebook)

1. Hilton Head Island, SC

Where is the best place to retire in South Carolina? The popular vacation spot of Hilton Head Island is easily one of the best places you can choose from, offering pristine sandy beaches and the classic feel of small-town southern charm. 

The South, as a whole, is quite popular for its golf scene, and retirees relocating to Hilton Head Island will be pleased to know that some of the best golf courses in the entire region are found here. Designed by PGA professionals, there are over 25 golf courses to choose from when you feel like getting out on the greens. 

Other than enjoying the soothing waters of the Atlantic Ocean and staying active by golfing, residents can always opt for a relaxing day of shopping and grabbing a bite to eat instead at the Okatie Center. You can also stay engaged in the community by joining the Hilton Head Island Senior Center, a way to mingle with other residents by joining clubs, dancing, doing crafts, and more! 

2. Ocean Springs, MS

Ocean Springs is a peaceful community situated on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was first established in 1699 as the first permanent settlement in French Louisiana, but it has since transformed into a beautiful resort town.

In Ocean Springs, fishing is a way of life. It’s not uncommon to see fishermen return with nets full of oysters, crabs, and shrimp after they’ve done their morning fish runs. 

In addition, the city has become known for its prominent art scene, with several galleries and museums. One of these is the Mary C. O’'Keefe Cultural Arts Center, which features exhibits, along with art classes and performances.

3. Pelican Bay, FL

Located in Naples, Florida, the active lifestyle community of Pelican Bay is one of the best places to retire in Florida. This small town has an upscale atmosphere that’s ideal for retirees who enjoy the best amenities Florida has to offer. 

Pelican Bay is popular for its recreation and parks, as well as golfing. The 25,000-square-foot community center of Pelican Bay features a variety of exercise classes and a fitness center that’s perfect for retired residents to stay active. It also has meeting rooms for special events, an art studio, a computer room, and more.

Because of its location in Naples, residents of Pelican Bay have access to a variety of entertainment options. The Artis–Naples center, for example, hosts various musical events each year. And a short walk away is the Waterside Shops, which feature upscale dining and shopping.

Mountain-top view of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River seen from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

View of Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Lookout Mountain
(Source: For The Love Of Old Houses via Facebook)

4. Lookout Mountain, TN

If you’ve ever visited this quaint yet beautiful and vibrant small suburb of Chattanooga, you probably won’t be surprised to see that it made this list! Just less than an hour away from nearby Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain is proud to boast a variety of exciting attractions, along with some of the most picturesque views in the state of Tennessee. 

One of the most spectacular cave waterfalls in the world can be found in nearby Ruby Falls, which offers underground cave adventures, beautiful views of the Cumberland Plateau, and fast zip lines (to keep the grandkids entertained, of course). 

5. Pinehurst, NC

Known for its friendly community, the town of Pinehurst ranks as one of the best places to retire in North Carolina. If you're a lover of the outdoors, you'll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy it in Pinehurst, such as at the beautiful Reservoir Park that features plenty of hiking trails. Pinehurst also has lots of theaters (like the Judson Theatre Company), art galleries, and museums to check out, including Tufts Archives and the Carolina Philharmonic. And there are several annual events that both local residents and visitors from out of town can enjoy, which include the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Live After 5 summer events, and the Festival of Trees lighting.

6. St. Simons, GA

Located south of Georgia's coast, St. Simons Island is one of the four barrier islands that are a part of the Golden Isles. Both the town of St. Simons and the island are often referred to as St. Simons Island, and they captivate people who come to visit from all over the world!

There are plenty of activities for everyone on St. Simons Island, such as exploring the Conservation Center, two marinas, and Glynn Visual Arts. Many people also enjoy fishing and scuba diving along the local lively Fishing Pier.

Retired residents living in St. Simons Island can get more involved with the community by attending several local festivals, such as the Georgia Sea Islands Festival and the Food + Spirits Festivals. Other local communities, such as Jekyll Island and Brunswick, host art and food festivals each year, as well.

Aerial view of Metairie, Louisiana, on a summer day. The coastal city is sprawled out across flat terrain. A long causeway can be seen in the distance.

Metairie, Louisiana

7. Metairie, LA

Situated on the southern portion of Lake Pontchartrain (one of the best lakes to retire in the South) and surrounded by various neighborhoods and historic areas, the Jefferson Parish community of Metairie is known as New Orleans' first suburb.

One of the largest parks in the area is Lafreniere Park, which spans over 150 acres and features various facilities such as an 18-hole disc golf course and a two-mile path. There’s even a playground and carousel, perfect for those visits from the grandkids! And we can’t forget Lake Pontchartrain: Residents of Metairie can enjoy walking and biking on the local Lakefront Trail.

The town of Metairie also has plenty of festivals to enjoy, including the Family Gras, the Bucktown Seafood Festival, and the Old Metairie Irish Fest.

8. Isle of Palms, SC

Located on South Carolina's coast, this laid-back barrier island town is situated around 15 miles east of Charleston and is one of the best places to retire in South Carolina near the beach. It’s known for its beautiful homes, clean beaches, and plenty of ways to stay active and engaged within the local community. 

Some of the most popular beach activities local to the Isle of Palms include crabbing, bodysurfing, and shrimping. The Wild Dunes Resort, located on the island's northern section, also provides various recreational facilities, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, and golf courses. 

The Windjammer hosts volleyball tournaments and holds live concerts. And, of course, you don’t want to miss a beach run or oyster roast at The Dinghy

9. Bethesda, MD

Located northwest of Washington D.C., the town of Bethesda has a mix of residents and commuters from D.C., as well as a diverse mix of cultures. This area is also convenient to the capital's fun attractions, along with the trendy Georgetown and Silver Spring nightlife action.

Bethesda Row, which is on the western side of the city, offers an upscale shopping experience at local establishments, along with a movie theater and a variety of dining options. Recreation is also emphasized with the Capital Crescent Trail, which runs through the town between Wisconsin South and Bethesda West. The 11-mile trail follows the former B&O Railroad line, and it's one of the most popular paths in the country for cyclists, joggers, and walkers.

Aerial view of Orange Beach in Alabama. A few blue beach umbrellas are staked in the sand as locals enjoy a sunny day at the beach.

Orange Beach, Alabama

10. Orange Beach, AL

Located in the heart of Alabama's coastal region, Orange Beach is one of the best small towns in the South to retire, with a population of only about 8,500. One of its main draws is its excellent water access, where residents can enjoy the Gulf of Mexico, as well as other areas, like the Old River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Terry Cove.

Besides water sports, such as surfing, swimming, and paddle boarding, Orange Beach also offers its fair share of other outdoor activities. Local residents have access to the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system, for example, which consists of over 28 miles of paved trails within 6,000 acres and is most ideal for both biking and hiking. The area's Waterfront Park is another great place to enjoy the outdoors. 

11. Lewes, DE

The vibrant and fun-filled town of Lewes is situated along the banks of Delaware Bay and is bordered by the Great Marsh Preserve and Cape Henlopen State Park. Although it isn't on the Atlantic coast, Lewes is still regarded as a beach community, due to its location at the mouth of the Delaware River.

This area has plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained, such as fishing, swimming, jet skiing, and kayaking. Not to mention Cape Henlopen State Park features miles of beaches and picnic areas.

There are also a number of museums and historical sites in the area, such as the Zwaanendael Museum and the Cannonball House. And if you're looking for a good meal, you can find some of the area's best restaurants along Fisherman's Wharf

12. Rockwood, VA

Located in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the city of Rockwood is one of the best places to retire in the state. In addition to having a variety of shopping centers, such as the Rockwood Square Shopping Center, the city also has several parks for outdoor enjoyment. The historical Rockwood Park, in particular, is a favorite among residents, and it features areas for various sports, such as basketball, softball, and tennis. It also has a dog park, a playground, and a hiking trail.

Interested in diving into a diverse dining scene? Sure, there are plenty of places to eat in the nearby city of Richmond, but there are also plenty of spots to explore locally. One of the most popular establishments in the area is Cafe & Sabor Bakery and Restaurant, which serves a variety of traditional Colombian dishes.

A PODS truck is backed into a residential driveway. There’s a PODS portable moving container on the bed of the truck, and the driver is preparing to use PODZILLA to position the container in the driveway so it can be loaded.

PODS Can Help With Your Move to the South — No Matter Where You End Up

Once you’ve found the best place for you to retire in the South, PODS can easily help you get to your new residence. Have a portable moving and storage container delivered right to your driveway, where you can load it at your own pace. And when you’re ready, PODS will pick it up and take it to your new home. The best part? One month’s storage is included in every move, so you can unload on your own schedule without feeling rushed. 

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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