Minds are funny things. The process of word association explains how we conjure specific images to go with specific prompts. It is the basis of something like a Rorschach test.
If you want calm you might picture a desert or a still ocean. If you want comfortable you will find hearts and warm imagery. If you think retirement you think beach.
The best beach towns offer a combination of calm and comfortable that no other setting resembles. Your brain comes with an innate desire to be in the warmth near the water.
It isn’t surprising that reports point to both psychology and physical health benefits of beach living.
Best Beach Towns Explored
Beach towns make excellent places to retire to, though not always equal in amenities and cost. The following list presents options for a variety of tastes. It prioritizes affordability and convenience for living your fullest post-work life.
We break down the list into some simple categories. These include locations with seasons, always warm areas, and expatriate locations worth considering.
For the Temperate Set
While the idea of eternal sunshine and long afternoons appeals to some, others crave their seasons. These provide that exquisite summer beach experience synonymous with retirement. However, they toss in picturesque falls and winters to contrast.
1. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
A quaint coastal haven with a lot of history is Portsmouth, NH. Low taxes and an engrossing DIY community are major draws.
The downtown area bustles with outdoor markets and year-round activities. Tourism is surprisingly low while rec centers catering to community interest are at a high.
Summer concerts and outdoor festivals are popular both in Portsmouth and further up the coast into Maine (not even an hour drive). Pretty beaches look out into the bay and the mix of fishing and sailing vessels.
Plus, it’s New England, as it cools down the surrounding country explodes into the poster child for all things autumn. Truly, Portsmouth is one of the best small towns to live in while still accessing urban conveniences.
2. Port Townsend, Washington
All of the best temperate beach towns seem to be historic treasures. Continuing that tradition is Port Townsend, WA. here, almost the entire downtown area is a protected historic district.
The area, on the other side of the Puget Sound looking at Seattle, features Victorian-style buildings and cobbled streets.
Arts and architecture feature prominently in the rich culture of the area. Gallery walks are a relaxing and enriching way to spend an evening. If you have been meaning to pursue some new hobbies, this is an area packed with possibilities.
For the nature lover, there are many great hikes and trails heading into the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. You can check out the parks or the Chinese Gardens.
This is also one of the most affordable places to live in the greater Seattle area. Being across the way from a major trade city has advantages in traveling to meet family or taking a quick vacation into Canada or beyond.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
Heading back for some east coast beaches, try Charleston, SC. Come for the rich history and southern charm, stay for the food and friendly tax estate tax rates.
While Charleston stays warmer than the previous locations, it still has its winter dips and seasonal wonders. Hit the beach proper for some of the most placid paddle boarding in the US. Or kayak up the coast and take a shuttle back down into the town proper.
The food goes well beyond ‘comfort’ and into siren’s call territory. The history of several traditional foods of America traces back to Charleston. Especially important are the traditions of nearby small islands to the Gullah culture.
Warm Year Round
If you want to find a place of perpetual summer to avoid wardrobe changes, try these options.
4. Hilo, Hawaii
Unlike some other locations in the island chain, Hilo is surprisingly affordable. Still, this is the priciest option on this list.
What do we need to say about a location in Hawaii? That it is warm and beautiful year round? That, unlike some other places, the volcano is much less interested in changing the landscape than some other islands?
Check out a walk through the rainforest to a waterfall. Visiting the Volcanoes National Park. For the science-minded, spend some time at the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
5. Stuart, Florida
A gem tucked away in a stretch of east coast beaches, Stuart may have the best sailfish in the world. Get in touch with your inner Hemingway and take a lazy day out in the waters trolling for a big one.
Head back into town and savor the busy, but not too busy streets and cafes.
Watch out for this area, it is growing fast as more people discover its combination of size and convenience for their retirement futures.
Speaking of Hemingway, here are some options for those looking to live that rewarding expat lifestyle.
6. Penang, Malaysia
For those looking to make a leap, Malaysia has a 10-year MM2H visa program. Nearly 80% of the population speaks English. The beaches are pristine and the condos are modern and affordable.
Cost of living in the area is one of the lowest on this list. Penang is the ‘just right’ point of exotic with jungle and natives but a familiar city and cultural structure laid down by the former British Empire.
Don’t forget the food. The food features inspiration from a dozen surrounding countries.
7. Pedasi, Panama
Pedasi is for those looking to retire to a remote location, far from the things of man. (But within actual driving distance of the things of man.)
English speakers are a bit more hit and miss here, but with an area of only about 1500 people, talking isn’t really a big draw. Enjoy the eternal warmth of this near-equator location and the miles of coast and jungle.
Jump in the car and drive four hours to Panama City for a weekend excursion or big shopping trip.
Bonus Beach Town!
Ft. Myers, Florida
Ft. Myers abounds in white sand with over fifty miles of pristine, sparkling, tranquil beaches. They are perfect for chilling out with your favorite book, superb for wildlife watching, and fantastic for aquatic sports. Many beaches offer rentals of paddle-boards, kayaks, and canoes!
Right now, you can download our Ft. Myers Destination Retirement Guide and enjoy 50+ pages of real-estate tips, dining and nightlife, retirement communities, and more.
Well, this should get you thinking about fine-tuning your search for a beachside retirement destination. The best beach towns are not the ones highly rated by some list, they are the ones that provide what you want. Remember to keep your budget in mind and as always, find tips to save now so you can choose your heart’s desire.