Best places to retire on the East Coast

October 20, 2021
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Best places to retire on the East Coast

Whether you're on the brink of retiring or fantasizing about your bucket list, Stacker rounded up East Coast contenders as you contemplate your retirement dreams. With both Northern winter climates and Southern sunny states, beautiful beaches, natural splendor, and a mix of affordable and upscale lifestyle options, the East Coast offers something for everyone. 

Using Niche's 2020 Best Places to Retire (released in 2020) as a guideline, Stacker developed a list of what's important to people thinking about retiring. Variables include weather, safety, housing expenses, and access to places like eateries, golf courses, recreation facilities, and health care. Listed here are numbers for the general population along with a look at percentages of people ages 55 to 64 and 65 and over, along with median household income, median household value, and median rent.

While the East Coast includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, only 10 states were included in the top-50 places to retire on the East Coast. To give the list more variety, only the top-10 places from each state were considered for the ranking. And while many of the places are located in sunny states like Florida and North Carolina, states like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania made the list with small-town charm, dining, and cultural activities, giving retirees good reasons to retire in a specific area.

Take a tour of the 50 best places to retire on the East Coast, whether you are looking to spend your golden years with your toes in the sand, swinging a golf club, or enjoying the bounty of natural beauty in this region of America.

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Jeff Kubina // Flickr

#50. Southern Shores, North Carolina

- Population: 2,899 (20% age 55-64 and 34% age 65+)
- Median household income: $96,553
- Median home value: $465,200 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,914 (8% rent)

In North Carolina's Outer Banks, Southern Shores is 1 mile wide and 4 miles long. Along with natural splendor, the coastal area boasts beaches, golf, and dining and is close to two major shopping centers.

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Steven Martin // Flickr

#49. Flat Rock, North Carolina

- Population: 3,328 (18% age 55-64 and 49% age 65+)
- Median household income: $90,887
- Median home value: $424,600 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,224 (9% rent)

Looking for a quaint and historic village for retirement? Flat Rock, about 33 miles south of Asheville, is brimming with local charm. Dubbed the “Little Charleston of the Mountains,” this quaint village has galleries, shops, and eateries, and it was also the home of poet Carl Sandburg.

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Forsaken Fotos // Flickr

#48. Ocean City, Maryland

- Population: 6,972 (19% age 55-64 and 34% age 65+)
- Median household income: $54,014
- Median home value: $298,500 (70% own)
- Median rent: $1,040 (30% rent)

Ocean City is famous for its boardwalks, ocean views, and saltwater taffy. If you love resort-style living, sea air, and dipping your toes in the ocean each morning, this is the place for you. During the summer, you can meet thousands of vacationers, and in the winter, have the beach all to yourself.

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#47. Biltmore Forest, North Carolina

- Population: 1,473 (17% age 55-64 and 34% age 65+)
- Median household income: $180,781
- Median home value: $910,400 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,083 (9% rent)

Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore Forest is less than 3 square miles in size, offering a quaint respite from the hustle and bustle of nearby Asheville. When price is not a factor in the buying decision, beautiful real estate and an affluent community awaits retirees here.

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J. Kristopher // Flickr

#46. Pantops, Virginia

- Population: 3,388 (8% age 55-64 and 33% age 65+)
- Median household income: $69,279
- Median home value: $330,100 (31% own)
- Median rent: $1,284 (69% rent)

For those who enjoy the energy and accommodations of a university town, Pantops is just 4 miles from the University of Virginia. For easy travel, local bus routes can transport residents to nearby Charlottesville and its commuter airport that connects to larger airports.

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JGHowes // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Timonium, Maryland

- Population: 10,557 (15% age 55-64 and 28% age 65+)
- Median household income: $97,055
- Median home value: $380,700 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,366 (23% rent)

The quiet town of Timonium is about 20 minutes away from Baltimore. The quaint suburb is close to Towson, which has abundant shopping centers, entertainment options, and eateries.

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The ed17 // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Carolina Shores, North Carolina

- Population: 4,163 (21% age 55-64 and 46% age 65+)
- Median household income: $63,048
- Median home value: $193,100 (94% own)
- Median rent: $1,513 (6% rent)

Retirees will be in good company in Carolina Shores, where the median age is 64. Outdoor enthusiasts will be drawn to the coastal community and its easy access to seafood restaurants, barrier islands, and Myrtle Beach.

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Timothy Balogh // Flickr

#43. Surfside Beach, South Carolina

- Population: 4,385 (19% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $55,099
- Median home value: $266,600 (65% own)
- Median rent: $1,040 (35% rent)

Surfside Beach, around 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach (which is ranked one of the best beach towns in the country), is all about family and fun. Along with seven parks and pristine beaches, there's a wealth of places to enjoy fresh seafood and outdoor activities. The town council signed a proclamation making Surfside Beach the first autism-friendly travel destination.

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#42. Southport, North Carolina

- Population: 3,739 (16% age 55-64 and 35% age 65+)
- Median household income: $52,917
- Median home value: $252,600 (77% own)
- Median rent: $980 (23% rent)

One of coastal North Carolina’s oldest communities, Southport is part of the Brunswick Islands, and ideal for anyone who enjoys nautical life. There’s no shortage of bucolic cottages, wooden boardwalks, and nature trails to explore in Southport.

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Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#41. North Hills, New York

- Population: 5,796 (18% age 55-64 and 41% age 65+)
- Median household income: $155,679
- Median home value: $1,057,000 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,571 (19% rent)

North Hills is an upscale residential village with a population just under 6,000 located between Manhasset and New Hyde Park. There are restaurants, museums, bike paths, and two country clubs in this community that’s ranked as the eighth richest in America.

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Shawn Taylor // Flickr

#40. North Decatur, Georgia

- Population: 16,701 (14% age 55-64 and 18% age 65+)
- Median household income: $79,449
- Median home value: $295,800 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,205 (43% rent)

Located in DeKalb County, and just 7 miles from downtown Atlanta, North Decatur offers more affordable homes within proximity to a larger city. Current residents consider the city to be safe, quiet, and family friendly.

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Michael Napoleon // Flickr

#39. Surf City, New Jersey

- Population: 1,271 (23% age 55-64 and 50% age 65+)
- Median household income: $90,313
- Median home value: $727,800 (86% own)
- Median rent: $1,358 (14% rent)

Beach-lovers will feel right at home in Surf City. Along with being close to the sea and the bay, residents can enjoy a myriad of boutiques and restaurants. If relaxation and beautiful beaches are on the bucket list, Surf City is the ideal destination.

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Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#38. University Gardens, New York

- Population: 4,182 (15% age 55-64 and 18% age 65+)
- Median household income: $116,711
- Median home value: $787,700 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,665 (24% rent)

University Gardens, in the Great Neck region of New York, is an urban spot ideal for affluent retirees who enjoy cultural activities like going to the theater, drinking fine wine, and shopping at boutiques.

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Dave Hilbert // Shutterstock

#37. Trent Woods, North Carolina

- Population: 4,050 (15% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $90,119
- Median home value: $237,800 (90% own)
- Median rent: $1,292 (10% rent)

Residents of Trent Woods can enjoy a quiet town with easy access to amenities in neighboring communities. The small North Carolina town sits right alongside the Trent River and enjoys all four seasons.

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Adam E. Moreira // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Great Neck Plaza, New York

- Population: 6,957 (14% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $92,260
- Median home value: $364,400 (59% own)
- Median rent: $1,958 (41% rent)

Great Neck Plaza has a lot going on for a village that is only about a third of a square mile. Easy to access via the Long Island Railroad, the village features over 260 retail stores, upscale shops, and restaurants.

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Bruce C. Cooper // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania

- Population: 5,932 (15% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $123,854
- Median home value: $366,000 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,416 (13% rent)

Safe and green top the list of adjectives to describe Penn Wynne, a suburb of Montgomery County. Its large Orthodox Jewish community works diligently to preserve the area's natural assets.

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Matt Green // Flickr

#34. Great Neck Estates, New York

- Population: 2,852 (11% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $147,750
- Median home value: $1,357,100 (90% own)
- Median rent: $1,865 (10% rent)

In the safe, suburban, and affluent neighborhood of Great Neck Estates, most residents own their homes, and many are retirees. Residents feel safe walking and mingling with neighbors at local coffee shops and boutiques. Located in the town of North Hempstead on the North Shore of Long Island, it was the setting for F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic “Great Gatsby.”

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#33. Piermont, New York

- Population: 2,540 (17% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $124,716
- Median home value: $579,800 (67% own)
- Median rent: $2,000 (33% rent)

Tourists love to visit this beautiful Hudson Valley river town for its waterfront, shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. Located under an hour from LaGuaridia Airport, Piermont offers endless entertainment options and remarkable views at every turn.

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D. Benjamin Miller // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Great Neck Gardens, New York

- Population: 1,150 (7% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $218,603
- Median home value: $954,300 (91% own)
- Median rent: unavailable (9% rent)

A welcome respite from the hustle of New York City, Great Neck is a charming and welcoming collection of nine villages. And if you crave the bustle of Manhattan from time to time, Great Neck isn't too far away for a day trip.

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#31. St. Simons, Georgia

- Population: 14,778 (15% age 55-64 and 35% age 65+)
- Median household income: $87,248
- Median home value: $371,800 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,309 (24% rent)

St. Simons Island is an idyllic spot to retire, brimming with Southern charm, history, and a wide variety of outdoor activities. Couples looking for a beach lifestyle full of natural beauty will love calling St. Simons home.

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Leonard J. DeFrancisci // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Pinehurst, North Carolina

- Population: 16,050 (14% age 55-64 and 41% age 65+)
- Median household income: $82,081
- Median home value: $293,100 (85% own)
- Median rent: $1,420 (15% rent)

Die-hard golfers know the magic of Pinehurst, renowned for the pristine courses at Pinehurst Resort; however, this North Carolina town shines for its retirees, too. Boating, golfing, visiting botanical gardens, and culinary tasting tours are just a few of the activities that couples will love.

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Smallbones // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Ocean View, Delaware

- Population: 2,272 (20% age 55-64 and 37% age 65+)
- Median household income: $85,417
- Median home value: $346,400 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,645 (11% rent)

The small town of Ocean View is a beachfront community. As its name suggests, many Ocean View residents have stunning views of the ocean. Two miles east is Bethany Beach and its outdoor recreational activities, including boating.

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David Byron Keener // Shutterstock

#28. St. James, North Carolina

- Population: 5,521 (25% age 55-64 and 65% age 65+)
- Median household income: $104,850
- Median home value: $456,600 (95% own)
- Median rent: $1,862 (5% rent)

St. James is a town located a few miles from Southport. The lively community features a beach club and marina, along with golf courses, tennis courts, and swimming pools.

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Daniel Case // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Roslyn, New York

- Population: 2,855 (17% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $110,029
- Median home value: $450,000 (70% own)
- Median rent: $2,521 (30% rent)

In the hills of Long Island's Gold Coast, Roslyn is a vibrant village boasting lovely restored houses and buildings, historic landmarks, and a bustling downtown. Its library hosts lectures, events, and exhibits, while a 16-acre green space in the village center offers year-round activities.

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#26. Isle of Palms, South Carolina

- Population: 4,360 (21% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $122,228
- Median home value: $852,700 (86% own)
- Median rent: $1,994 (14% rent)

This laid-back barrier island community is close to Charleston, South Carolina, and offers a plethora of outdoor activities including golf, tennis, fishing, and dog walking. Clean beaches and lovely homes are the hallmarks of this affluent community.

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NHRHS2010 // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Woodbury, New York

- Population: 8,852 (15% age 55-64 and 31% age 65+)
- Median household income: $181,667
- Median home value: $842,000 (87% own)
- Median rent: $2,846 (13% rent)

Dubbed “Gateway to Orange County,” Woodbury is a community brimming with natural beauty and lots of shopping. The Schunnemunk Mountain and Woodbury Creek that weave through the valley create an ideal backdrop. It is the home of Woodbury Premium Outlets, which features over 220 upscale shops.

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D. Benjamin Miller // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Manhasset, New York

- Population: 7,985 (15% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $177,321
- Median home value: $1,109,400 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,413 (21% rent)

About 20 miles away from Manhattan, Manhasset is a town brimming with community spirit and home to family-friendly parades. Along with a bustling downtown, Manhasset also has boutiques and a shopping center.

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Acroterion // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Parole, Maryland

- Population: 17,074 (16% age 55-64 and 32% age 65+)
- Median household income: $104,006
- Median home value: $454,300 (65% own)
- Median rent: $1,877 (35% rent)

In wealthy Anne Arundel County, Parole is a suburb of Annapolis. It's home to a great shopping area, but also has a rich history. Although some may think its name was derived from convicted felons, it actually came from Civil War prisoners and Camp Parole.

 

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Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post // Getty Images

#22. Chevy Chase, Maryland

- Population: 9,622 (15% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $181,929
- Median home value: $944,700 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,957 (22% rent)

Founded as a streetcar suburb, Chevy Chase is an affluent and friendly town located in Montgomery County. The small town has great access to museums, malls, restaurants, and parks. It's also close to Washington, D.C., making it a good spot for a day trip into the city.

 

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Ytoyoda // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Garrett Park, Maryland

- Population: 873 (14% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $187,778
- Median home value: $823,300 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,568 (8% rent)

The arboretum town of Garrett Park has a small-town feel in the middle of the suburbs. Named for John Garrett, president of the B&O Railroad, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Keith Kissel // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Sunset Beach, North Carolina

- Population: 3,901 (20% age 55-64 and 51% age 65+)
- Median household income: $57,265
- Median home value: $267,900 (86% own)
- Median rent: $1,232 (14% rent)

North Carolina's Sunset Beach, on the south end of the Brunswick Islands, has been listed on National Geographic's 21 Best Beaches in the World. Golf, museums, eateries, kayaking, and shops add to the allure.

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#19. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

- Population: 40,007 (18% age 55-64 and 37% age 65+)
- Median household income: $84,575
- Median home value: $483,600 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,271 (21% rent)

Hilton Head Island, known for its beaches and golf courses, is a great place to retire. Planned developments known as “plantations” dot the area. South Carolina's low country is a popular place to retire, thanks to its low cost of living and warm climate.

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NC Wetlands // Flickr

#18. Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina

- Population: 1,343 (22% age 55-64 and 47% age 65+)
- Median household income: $75,313
- Median home value: $387,600 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,214 (11% rent)

Pine Knoll Shores is best known for its pristine beaches and natural beauty. Those who enjoy kayaking, hiking, and exploring nature will adore this coastal town. Favorite things to do include a visit to the aquarium and Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area.

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Pollinator // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

- Population: 9,137 (21% age 55-64 and 33% age 65+)
- Median household income: $59,429
- Median home value: $264,000 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,130 (20% rent)

Murrells Inlet is a quaint fishing village brimming with history and natural beauty located 13 miles south of Myrtle Beach. This slice of paradise awaits golfers, art enthusiasts, fishing enthusiasts, antique collectors, and naturalists.

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Jon Bilous // Shutterstock

#16. South Kensington, Maryland

- Population: 8,763 (14% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $180,000
- Median home value: $754,200 (89% own)
- Median rent: $2,180 (11% rent)

Frequently found on best places to live rosters, South Kensington is lauded for its safety and a plethora of places to enjoy outdoor activities. The affluent town boasts six parks, shopping, and eateries.

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PointsofNoReturn // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Bethany Beach, Delaware

- Population: 854 (23% age 55-64 and 62% age 65+)
- Median household income: $87,083
- Median home value: $497,300 (99% own)
- Median rent: $1,211 (1% rent)

Bethany Beach is a small, affluent beach and resort town between Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach. Along with a small boardwalk, Bethany Beach has lots of restaurants, and Delaware Seashore State Park is just to the north of Bethany Beach. 

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Michael Rivera // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Dutch Island, Georgia

- Population: 1,162 (17% age 55-64 and 28% age 65+)
- Median household income: $170,417
- Median home value: $554,100 (100% own)
- Median rent: unavailable (0% rent)

For true resort living, Dutch Island is a private, gated community with no rentals and just under 500 single-family homes ranging in price from the mid $300,000s to over $1 million. The community is managed by a board of directors and includes a swimming pool, tennis courts, boat ramp, pier, and dock for residents.

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James Pillion // Shutterstock

#13. Garden City, South Carolina

- Population: 10,669 (20% age 55-64 and 40% age 65+)
- Median household income: $44,862
- Median home value: $145,800 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,062 (21% rent)

A tax-friendly area for South Carolina retirees, Garden City is blooming with many reasons to retire there, not limited to golfing, fishing, shopping, and sandy beaches.

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#12. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

- Population: 1,400 (24% age 55-64 and 48% age 65+)
- Median household income: $114,583
- Median home value: $1,017,100 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,261 (18% rent)

Dolphins, birds, and beaches are just some reasons retirees flock to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Only about 1 square mile, the popular beach area has a small-town feel and was named as a best place to retire by the AARP.

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Suncoast Aerials // Shutterstock

#11. Siesta Key, Florida

- Population: 5,573 (16% age 55-64 and 54% age 65+)
- Median household income: $102,143
- Median home value: $715,000 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,730 (16% rent)

If retiring to a world-famous beach is on your bucket list, be sure to check out Siesta Key in Sarasota. Crescent Beach on Siesta Key boasts a popular sand beach. Mild weather, no income taxes, low property taxes, and 99% pure quartz sand are just a few more benefits.

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#10. Jensen Beach, Florida

- Population: 13,479 (18% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $54,778
- Median home value: $232,600 (71% own)
- Median rent: $972 (29% rent)

An annual pineapple festival is held each year in Jensen Beach, once known as “The Pineapple Capital of the World.” Located between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach, this coastal town offers endless shopping and seafood restaurants galore.

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Imadi7 // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Highland Beach, Florida

- Population: 3,885 (19% age 55-64 and 58% age 65+)
- Median household income: $115,219
- Median home value: $591,500 (90% own)
- Median rent: $2,325 (10% rent)

Retirees love Highland Beach, with 80% of the 1-square-mile town’s population retired. In fact, the population doubles in the winter, when northern retirees travel south to their southern homes along the coast. Five miles from Boca Raton, there are plenty of restaurants and parks for residents to enjoy.

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Robert H Ellis // Shutterstock

#8. Cypress Lake, Florida

- Population: 12,978 (17% age 55-64 and 41% age 65+)
- Median household income: $50,945
- Median home value: $159,000 (70% own)
- Median rent: $1,221 (30% rent)

Cypress Lake is located in the Fort Myers area of Florida; it's a great spot for those who enjoy nature and beaches. Safe, quiet, and peaceful are often used to describe the neighborhoods in Cypress Lake. Nearby are trails, parks, wineries, and golf courses.

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Matthew Ingram // Flickr

#7. North River Shores, Florida

- Population: 3,874 (16% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $58,250
- Median home value: $229,800 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,223 (16% rent)

The small town of North River Shores boasts great weather and amazing value. In Martin County, it's a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and is a desirable place to retire for its year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, and a variety of community events.

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Matt Tilghman // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Whiskey Creek, Florida

- Population: 5,022 (15% age 55-64 and 34% age 65+)
- Median household income: $75,552
- Median home value: $232,900 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,196 (9% rent)

Whiskey Creek, in South Fort Myers, is a deed-restricted community, which means certain restrictions come with purchasing a home. Lush landscapes and lakes grace the neighborhood, which is home to golf, entertainment, retail shops, and restaurants. For outdoor enthusiasts, the boating and nature walks can't be beat.

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Wolfgang Moroder // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Ridge Wood Heights, Florida

- Population: 4,287 (19% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $53,503
- Median home value: $221,600 (67% own)
- Median rent: $1,135 (33% rent)

Ridge Wood Heights is located in Sarasota, and is a town that's attracting more and more retirees. Along with mild weather, the area has beaches, cultural offerings, no state income taxes, and low property taxes.

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D Ramey Logan // Wikimedia Commons

#4. South Palm Beach, Florida

- Population: 1,296 (22% age 55-64 and 50% age 65+)
- Median household income: $60,500
- Median home value: $262,300 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,500 (18% rent)

Located on the same barrier island as Manalapan, South Palm Beach is only five-eighths of a mile long. For those who love great weather and pristine beaches, this tiny slice of paradise is a great spot to consider.

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Patrick Mackin // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Lake Success, New York

- Population: 3,119 (12% age 55-64 and 31% age 65+)
- Median household income: $177,500
- Median home value: $1,194,200 (100% own)
- Median rent: $3,501 (0% rent)

The name Lake Success is brimming with positivity. A village town in Great Neck, it is also a hub for the medical field while still being close enough to New York City.

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DaSpader // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Hillsboro Beach, Florida

- Population: 1,752 (26% age 55-64 and 55% age 65+)
- Median household income: $73,558
- Median home value: $417,900 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,986 (17% rent)

Hillsboro Beach, located on a peninsula between the Intracoastal Waterway, is just 3 miles long and 900 feet wide. The mainly residential town is a paradise for beach lovers who delight in sea turtle sightings and lighthouses.

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naplesrealestate // Flickr

#1. Pelican Bay, Florida

- Population: 6,140 (13% age 55-64 and 83% age 65+)
- Median household income: $141,856
- Median home value: $983,600 (95% own)
- Median rent: $1,479 (5% rent)

Pelican Bay, a luxury community in Naples, is the ultimate spot to retire. Surrounded by 88 parks and leisure areas, its peerless amenities include an electric-powered tram system and exclusive access to lifestyle activities including golf, tennis, sailing, and fine arts.

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