15 Most Beloved Beach Towns for Retirees That Aren’t in California

Find your ideal retirement in these charming seaside towns far from the Golden State.

retired couple enjoying beach vacation
Updated May 28, 2024
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If you dream about retiring early, the beach sounds like a fabulous place to be. But where should you retire when you want to take a morning stroll on a beach and spend your evenings enjoying a great social life?

While the Beach Boys may have popularized California beach life, you may be looking for a location with a lower cost of living and a less busy lifestyle. 

the good news is that there are exceptional locations in the U.S., even a few under-the-radar places, that fit your retirement plans. Here are some of them.

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Lewes, Delaware

Christine/Adobe sunrise over atlantic lewes beach delaware

Lewes, a fantastic beach in Delaware with a Cape Cod vibe, offers several benefits for retirees. First, it’s beautiful and has a moderate cost of living. Second, there are no sales, personal property, or estate taxes.

Real estate is considered affordable, but let’s consider the quality of life. With dozens of golf courses, 150 factory outlet shops, and easy access to boating, fishing, kayaking, and hiking, you certainly can see the value of calling Lewes your home for retirement.

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Fort Myers, Florida

lunamarina/Adobe florida fort myers with trees

If you love the thought of taking advantage of Florida’s zero state income tax and affordable cost of living but don’t want a big city, consider Fort Myers, located on the Gulf of Mexico.

Good access to health care, ample shops and restaurants, and the tennis, golf, hiking, and boating here make it a retirement full of opportunity.

The area does become far more crowded when snowbirds arrive — and if you’re not ready to live in Fort Myers year-round, you could be one of them.

Cape Charles, Virginia

vrstudio/Adobe waves at beach with colorful sky

Cape Charles is a lesser-known beach town with some outstanding benefits for retirees. If you enjoy crabs, clams, and oysters, you’ve come to the right place. The town is on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay across from Newport News and has much to offer.

You could spend your days hiking through Kiptopeke State Park, relaxing on the clean sands of Cape Charles Beach, or playing a round of golf at Bay Creek.

The downside of this idyllic town is that access to quality medical care and social programs may not be convenient.

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Daytona Beach, Florida

jonbilous/Adobe vacant walkway in daytona beach florida

We’ve already mentioned Florida's cost of living and tax benefits, but the state has so many beachfront opportunities that it’s hard to look elsewhere. 

Daytona Beach should be a top consideration for those who love boardwalks with arcades, summer concerts overlooking the waterfront, and exceptional golf.

Of course, the home of the Daytona 500 explodes with NASCAR fans for a week each year, but the rest of the time, this Atlantic Coast beachfront town combines modern charm with a laid-back luxury lifestyle.

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Ercan Ekinci/Adobe vacant myrtle beach at sunset

When your beach town retirement destination needs to be private, quiet, and close enough to the activities you want to enjoy, consider Murrells Inlet.

This town of about 7,500 residents is 10 miles from Myrtle Beach, with all the boardwalks, skydiving, and themed shows you could want. It’s also fantastic for those who want to own a boat or play golf on multiple courses.

The state does not tax Social Security benefits, and the cost of living in the region is far more affordable than in California.

Portland, Maine

Allen.G/Adobe portland head lighthouse at fort williams

While you may miss the intense summer sun, there’s much to love about retiring in Portland. There’s no humidity, plenty of lobster, and great restaurants. In Casco Bay, you can sail from dawn until dusk.

Portland has a moderate cost of living, stunning historic architecture, and ample culture, including the Portland Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum of Maine. There’s also no tax on Social Security earnings here.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Darryl/Adobe gulf coast sandy beach during day

Gulf Shores is an Alabama beach town known for its white sand and turquoise waters. Eight golf courses, a beautiful boardwalk, numerous hidden fishing holes, and some fantastic restaurants are within 20 miles.

This Gulf Coast town is located just south of Mobile and west of Pensacola. Alabama has a lower cost of living, doesn’t tax Social Security income, and doesn't levy income tax on retirees who continue to work.

Bellingham, Washington

Josh Scholten/Adobe beautiful lake between mountains

If living on the West Coast is important to you, head north to Bellingham, a small, gorgeous town on Bellingham Bay. You can spend your day sailing on Lake Whatcom, fishing on Lake Samish, or hiking Mount Baker, only about an hour away.

Washington does not have a personal income tax, making this community more affordable than other West Coast locations. There are also numerous medical centers.

Venice, Florida

frank peters/Adobe sunset at clearwater beach venice florida

A midsize city that feels like a small town, Venice has plenty to offer those seeking a traditional, subtropical beachfront destination. 

Located just 20 miles from Sarasota and about 60 miles from Tampa, it's easy to head into the big city for a show or a sports event. But the Venice Performing Arts Center right in town offers all the culture a retiree could want.

If you like baseball, the Atlanta Braves spring training home is nearby in North Port. As with all Gulf Coast towns, the public parks have white sand beaches and gentle waves. Venice has a well-known coral reef for snorkelers where you can hunt for fossilized shark teeth.

Venice is a must-consider destination with no state taxes and a moderate cost of living.

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Biloxi, Mississippi

SeanPavonePhoto/Adone biloxi lighthouse in mississippi at midnight

If you’re interested in the Gulf Coast, Biloxi could be a hidden gem worth considering. With its very affordable living costs and excellent beaches, it may appeal to people with a variety of interests. Additionally, the city has a diverse cultural makeup. 

You could spend your days deep-sea fishing in the Gulf, shrimping, or exploring world-class art at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

The waterfront here is outstanding, with clean beaches, marinas, and ample restaurants and shops. The city also has a lower cost of living than the national average, even though it offers everything from historic lighthouses to casinos and resorts.

Galveston, Texas

BJ Ray/Adobe galveston sunrise on beach with rides

With no state income or estate tax and an overall competitive cost of living, Galveston should be on the checklist of those looking for a warm, beach-side destination.

The year-round good weather means there’s always an adventure to be had in Galveston Island State Park or at Bishop’s Palace, a historic Victorian mansion.

You can spend the day on the sand at Stewart Beach, charter a boat from the historic seaport, or shop at The Strand. And if you love thrill rides or want to entertain the grandkids, check out Moody’s amusement park.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

aheflin/Adobe folly beach south carolina at sunset

If you’re fond of Charleston's charm and history, this South Carolina beach town just southeast of the city has plenty to offer. With a population of about 2,000, this year-round beach town boasts numerous cultural benefits. 

The historic downtown area is home to the Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina and multiple shops and Lowcountry restaurants.

The beach is beautiful, welcoming, and clean, and there’s a good chance of spotting dolphins in the open waters. You can spend the day fishing off the pier, taking your boat into the water, or hiking the shoreline.

Kemah, Texas

philipus/Adobe sunset at kemah boardwalk texas

For a true beach town feel, be sure to consider Kemah, a destination noted for its boardwalk on Trinity and Galveston bays. The boardwalk has an amusement park vibe to it, but the area has much more to offer.

You can spend your evenings watching the sunset from one of the scenic restaurants along the waterfront and your mornings jogging along the waterfront itself.

There’s deep-sea fishing, marine sanctuaries, and the Kemah Lighthouse to explore as well.

Fairhope, Alabama

ktahaziz/Adobe sunset view at fairhope, alabama

Fairhope is a beautiful Gulf Coast community noted for its small-town feel and slower pace of life. Fairhope is located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and has good weather year-roundgood weather year-round. Spending lazy days on the waterfront could become a way of life.

The area offers some outstanding treasures, including flower-lined streets of the French Quarter, live music, and artisans’ shops.

You can explore the nature trails in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta area or watch the bald eagles and egrets in the swampy marshes nearby. You can also fish off the pier, shop at the Eastern Shore Art Center, and play a round at Rock Creek Golf Club.

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Shawn.ccf/Adobe sunset over kiawah island beach

For island life retirement, explore all that Kiawah Island provides, especially golf. The Ocean Course has hosted the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship and is a bucket-list destination for golfers.

Non-golfers will enjoy riding bicycles or horses on the hard-packed sand beaches, birdwatching, playing tennis and pickleball, and crabbing as the sun goes down.

Kiawah Island is 50 miles from historic Charleston. According to Zillow, it’s the most expensive place to retire on this list, with the median home listing price around $2 million as of October 2023.

Bottom line

EpicStockMedia/Adobe mature couple watching sunset at beach

Wondering if you can retire early? After exploring all of the affordable, highly desirable beachfront communities in the U.S., including many outside of California, it may be time to do just that.

The good news is that you have lots of options. Some communities that may just be a few miles inland offer the best combination of weather, amenities, and lots of sand between your feet.

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