Among the many great states in this beautiful nation, there are plenty of incredible places to retire–whether you love the crystal seas of the Atlantic Ocean, the golden fields of the midwest, or the misty peaks of the Pacific Northwest. But there are few destinations better than North Carolina.
North Carolina has it all. For history lovers, it’s the site of the oldest English colony in North America. For surfers and fishing enthusiasts, the Atlantic seas are unparalleled. For culture experts, there is no shortage of hip things to do and incredible restaurants to dine at with your loved ones.
Whether you love the state’s picturesque mountains or friendly locals, North Carolina is a fantastic place to live. So, are you ready to plan your retirement to the Old North State? Read on to learn the best places to retire in North Carolina.
Our list divides the state into three geographic and cultural regions: the mountains, the piedmont, and the coastal plains. First up is the coast.
The Outer Banks
Topping our list of North Carolina retirement destinations is one of the most famous destinations, the Outer Banks.
The interconnected islands are over 175 miles in length, stretching across much of the state’s east coast.
Those who retire closer to the Virginia border enjoy the scenic and quirky beach towns of:
- Southern Shores
These locations are also great places to play golf, visit the Wright Brothers Memorial, and, of course, hit the beach.
Further south, retirees looking for an escape from civilization might take to Ocracoke Island, a fishing community with some of the most unique accents in the United States.
Finally, for those who love a place with history, the Outer Banks is home to Roanoke and nearby Manteo. Roanoke is built on the site of the oldest English settlement in North America and is awash in history: you can visit the site of a famous freedmen’s colony, explore the massive pine forests, or take a snack from the oldest grapevine in the world.
If you’re interested in a coastal retirement spot but want a little more connection to civilization, Wilmington is your place.
You might say Wilmington is the flashiest North Carolina spot you’ve never heard of. That might be an exaggeration, but Wilmington does have its share of big-screen displays: downtown Wilmington is a frequent filming spot for TV and movies.
Most famously, you’ll recognize many locales from the TV series One Tree Hill and Eastbound & Down.
But beyond that, Wilmington is a vibrant scene for people of all ages. With an abundance of local businesses, thriving industries, and fascinating history–not to mention beautiful beaches–there’s so much to love in Port City.
Emerald Isle is a better-kept secret than the Outer Banks and Wilmington–but not for long. The beautiful town sits just off the Crystal Coast.
This location is perfect for those who are retiring on the younger side. The island’s shimmering sands are largely uninhabited outside of peak tourist season, and its natural scenery makes for absolutely breathtaking adventures.
While the nearest hospital is in Morehead City, and there is no downtown to speak of, that doesn’t dampen Emerald Isle’s prospects as a retirement destination.
The next area on our list is the Piedmont, the large region in the middle of North Carolina that rests at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Research Triangle
The Research Triangle is one of two population centers of central North Carolina, with the three “points” of the Triangle being three of North Carolina’s most important cities:
- Chapel Hill
As the name implies, the cities of the Research Triangle are famous for their associated universities and research labs. Durham has Duke University, Chapel Hill has UNC-Chapel Hill, and Raleigh has North Carolina State.
Additionally, the area is bustling with culture. Durham and Chapel Hill are both booming destinations for cuisine, art, and culture. Even better than that? The area has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Tar Heel State, from the Eno River Basin to Durham’s Sarah Duke Gardens.
Next up on our list is North Carolina’s most populous city and metropolitan area, Charlotte.
If you like to be in a well-established area that doesn’t skimp on convenience, Charlotte might be the right choice for you.
Like NASCAR? Head to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. History buff? Try the Levine Museum of the New South. Want to spend time with grandchildren and children? Hit up Carowinds amusement park.
Don’t be mistaken, though–you don’t need to be a jet setter or socialite to love Charlotte. With mild property values and easy access to the countryside, the area is also a delightful place to build your dream home in the suburbs.
The final Piedmont retirement spot we recommend is Greensboro, the state’s third-largest city.
Like the other locations on our list, Greensboro has a bustling downtown. The advantage over Charlotte and the Triangle, though, is that Greensboro is a tad more mainstream and more tucked away. So if you want an incredibly safe bet, this is the right place for you.
The final region we’ll be exploring is the western part of the state. These are the places to retire in North Carolina if you want to be near the Appalachian Mountains.
When it comes to Appalachian North Carolina, there’s one place that stands above all the rest: Asheville.
Asheville has been North Carolina’s longtime destination for all things hip. It has a hippie-inspired culture that’s perfect for retirees who go off the beaten path–whether you’re interested in the healthy bicycling culture, the vibrant local arts scene, or the abundance of craft breweries.
The other advantage to Asheville is, simply put, the mountains themselves. There is nothing quite like the soaring peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, and you can be sure to get to somewhere awe-strikingly beautiful from pretty much anywhere in the city.
Want an artsy spot that isn’t too far from the rest of the state? Hickory is the place for you.
This town, which sits just about two hours outside Asheville, has something for everybody. Civic developments in the past several decades have given the city a booming downtown, including top-notch restaurants, an attractive walking trail, and more.
On top of that, Hickory’s proximity to Lenoir-Rhyne University means it has an active arts and culture scene, with plenty of chances for residents to get involved and connect.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Hendersonville. This idyllic Blue Ridge Mountain town is one of the best places to retire in the state, and it’s easy to see why.
When you visit Hendersonville, you will enjoy a host of remarkable benefits. The town has a huge selection of medical offices, making it an easy and safe place to grow old.
On top of that, Hendersonville boasts a lively downtown with plenty of dining options, as well as abundant sites for exploring nature.
All in all, it’s a gem of a city.
It might not be officially known as “America in miniature” (that honor is saved for Maryland, for some reason), but North Carolina’s cultural and geographic diversity means that it’s a hotspot for anybody’s tastes.
These are the best places to retire in North Carolina. So whether you’re looking to hit the beach, explore local culture, or simply find a cozy spot to grow old, North Carolina is the place to be. Ready for retirement yet?