What Are the Best Places to Retire in South Carolina?

South Carolina has some of the most beautiful landscapes in this country. There are miles of stunning sandy beaches along the Atlantic coast, and the Blue Ridge Mountains offer a different type of gorgeous terrain. The weather is warmer throughout the year allowing residents to enjoy more time outdoors.

Many retirees decide to settle in one of this state's charming cities. Here are our ten best cities and towns to retire in South Carolina.

1. Seneca

Seneca is a picturesque small town surrounded by scenic lakes and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains that offer residents a ton of outdoor adventures to pursue throughout the entire year. Enjoy kayaking, rafting and fishing on the nearby rivers.

Residents can hike along numerous nature trails, go boating, play golf or tennis or engage in birdwatching. Stroll the quaint downtown area and/or enjoy a savory meal at one of the local restaurants after shopping.

Visit the World of Energy Museum located at the Oconee Nuclear Station or tour the Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum famed for its African American exhibits. The cost of living here is lower than the national average, and there are excellent medical care facilities too that the sizeable retirement community can access.

Highlights

  • Lunney Museum – tours by appointments
  • Sip drinks at Birds of a Feather – downtown cocktail bar
  • Shop and dine at Ram Cat Alley – boutiques and restaurants
  • Jazz on the Alley – Thursday evening live music performances
  • Take a Jocassee Lake Tour – guided tour featuring waterfalls
  • Lake Keowee – boating, fishing and other water activities
  • Hochstetler's Country Store – old-fashioned country store with ice-cream and deli items
  • South Cove County Park – fishing pier, picnic areas, trails, boating, water-skiing and camping

2. Greenville

Many retirees are choosing Greensville as their retirement destination. This mid-sized city still retains that small-town friendliness that most seniors remember from days gone by.

There are many area parks and nature trails for hiking, biking, birdwatching and rollerblading. Greenville also boasts an upbeat and fun downtown area with lots of eclectic local shops, dining venues, art galleries, a performance theater and more.

There are several area medical centers, some tax reductions for seniors and plenty of outdoor recreational options as well as local downtown cultural attractions that retirees often desire. The town holds several weekly, monthly and annual community events and festivals during nice weather and on certain holidays.

Highlights

  • Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail System – hiking and biking trails
  • Find cute Hidden Mice Sculptures downtown on Main Street
  • Greenville Zoo
  • Greenville Theatre – watch live shows
  • Cross the charming Liberty Bridge to Falls Park – paved downtown trails and waterfalls
  • Explore 400-acre Lake Conestee Nature Preserve – wildlife refuge
  • Ride Downtown Trolleys – see area attractions
  • Greenville County Museum of Art
  • Attend Thursday's Downtown Alive and Main Street Fridays
  • TD Saturday Market – Main Street closed for market on Saturdays
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library – museum, gravesite and memorial park

3. Beaufort

The enchanting seaside town of Beaufort features wild marshlands and old-style southern charm. Beaufort has been filmed for several famous movies like “Forest Gump” and “The Prince of Tides”.

Many choose this locale for their retirement city for its scenery and access to pristine and less crowded beaches. The allure of downtown coffee shops, trendy stores, restaurants and bars creates a warm and welcome vibe.

There are three military bases located here, and most residents living here feel safe. The medical facilities are excellent in Beaufort, and most retirees enjoy the state's lower tax requirements for seniors, reasonable housing costs and the many local parks and water related adventures.

Highlights

  • Light Up the Night Boat Parade – during winter holiday season
  • Highway 21 – drive-in movies
  • Find fresh local produce at Port Royal Farmer's Market
  • Catch up with friends and have a drink at Port Royal Beer Garden
  • Take a walk and enjoy picnic lunches at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park – near downtown area
  • Take city tours by bus, golf cart, bike, car or foot
  • See the beautiful lighthouse on Hunting Island State Park

4. Georgetown

The early settlement of Georgetown was located where five local rivers converged in 1729. Today, the city is the 3rd largest one in South Carolina and boasts many historical homes and other area landmarks.

Visitors can learn more about the region's rice production history at the Rice Museum along with details of the area's shipping trade at the South Carolina Maritime Museum.

Take a fun and informative nighttime walking tour of the city's famed Historic District and keep an eye out for reported ghosts in the reported haunted harbor here. A knowledgeable guide gives intriguing narratives of the old seaport structures. This town holds an annual Wooden Boat Show each October.

Highlights

  • Swamp Fox Tours – narrated guide tram tours of Olde-Georgetown
  • Take a lantern-led Ghost of Georgetown Walking Tour – Fridays at dusk
  • Visit the Georgetown County Museum – 300-year historical exhibits
  • Tour historic Mansfield Plantation – old rice plantation
  • Hobcaw Barony – tour historic mansion, village and grounds
  • See the Harborwalk Marina
  • Enjoy tasty hot-dogs and ice-cream at Olde Georgetown Creamery –
  • Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center – see regional wildlife and nature scenes
  • Listen to live music at Frances Marion Park

5. Fountain Inn

Retirees searching for a more rural retirement location that has low crime, lowered cost of living expenses and access to outdoor recreation should consider the small town of Fountain Inn. Nestled enchantingly in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, Fountain Inn retains that slow and friendly atmosphere that is hard to find in today's busy cities.

Located in the central upstate region of South Carolina, Fountain Inn is ideal for those who wish to live in a quieter area but still have access to nearby larger city attractions. A visit during the winter holiday season is a must-do.

The historic downtown streets are transformed into a winter wonderland complete with festive decorations, old-fashioned streetlamps and horse-drawn carriages.

Highlights

  • Catch a live show at the Younts Center for the Performing Arts
  • Take horse-riding lessons at Black Horse Run
  • Hike or ride your bike along Swamp Rabbit Trail
  • Tour the Fountain Inn Museum – area history
  • See famous musical concerts at Heritage Park Amphitheatre – in nearby Simpsonville
  • Hike in Cedar Falls Park – moderately difficult hike that winds past dining venues
  • Attend Fountain Inn Christmas Festivities – annual community event

6. Bluffton

Located along the banks of the beautiful May River, Bluffton makes a wonderful choice as a retirement town. This city has a low crime rate, and residents have close access to pristine stretches of beach that are far less crowded than those in Myrtle Beach and other more popular tourist locations. The sandy beaches of Hilton Head Island can be reached quickly by crossing a bridge.

Along with having the reputation of a larger and active senior population, Bluffton has its own unique artist scene with many art studios, galleries and other art-related venues. Many retirees take art classes from local artists. There are several top-rated golf courses here, and the lovely historic downtown area can be easily walked on nice days.

Highlights

  • Visit the Heyward House Museum – welcome center
  • Take a stroll through Martin Family Park on Green Street
  • Explore the area lowlands by boat
  • Shop at the old-fashioned Bluffton General Store
  • Stop by Gigi's Boutique or Antiques in the Garden – local shops
  • Browse Red Piano Art Gallery
  • The Church of the Cross – historic church with spectacular river views
  • The Bluffton Oyster Co. – outdoor tables with park and fire pit for oyster roasting

7. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has long been a popular tourist destination with long sandy beaches and lots of small shops, art galleries, a wide variety of dining options, nightlife and water adventures to try.

More seniors are making this town their new home. Along with a still growing senior population, Myrtle Beach has some of the best healthcare facilities in the state and lots of senior related activities and programs nearby as well.

The lowered cost of living expenses, senior friendly taxes and gorgeous natural scenery are all terrific reasons to retire here in this warm and tropical paradise. If beaches, boating and shopping are not your thing, there are many golf courses and indoor activities to enjoy too.

Highlights

  • Explore Murrells Inlet – salt water estuary lands
  • Beaches galore – all kinds of water recreation
  • Shop at trendy tourist boutiques or low-cost outlet malls
  • Enjoy a local craft brew – numerous options along the waterfront
  • Attend a music concert on the beach
  • Sample the huge variety of dining venues – seafood specialty dishes
  • Play golf at one of 100 golf courses in the area
  • Charter a Fishing Boat – go deep sea fishing along with dolphin and whale watching
  • Watch endangered turtles hatch at designated sites
  • Enjoy rides, nightlife and other entertainments

8. Summerville

The town of Summerville is often called “The Flower Town in the Pines” by the locals here. It is said that the pine tree scent from the numerous pines that grow in this region are therapeutic especially for lung conditions. This town is fast becoming a rising retiree spot in recent years. There are many highly regarded medical centers located here within a close driving distance.

Summerville is situated just outside of Charleston making this area a perfect home when desiring a quieter lifestyle. At the same time, you will not be too far from the excitement of big city amenities. Residents have close access to nearby beaches and an international airport for travel convenience when desired.

Summerville is also only about 20 minutes away from Beidler Forest with nature trails and outdoor adventures. Everyone should attend the Flowertown Arts and Crafts Festival during October.

Highlights

  • Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site – located upper portion of Ashley River
  • Tour Azalea Park and Sculpture Garden – lovely walking trails and picnic areas
  • Summerville Dorchester Museum
  • Browse Art Central Gallery – art exhibits and art classes
  • Summerville Antique Gallery
  • Shop at Antiques & Artisans Village and Main Street Antiques – vintage treasures
  • Dine at The Icehouse – local restaurant
  • Shop People Places & Quilts – quilting kits and supplies
  • Legend Oaks Golf Club
  • Watch the Flowertown Players at the Flowertown Theater
  • Cinemark Movies 8 – movie theater

9. Charleston

The romantic town of Charleston is the largest city in this state. There are lots of historic homes and other buildings scattered throughout this important southern city. Some call this town the “Holy City” due to its lovely historic churches that have steeples dating back to the early 1700s.

Residents and tourists can take fun and interesting walking tours through various parts of this charming city.

There are several terrific beaches, like Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms, and the city has a wide variety of eclectic shops, entertainment options, restaurants of every description and topnotch medical facilities along with lots of retirement communities for retirees looking to move here.

There are also many cultural attractions from theater to museums and outdoor nature parks to enjoy. The open-air market is a must-do.

Highlights

  • Visit historic Fort Sumter – important during the Civil War
  • Walk down the cobblestone and brick Philadelphia Alley – said to be haunted dueling site during 1700s
  • Enjoy the brightly hued Rainbow Row – 13 Georgian buildings constructed in 1740s then used by merchants and painted in 1930s
  • Take a Gullah Geechee Tour – learn the history of Gullah culture
  • South Carolina Aquarium – see marine life up close
  • Historic Charleston City Market
  • Tour the Edmonston-Alstead House Tour – historic southern mansion built 1800s
  • Charleston Tea Gallery – discover how tea is grown on this SC island – tour factory and take trolley ride
  • Go on a Ghost Tour of various Charleston area haunted places
  • See a live performance at Dock Street Theater – famed theater

10. Spartanburg

The small and friendly town of Spartanburg is best known as a college town due to its seven universities and colleges. The city of Greenville is less than an hour away, and Spartanburg offers a quieter lifestyle with close community ties and a surprising number of artists and cultural attractions for such a small town.

Many retirees who decide to move here are usually active and like to be living in family style neighborhoods. A high number of seniors attend classes at one or more of the universities or take classes outside the institutions taught by local artists.

The automotive industry is a large employer in this region, and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer tons of outdoor adventures and spectacular views.

Highlights

  • Hollywild Animal Park – a unique animal zoo that houses 500+ animals in natural environments – many animals here starred in movies
  • West Main Artist's Co-op – rotating art exhibits by local artists
  • Hatcher Garden & Woodland Preserve – beautiful botanical gardens with rare wildlife and birds
  • Anderson Mill – vintage historic gristmill from 19th century
  • Westgate Mall – large shopping mall
  • Edward M. Griffin Nature Preserve – wildlife sanctuary offers hiking and biking trails, kayaking and other recreation
  • Croft State Park – trails, playground and picnic areas
  • Spartanburg Art Museum and TJC Gallery
  • Chapman Cultural Center – home to many arts related groups and events

FAQs about retiring in South Carolina

1. What are some of the main benefits that retirees have in South Carolina?

South Carolina cities usually offer a lower than national average cost of living expenses, affordable housing options and senior-friendly tax breaks and other financial perks. The warm climate, beautiful scenery and access to outdoor nature areas are other fantastic benefits to consider.

2. Are there any concerns regarding retirement in South Carolina to consider?

Although many towns and rural areas in this state are quite safe and boast friendly neighborhoods where everyone helps each other, there are some concerns related to higher crime rates in some neighborhoods especially in the larger cities.

If this is one of your most important criteria, be aware that states like New Hampshire and Wyoming have some of the lowest crime rates in the country.

3. Are there are any major weather concerns related to retirement in South Carolina?

South Carolina can get hot and muggy during the summer months. Its location also puts the state in line with hurricane and flood zones especially along the Atlantic coastlines. These risks decrease moving inland and near the mountain ranges.

Areas near the ocean and bodies of water usually have a nice breeze, and most public buildings have air-conditioning.

Have a look at our top 15 US states to retire in if you fear South Carolina's climate is not for you.