South Carolina: land of beaches, lazy days, warm weather, golf, and, of course, the home state of jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, the epitome of smooth, relaxing music. In short, South Carolina is a retiree’s dream. Obviously, some places in the state are going to be better for retiring than others, and today the Movoto Real Estate Blog will show you just which are the best.
In the end, Hilton Head Island came out on top, but it wasn’t without some friendly competition from the rest of the 10 best places to retire to in South Carolina:
1. Town of Hilton Head Island
2. Town of Bluffton
3. City of Charleston
4. City of Myrtle Beach
5. Town of Summerville
6. City of Goose Creek
7. City of Beaufort
8. City of Conway
9. City of Hanahan
10. Town of Mount Pleasant
Perhaps it’s no surprise to see Hilton Head Island, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach in our top 10; after all, they are home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the state. What may surprise you though, is that we didn’t even take beaches into account in our ranking, and they still came in on top. To find out what we did consider in our analysis, keep on reading. We’ll go over the method behind this list and just why each of these 10 places ranked so well.
How We Created This Ranking
We know you’ve worked hard, perhaps for most of your life; so now that it’s coming time to (finally!) retire, we’re taking the work out of it for you. We came up with five measurable criteria to pinpoint precisely which places in South Carolina would be the best for your every retirement need:
- Cost of living (high)
- Crime rate (low)
- Weather (average summer temperature and air quality)
- Ease of travel (distance to nearest international airport)
- Retiree amenities per capita (healthcare, adult education, dining, shopping, libraries, arts & entertainment)
Once we settled on our criteria, we pulled a list from the U.S. Census of all of the places with populations over 10,000 residents, which gave us a total of 37 places. Using the above criteria, we ranked each of these from a score of 1 to 37, with the lower number being the best. Then, we averaged the rankings into an overall Big Deal Score, where the lower score, in this case Hilton Head Island’s, was the best.
A quick note about our criteria: You may have noticed that we awarded points for a high cost of living. We did this with the idea that, once you are retired, it’s time to treat yourself. An area’s high cost of living is a good way to measure just how luxurious it is.
To see a full list of how South Carolina’s places ranked, jet down to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, grab your sunscreen and a beach towel, because we’re heading to our No. 1 place, Hilton Head Island.
1. Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head is the perfect spot to hang your hat after a long career at work. It has some of the best golf in the country, Coligny Beach, Lawton Stables horseback riding, and, of course, some of the best shrimp and grits anywhere at A Lowcountry Backyard. Oh, and it scored pretty darn well in our analysis, too.
Along with Bluffton, Hilton Head Island came in as having the best weather in the state, with an average summer temperature of 82 and an air quality score of 41 (the lower, the better). Hilton Head also ranked No. 1 in terms of cost of living, with a score of 127, where the national average is 100. This a good indication of Hilton Head’s overall desirability.
As if that wasn’t enough, Hilton Head Island also came in as one of the safest places in the state and as having some of the most retiree amenities per capita.
Bluffton may be one of the most charming towns we’ve seen, let alone on our list. With its Old Town situated, postcard-like, along the May River, the old Rose Hill Mansion sprawling across the lawn like an advertisement for the state, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q’s ribs… it’s pretty much anyone’s dream, especially for those retirees who have saved up to afford it.
With some of the most retiree amenities per capita, Bluffton living doesn’t exactly come cheap. The cost of living here is nine percent higher than the national average. Of course, in our analysis, this was good news for its ranking. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bluffton had the same weather score in our analysis as its neighbor, Hilton Head Island, tying the two at the top of this criterion. Plus,with just 3,282 crimes per 100,000 people, Bluffton was also one of the 10 safest on our list.
With just over 120,000 residents, Charleston is easily the largest place in our top 10. It’s packed with things to do for retirees—a variety of adult education options, libraries, arts, shopping at the Charleston City Market, dining at places like Fig, Husk, and many other one-word havens of deliciousness, and more physicians than you could possibly see in a lifetime.
However, because we calculated retiree amenities per capita (rather than total), this wasn’t where Charleston truly shined. Where it really scored points in our analysis was in its high cost of living score of 100, and for its proximity to an international airport. In other words, if you ever run out of things to do in Charleston, you’re just 15 miles from hopping on a plane to Fiji.
4. Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is, of course, one of South Carolina’s beautiful coastal cities. As residents undoubtedly know, though, it is much more. It is mini golf, comedy clubs, and aquariums; it is movie theaters ballparks, and Medieval Times. As our analysis revealed, it is also one heck of a place to retire to.
That’s because Myrtle Beach ranked No. 1 for its number of retiree amenities per capita, and with an average summer temperature of 79 degrees and an air quality score of 36, it has some of the nicest weather in the state. Plus, it’s just four miles from the nearest international airport—not that you’d ever really need to leave.
Located just a stone’s throw from our No. 3 place, Charleston, it may come as no surprise that Summerville also ranked well for its nice weather and proximity to an international airport. Where Summerville distinguished itself from the larger city was in its higher cost of living (a 95, where Charleston had a 93), and lower crime rate (just 3,459 crimes per 100,000 people annually).
All of this makes Summerville one of the best places for any South Carolina retiree, but, to be perfectly frank, Perfectly Frank’s “Aretha Franklin” hot dog is probably reason enough to retire here.
6. Goose Creek
If the beach isn’t exactly your thing, Goose Creek might be the perfect inland oasis for your retirement. While it didn’t exactly score among the best for its overall number of amenities per capita, it is home to a variety of restaurants, including the locally-loved Donut Connection—because if you’re not going to treat yourself when you’re retired, what’s the point?
Speaking of treating yourself, Goose Creek also placed well for its high cost of living score of 95,, plus it’s only 10 miles from the nearest international airport, in case you really want to treat yourself. We hear Bora Bora is lovely this time of year.
After Charleston, Beaufort is the oldest city in South Carolina, permeating every part of life in this city with a feeling of charm, tradition, and historic character with its antebellum architecture. Apart from being just a treasure to behold, this city is a wonderful place to live in, particularly for retirees.
In fact, out of all of the places we looked at, Beaufort ranked third for its number of retiree amenities per capita, like the public library, the Habersham Marketplace, and so many delicious restaurants you’ll have dinner plans for weeks. Beaufort also ranked third for its warm summer temperatures and clean air score of 41, and ranked sixth for a cost of living score of 96.
Conway is easily one of the most historically rich and charming places in our top 10, and, after its downtown renovation in the 1980s, it’s one of the most buzzing with its shops, bistros, art galleries, and things to do—especially for retirees.
Conway came in eighth on our list, both overall and in terms of its number of retiree amenities per capita. While Conway didn’t exactly score points for its relatively low cost of living score of 90 (remember, the higher the better), it made up for this by being just 15 miles to an international airport.
So, even if it isn’t the most luxurious or expensive place on the map, it’s easy enough to treat yourself with some travel to someplace that is. Of course, you may want to stick around for the summer months—an average temperature of 79 and an air quality score of 36? You wouldn’t want to miss that.
This Berkely County city of nearly 18,000 has all of the benefits of being close to Charleston, without the drawbacks (namely the crime). In fact, Hanahan was ranked seventh safest in this category, with just 2,966 crimes per 100,000 people—that’s 1,415 less than the South Carolina average.
Hanahan also ranked well for its warm summer temperature of 79 degrees and an air quality score of 41, but in case you get tired of all that sunshine, there’s an international airport just five miles away and flights to Canada are cheap. While Hanahan didn’t rank among the best for its number of retiree amenities, it’s home to LG’s By The Creek pizza, and if you ever want anything else, well, that’s what Charleston is for.
10. Mount Pleasant
This pleasant town in Charleston County did well in our study for a whole mount of reasons, but, most of all, for its crime rate of just 2,028 crimes per 100,000 people, making it the No. 1 in this criterion. It also ranked near the top (second) for its high cost of living of 111, where the national average is 100.
What exactly are residents paying for here—you know, apart from their safety and well being, that is? Mostly, a whole lot of good food. While Mount Pleasant didn’t rank that well for its overall number of amenities per capita, it did excel in restaurants. Places like Graze, Papa Zuzu’s, Carter’s Kitchen, and Cuoco Pazzo are just a handful of the delicious options that you’ll have to choose from should you retire here. Plus, if you get tired of the local cuisine, you’re just 20 minutes from an international airport for some more exotic flavor.
Where Not To Retire
We wouldn’t be doing our duty if we didn’t at least mention some of South Carolina’s worst places to retire to, and here are the bottom five out of those we looked at: Gaffney, Spartanburg, Anderson, Sumter, and Greenwood. If you’re retired and living in one of these cities, maybe it’s time you checked out Hilton Head Island.