The Best Places to Retire in North Carolina

Whether you're looking for a home near the coast, the mountains, or a major city, North Carolina has it.

North Carolina’s four-season climate, abundance of continuing education opportunities, and proximity to cultural and recreational activities have made it one of the most popular states for retirement in the U.S. If you’ve thought about moving to North Carolina, it’s likely you’ve been overwhelmed by the number of choices. The state is home to several diverse regions and metropolitan areas. If you’re deciding between the coastal cities, the mountains, or the capital, we’re here to help.

Here are the best places to retire in North Carolina along with the 55+ communities in that area.

1. The Triangle

A blue sky over a street with pedestrians in Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina
Downtown Raleigh’s charm is just one of the many reasons the Triangle is popular among active adults.

Together, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham make up the popular area nicknamed the Research Triangle, or simply the Triangle. Because it’s home to North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina, this region of the Tar Heel state is known for its technology and research facilities.

The Triangle offers plenty of recreational, social, and educational attractions. There are museums, performing arts centers, urban shops, and highly rated restaurants. Raleigh is home to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and baseball fans can go check out the Durham Bulls, the minor league team featured in the movie Bull Durham.

Chapel Hill

Home to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is a bustling city in Central North Carolina. Residents of this expansive college town stay busy with the abundance of shops, restaurants, and museums available near their lively downtown area.

Popular museums include the Ackland Art Museum and the Carolina Basketball Museum. While the city offers plenty to do, locals looking for a relaxing escape near home are in luck. Chapel Hill is home to many forest preserves, natural areas, and gardens that offer a quiet place to unwind.

Chapel Hill 55+ Communities


North Carolina’s state capital offers several entertainment options to active adults. The city boasts a number of history-filled museums as well as historic houses that date back to the 1800s. Music lovers will appreciate the city’s numerous festivals throughout the year featuring a variety of genres.

The community features several cultural events throughout the year as well and hosts a well-known local farmers market. Neuse River Trail offers a peaceful walk over the Neuse River, and Umstead State Park is a popular destination for locals who enjoy outdoor recreational activities.


Durham is best known for being home to the distinguished Duke University, but the city also hosts a number of historic sites from the 19th century that add to its rich culture. Bennett Place Historic Site, Duke Homestead, and Stagville State Historic Site are just a few historic educational centers in Durham.

Famously home to the American Tobacco Historic District, the area showcases the American Tobacco Company’s former production site. The city offers several natural areas for locals to take a relaxing stroll, such as Eno River State Park or the Duke University campus. Sarah P. Duke Gardens offer a serene and picturesque way to spend an afternoon.

Durham 55+ Communities

2. Asheville

Sidewalk cafes in Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville’s quaint setting is unmatched by any other Carolina city.

Largely known for its Art Deco and Beaux architecture, dozens of art galleries, and lush, mountain setting  Asheville is one of the most eclectic cities in North Carolina. The city is home to a booming craft beer scene and several popular music venues.

Located at a relatively high elevation, Asheville is the perfect destination for a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking in the mountains, biking along trails, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also just outside of Asheville, making it an easy escape from the city for outdoor enthusiasts.

Asheville 55+ Communities


Located south of Asheville within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hendersonville is situated in an ideal place for nature lovers. Apple orchards and sweeping vineyards are just part of what makes this picturesque city a sought-after retirement destination.

The city is home to Holmes Educational State Forest, a scenic spot where locals can enjoy a peaceful hike. Downtown Hendersonville is where residents head to find several trendy shops and restaurants. Hendersonville hosts a number of local annual events like Music on Main Street; North Carolina Apple Festival; and Cider, Wine, and Dine Weekend.

Hendersonville 55+ Communities

3. Charlotte

Blooming pink flowers with Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina in the background
Charlotte is the biggest city and metropolitan area in North Carolina for a reason.

Located in central North Carolina, Charlotte is an hour away from Myrtle Beach where there is an abundance of golf courses, and Charleston isn’t far, either. If kayakers find the North Carolina river systems too tame, then you can try out the man-made rapids at the National Whitewater Rafting Center, located in Mecklenburg County, just west of Charlotte. The ever-popular Lake Norman is located just north of the city.

Otherwise, Charlotte is popular for its dining, craft breweries, and laidback atmosphere. And let’s not forget that Charlotte is also the birthplace of NASCAR and home to the sport’s Hall of Fame.

Charlotte 55+ Communities

4. The Piedmont Triad Cities

A nighttime view of a park with buildings in the background in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad cities
Active adults looking for an affordable low-maintenance lifestyle have many options in the Triad Cities.

Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point make up North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad cities, which is not to be confused with the Triangle region of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. While many 55+ communities are located in the Raleigh-Durham area, there are plenty of low-maintenance neighborhoods in this region.

Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor adventurer, a food and wine enthusiast, or a sports fan, the Piedmont Triad area in Central North Carolina offers plenty to do, including festivals, golf courses, shopping, museums, and historical sites as well as restaurants and wineries.


Fitting to its name, Greensboro also offers a number of outdoor areas and natural parks for locals to explore. Popular destinations include Bog Garden at Benjamin Park or the Greensboro Arboretum.

Those looking for indoor recreation will find that Greensboro is full of historic and educational museums, such as the Greensboro Science Center and the Greensboro History Museum. Art galleries and antique shops are frequently spotted throughout Greensboro. The large number of activities available provides plenty of entertainment options for residents of all ages.

Greensboro 55+ Communities


Residents seeking a city where activities range from exploring the outdoors to visiting a renowned local art museum will find plenty of opportunities in Winston-Salem. The city is home to many natural parks, including Salem Lake, where residents can enjoy boating or fishing during the warmer months.

The famous Reynolda House Museum of Art, showcasing American artwork from the past and present, is located in Winston-Salem. Also, several local breweries provide residents with a relaxing space to unwind and socialize.

Winston-Salem 55+ Communities

5. Wilmington

A sunset over a pier in Wilmington, North Carolina
Nature lovers can find a quiet escape in Wilmington.

Located along Cape Fear near the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington offers residents optimal scenery with a peaceful riverwalk and plenty of nearby beaches. Its close vicinity to the water makes Wilmington a desirable retirement destination for those who enjoy outdoor recreation.

The historic downtown area is a popular scene for locals to find many unique shops and restaurants. Nature lovers can find a quiet escape in the many decorated gardens and arboretums of Wilmington.

Wilmington 55+ Communities


Southport is near Wilmington but offers plenty of small-town charm to residents. Many admire the quaint city as over 42 movies and television shows have been filmed in Southport. Residents of Southport can enjoy taking a ferry out on the water or a peaceful stroll along the pier.

The area’s museums include the North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Old Brunswick County Jail Museum. The city is also home to several antique shops, art galleries, and even a local brewery and winery.

Southport 55+ Communities

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