The Best Places to Retire in South Carolina

South Carolina is an idyllic state for retirement, and it has plenty of attractive 55+ communities with homes for sale.

South Carolina has some of the best golf courses in the country, but that’s not all it has to offer active adults. The state has a rich history and culture, a wide selection of entertainment and recreation, and miles of beaches and coastal living.

From small fishing towns to thriving beach cities, choosing the right retirement destination in South Carolina can be tricky. That’s why we collected this list of the best places to retire in the Palmetto State.

How We Determined the Best Places to Retire

To create the most accurate and cohesive list, we analyzed these areas’ unique benefits. The state as a whole is very enticing for retirees as it doesn’t tax Social Security, and all other retirement income is largely deductible. Additionally, the southeastern climate offers hot, long summers and short, mild winters.

However, not all of the state’s major cities have the same amenities, lifestyles, and entertainment. Affordability, outdoor recreation, and proximity to downtown were all important factors in identifying the best places to retire in South Carolina. Though many of the top cities are along the coast, the Midlands and Upcountry regions of the state also house some of the best retirement destinations in the state.

View along the beach of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at sunrise.

When it comes to retirement living, many active adults dream of moving to Coastal South Carolina. National parks, cultural and historical downtowns, and beachside activities make this region one of the best places to retire in South Carolina. 

Hilton Head might be known for its championship golf courses, but this coastal island is more than just driving ranges and putting greens. It offers residents miles of pristine, sandy beaches, including the popular Coligny and Hilton Head Island beaches.

For entertainment, the Shelter Cove Towne Centre has high-end shopping and dining along the Shelter Cove Harbour. In addition to its many amenities, the island has strict regulations on building development, prohibiting buildings taller than the trees, guaranteeing residents a natural and scenic landscape.

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Though Bluffton is often considered a suburb of Hilton Head, it has plenty to offer on its own. The historic Old Town Bluffton acts as the city’s downtown area, featuring a local farmers market, art galleries, and boutique shops. After a morning of shopping, residents can head to any number of local breweries for a craft ale, then check out the sculpture garden or historical museum. 

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With nearly 100 golf courses and world-famous beachfront attractions, Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for retirees looking for beach access without the high price tag. Housing costs are below average, making this one of the most affordable beachside cities on the East Coast.

There’s no shortage of entertainment. Along the city’s boardwalk are arcades, theaters, shops, and restaurants as well as an old-fashioned amusement park and one of the largest Ferris wheels in the country. 

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Another affordable town on the coast, Conway is located just minutes from all the attractions of Myrtle Beach but lacks the crowds of tourists. Retirees enjoy this quaint, small town for its rich history and tight-knit community. Conway has several museums and a living history farm as well as water recreation ranging from kayaking to fishing at the Waccamaw River and Conway Marina.

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Located just north of Huntington Beach State Park and along several creeks leading to the Atlantic Ocean, there’s perhaps no better South Carolina town for water recreation than Murrells Inlet. Retirees can fish, canoe, kayak, and swim at numerous places throughout the city. The Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk is the cultural hub of this community-based town, where residents gather to shop and dine with nightly live music.

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One of the definitive cities of the south, Charleston is steeped in rich history with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and active French Quarter. The city itself is a peninsula between the Ashley River and Cooper River, giving residents plenty of access to water recreation, especially along The Battery on the south end of the city.

Charleston is also a booming culinary city, boasting world-class restaurants. With numerous art galleries, museums, and boutique shops throughout the city, Charleston offers active adults a charming retirement in the Lowcountry.

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The birthplace of sweet tea, Summerville offers all the history and culture of Charleston in a smaller, residential town. The historic downtown has popular amenities, including a local farmers market, antique shops, and art galleries. Retirees seeking outdoor recreation can also enjoy birding, golfing, kayaking, and strolling through the city’s own sculpture garden or the Francis Marion National Forest just north of Summerville.

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View fo the skyline of Downtown Columbia, South Carolina from above Jarvis Klapman Blvd.

Central South Carolina, also known as the Midlands, houses plenty of golf courses, art galleries, museums, and cultural areas. 

With exceptionally affordable housing, this capital city is popular among retirees for its active Main Street and cultural amenities. In the heart of South Carolina, residents enjoy the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, imbibing at the many distilleries throughout the city, and attending sporting events at the University of South Carolina. Despite being further inland from the coast, Columbia has several rivers that converge downtown as well as Lake Murray nearby, meaning water and outdoor recreation is easy to find.

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The downtown cityscape of Greenville, South Carolina on the Reedy River at dusk.

Located in the Piedmont Plateau and Blue Ridge Mountains, Northwestern South Carolina—otherwise known as the Upcountry—is made up of 10 counties, all of which feature multiple museums and expansive natural areas.

Located further north in South Carolina in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Greenville is an outdoor lover’s dream. Whether hiking at nearby Paris Mountain State Park or enjoying the cascading waters of Falls Park on the Reedy in the heart of downtown, Greenville is packed with recreational opportunities.

Residents can dine in the downtown area, shop on Augusta and Haywood roads, and check out the art of the West End Market. It has the largest urban population and commercial activity in the Upcountry.

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Right at the border of North and South Carolina, Fort Mill acts as both a small South Carolina town and a suburb of Charlotte. This growing city features the 2,100-acre Anne Springs Close Greenway, offering miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Recent development of Fort Mill’s Main Street has revitalized the area into a hub of local eateries and boutique shops. In addition to its local charm, its proximity to Charlotte makes it an ever-popular and in-demand retirement destination.

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