By Catey Hill, MarketWatch
In Punta Gorda, there is “plenty of golfing, plus a Fishermen’s Village waterfront complex with 30 shops and restaurants,” Kiplinger’s writes. “Also in town, the Harborwalk along Charlotte Harbor is just a portion of the 18 miles of bike trails and pedestrian pathways you can enjoy.” You can stroll around both Fisherman’s Village and Harborwalk, and TopRetirements.com points out that one big perk of Punta Gorda is the “restored and charming downtown which is walkable and full of interesting restaurants.” Admittedly, though, the most affordable housing here is not right in downtown and on the whole Punta Gorda isn’t considered all that walkable.
Of course, there are downsides like hurricane risk. And Punta Gorda is small (around 20,000 residents) so there aren’t a lot of entertainment options. That said, you’re only a half-hour from the larger and more entertainment-packed Fort Meyers (which was recently named the No. 1 waterfront city to retire in).
Summerville, South Carolina
While walkable Charleston is likely a bit too expensive for your budget, nearby Summerville (roughly 25 miles away) — which has a walkable downtown with shopping —may fit the bill. The cost of living in Summerville is slightly below average, Social Security income is not taxed in South Carolina, and one-bedroom rents average less than $1,000 a month.
Forbes recently put Summerville on its list of best places to retire, highlighting the low rate of serious crime, mild winters and “sufficient physicians per capita.” You’re also under an hour from the beach (popular Folly Beach is about a 45-minute drive from Summerville) and roughly a half-hour from Charleston, which is renowned for its food, arts and culture. And historic Summerville (part of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places) offers plenty of that friendly Southern hospitality; it even claims to be the birthplace of sweet tea.
It does get hot and humid here, and Summerville doesn’t have as much to offer as Charleston, but you will get to enjoy things like the annual Flowertown Festival — one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast — historic walking tours, and more.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Southern Living magazine named this one of its favorite little towns in Mississippi, and USA Today put it on a list of the best small coastal towns in America. And for you, it’s got a lot of the things you’re looking for, including affordability (the cost of living is well below average) , friendly locals and a gorgeous beach; Travel + Leisure magazine calls out the “soft and buttermilk white” sand here.
And as I write in my piece “4 gorgeous beach towns where you can comfortably live on $40,000 a year,” after a day on those buttermilk-white shores, “you can nosh on gumbo, po-boys and fresh Gulf seafood, while strolling down the shop-lined Main Street and chatting with friendly, creative-minded locals. And if you get bored with that, you can be in vibrant New Orleans, which is just about 60 miles away, in an hour.”
Admittedly property crime is higher than average here (though violent crime is below average), but on the plus side, you’re under a half-hour from Gulfport, which boasts the third best hospital in the state, according to U.S. News. On a related note, you may also want to look into Gulf Shores, Alabama, which also checks a lot of your boxes.
What about going abroad? You mentioned that you’d consider retiring abroad. While I didn’t highlight any international destinations in these suggestions, I do want to point out this list of affordable, international beach towns that I recently profiled; from that list, Coronado, Panama, might be a spot you’d want to consider.