The 10 Best Coastal Towns to Retire in North Carolina

North Carolina offers retirees a diverse range of options when it comes to coastal living. With its beautiful beaches, mild climate, and charming communities, the state is a popular destination for those looking to retire by the sea. If you’re considering a coastal retirement in North Carolina, here are the ten best coastal towns to explore for your golden years.

1. Wilmington

Why Retire Here: Wilmington is a bustling coastal city that offers retirees a unique blend of history, culture, and coastal living. Nestled along the Cape Fear River, this city boasts a historic district with cobblestone streets, antebellum architecture, and charming shops. The Riverwalk along the waterfront is a favorite spot for strolls and scenic views. Retirees can explore numerous art galleries, dine at excellent restaurants, and enjoy cultural events. Wilmington’s mild climate and proximity to nearby beaches make it a delightful destination for retirement.

2. Beaufort

Why Retire Here: Beaufort is a coastal gem known for its maritime heritage and beauty. Its historic district features well-preserved historic homes and a scenic waterfront. Retirees can spend their days exploring the town’s history at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, taking boat tours to nearby barrier islands, and enjoying fresh seafood at local restaurants. Beaufort’s laid-back atmosphere, friendly community, and water-based activities make it a top choice for retirees.

3. Southport

Why Retire Here: Southport is a picturesque coastal town that embodies the essence of small-town coastal living. Its historic downtown area has quaint shops, art galleries, and waterfront parks. The town’s seaside ambiance is perfect for leisurely walks along the riverfront, where you can enjoy breathtaking sunsets. Southport’s annual festivals, including the North Carolina 4th of July Festival, add to the town’s charm. Retirees seeking a serene coastal retreat will find Southport an ideal destination.

4. Morehead City

Why Retire Here: Morehead City is located on the Crystal Coast, offering retirees a vibrant coastal experience. The town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with boating, fishing, golfing, and water sports opportunities. Morehead City’s lively seafood scene, highlighted by its annual seafood festival, is a treat for retirees who appreciate fresh and delicious cuisine. The town’s proximity to Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle provides easy access to beautiful sandy shores.

5. New Bern

Why Retire Here: New Bern is a historic coastal town along the Neuse River. It’s known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens. Retirees can explore the town’s historic sites, including Tryon Palace, which offers a glimpse into North Carolina’s colonial history. New Bern also has a thriving arts scene, with art galleries and cultural events to enjoy. Riverfront dining and leisurely boat rides on the Neuse River add to the town’s appeal.

6. Kitty Hawk

Why Retire Here: Kitty Hawk, situated in the Outer Banks, offers a paradise for those who adore beaches and indulge in water sports. Its expansive sandy shores, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing, provide retirees with endless relaxation opportunities. Outdoor activities like kayaking, windsurfing, and fishing are popular here. The town’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes it a perfect destination for retirees seeking a beachside retreat.

7. Swansboro

Why Retire Here: Swansboro is a charming coastal town along the White Oak River. Its historic downtown area features a mix of shops, restaurants, and scenic waterfront views. Retirees can spend their days exploring the town’s quaint streets, dining on fresh seafood, and being Surrounded by the natural splendor of Hammocks Beach State Park, just a short drive away. Swansboro’s small-town ambiance and community spirit make it a peaceful retirement destination.

8. Oak Island

Why Retire Here: Oak Island is a family-friendly coastal town known for its pristine beaches and friendly community. Retirees can enjoy various water activities, including kayaking, fishing, and boating. The town’s relaxed pace of life, abundant nature trails, and parks provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Oak Island’s community events and festivals create a strong sense of belonging for retirees who appreciate a close-knit community.

9. Edenton

Why Retire Here: Edenton, often referred to as “The South’s Prettiest Small Town,” is located on the banks of the Albemarle Sound. It boasts a historic downtown with well-preserved colonial architecture and tree-lined streets. Retirees can explore the town’s historic sites, including the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the Roanoke River Lighthouse. Edenton’s scenic beauty, waterfront views, and cultural events make it a charming and tranquil retirement destination.

10. Bath

Why Retire Here: Bath, North Carolina’s oldest town, offers retirees a glimpse into the state’s colonial history. The city is small and peaceful, making it an excellent choice for retirees seeking a quiet coastal escape. Bath’s historic district features well-preserved buildings and a waterfront area perfect for leisurely walks. The town’s serene ambiance and proximity to the Pamlico River create a tranquil retirement setting.