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Home | Virginia | Average Costs | April 8, 2017

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Colonial Beach, Virginia

In northeastern Virginia, 60 miles south of Washington, D.C. and directly to the west of Maryland, Colonial Beach (population 3,600) is a casual, slightly faded beach town and the last deepwater port for north-bound pleasure boats on the Potomac River. It was settled in 1650 by the great-great-grandfather of President James Monroe, and it has Virginia's second longest beachfront.

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Colonial Beach also has a history of boom and bust. For many years, it was a seaside playground for the nation's Eastern elite, particularly for people from Washington, D.C. Most of these visitors arrived by boat, and grand summer "cottages" and elegant hotels were built to accommodate them. Then in the early- to mid-20th-century, the fortunes of this "Playground on the Potomac" began to dim, as automobile travel became more fashionable and reaching distant beaches became easier. Slot machine gambling revived Colonial Beach for a time in the 1950s, but a devastating fire in the 1960s and subsequent hurricanes all took their toll.

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Today, Colonial Beach is primarily a working class community, and it has grown by 15% in the last decade or two. The cost of living meets the national average, and the median home price is $170,000. Eighteen percent of locals are college educated, and 50% of residents are age 45 or better. More Democrats than Republicans live here. The crime rate is well below the national average. Racial diversity is minimal.

Some summer residences from Colonial Beach's heyday still stand, coexisting with newer bungalows, Cape Cods and ranch ramblers. Monroe Point is an all ages waterfront town home development and has units starting in the low-$200,000s.

The mile long beach is still the town's main attraction. It fills up with bathers and umbrellas during summer weekends, but on weekdays the sand is often nearly empty. Winters are even quieter. Westmoreland State Park, just down the road, has boat rentals, camping facilities and more.

There are some fun festivals, including the Potomac River Festival, the Rod Run to the Beach, the Boardwalk Arts and Crafts Festival and the Alexander Graham Bell Croquet Tournament. The 4th of July fireworks over the water are a particularly popular event.

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Golf carts are a preferred mode of transportation, and they are allowed on town streets (as long as the driver has a license and insurance). Cart rentals are available for non-owners. Bay Transit, managed by Bay Aging, a non-profit senior services organization and part of a statewide network, provides van transportation around town for people who do not drive a golf cart.

Bay Aging also offers Meals on Wheels, Medicare assistance, emergency home repair, home health care, legal assistance and congregate meals at the Westmoreland Senior Center.

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Colonial Beach does not have its own hospital. The University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, Maryland, 19 miles away, is one of the closest hospitals. It is accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients.

Residents have 20 or more waterfront and land-locked restaurants in which to dine and a few antique and curio shops in which to shop. The Abraham and William Cooper Memorial Branch Library is small and sometimes doubles as a drivers' education location, but it has movie nights, public access computers and free wi-fi. A boardwalk (a wide path, really) runs along the beach, and the city pier is a popular place for fishing.

Summers bring temperatures in the 80s and low 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 20s, 30s and 40s. On average, the area receives 40 inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Colonial Beach meets the national average.

It should be noted that Colonial Beach has been hit by hurricanes, including Hazel (1954), Isabel (2003) and Irene (2011).

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes   |   Is Virginia Tax-Friendly at Retirement? Somewhat

The distance to a hospital and the hurricane threat are downsides, but Colonial Beach's long, clean beach, casual way of life and mature population are pluses. Overall, this historic village should be considered as a retirement spot.

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