Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!
Charleston, South Carolina
On South Carolina's Mid-Coast, Beautiful, Romantic Charleston Brims with Character and Historic Architecture, Charming Nearly Everyone
Say the words "Charleston, South Carolina" (population 153,000) and images of a bygone era come to mind. A time when manners mattered, gentlemen tipped their hats and ladies sipped iced tea on the veranda. The city sits on very flat land along South Carolina's mid-coast and is the place where two rivers converge "to form the Atlantic Ocean."
Founded by 148 men and women from Bermuda in 1670, Charleston has been plundered by pirates, flooded by hurricanes and damaged by three wars: the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Yet the city has survived and today it is a beautiful and romantic place, steeped in an eclectic mix of traditional southern American, English, French and West African cultural elements. In fact, few cities can match Charleston's unique ambiance.
Thirty-three percent of residents are age 45 or better. Politics lean to the left. Half of locals hold at least a four year college degree, and the crime rate is below the national average. The cost of living is 17% above the national average. The city has grown 20% within the last 10 years.
The median home price is $495,000, reflecting an 18% increase since a year ago, and neighborhoods boast a variety of sumptuous architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, Georgian and Charleston single houses (homes built one room wide with double covered piazzas). Gated courtyards with overflowing bougainvillea are common and colorful.
The historic district, often called "Little London," is a gem with cobblestone streets and block after block of lovingly preserved, centuries-old buildings. Steeples dot the cityscape, a testament to the city's long history of religious tolerance.
Residents enjoy art galleries, film festivals, harbor tours, museums, historic home tours, candlelight tours, theater companies, music companies and festivals, including the renowned Spoleto Festival, a 17-day event that celebrates music, art and theater.
King Street is full of upscale shopping. Charming bed and breakfasts are plentiful. Foodies have a good selection of restaurants. Nightlife is lively. The Battery is a park at the end of the peninsula upon which Charleston sits and provides long views of Fort Sumter. The beaches are clean and inviting. Since Charleston is a port city, cruise ships embark weekly for Key West and the Bahamas.
CARTA, the local bus system, is fairly extensive but does not quite cover the entire city. People age 55 or better ride for $1.00. There is also a free trolley. Tell-a-Ride is a curb to curb service within defined boundaries, and it requires an application.
Three hospitals provide medical care. Bon Secours Saint Francis Hospital has won awards for its pulmonary care and overall patient experience. MUSC Medical Center has won awards for excellence in neurosurgery, vascular care and stroke care. Roper Hospital is award-winning for excellence in general surgery, patient safety, stroke care and more. All are accredited by the Joint Commission and accept Medicare patients. For military retirees, Charleston has a VA hospital.
The city's recreation department has 55+ programs and activities, including water fitness classes, gardening classes and luncheons. The Lowcountry Senior Center (for people age 50+) receives great reviews and is in a pretty facility. Its programs include wine clubs, trips, a veterans' social club, an annual oyster roast, yoga classes and much more. Charleston Area Senior Citizens is a non-profit organization that has a home repairs program, wellness programs, companion services and more for people age 55 or better.
The area has a subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, and winters are mild with temperatures in the 40s, 50s, 60s. On average, the city receives 46 inches of rain per year.
Charleston, for all of its romance and elegance, has some drawbacks. The city is prone to flooding and has been hit by several hurricanes, including Hugo in 1989, Matthew in 2016, Irma in 2017, Florence and Michael in 2018, Dorian in 2019 and Ian in 2022. Rising seas are also a worry, prompting local officials to to raise historic homes (and regular homes) off the ground to save them. Long-time Charlestonians complain about too many new people and traffic congestion (and new Charlestonians complain about summer heat and bugs).
Some people also say that the city hides a lot of dirty laundry behind its polite exterior. Others complain about "good ole boy" politics and infrastructure not keeping up with growth. The families who have lived here for generations can be cliquish.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes, but... | Is South Carolina Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
With its unique architecture, rich history and lovely waterfront setting, Charleston is a seductive place. However, the possibility of future hurricanes should be weighed if considering this Southern coastal town for retirement.
South Carolina is nicknamed the Palmetto State and its motto is "Dum spiro spero," which is Latin for "While I Breath, I Hope." It is 40th in size in the United States and was the eighth state to be admitted to the Union on May 23, 1788. The largest city and state capital is Columbia.
Formerly known as the Province of South Carolina, the area was also one of the 13 Colonies that declared its independence during the American Revolution. The state was the first to secede from the Union and was the first and founding state of the Confederate States of America.
South Carolina is in what is considered the Deep South and is bordered by the states of Georgia on the south and North Carolina on the north.
The state does not host any major professional sport franchises. However, the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes actually represent both North Carolina and South Carolina.
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