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retire

Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Sunset Beach, North Carolina

Sunset Beach (population 4,000) is the southern most coastal town in North Carolina. It sits on the mainland and along a three-mile long barrier island about half way between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. Laid back and unassuming, it is vacation destination and has a mature population. 

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In fact, nearly 80% of residents are age 45 or better, and 42% of locals hold at least a four year college degree. The town has grown by a 13% in the last decade, and the crime rate is below the national average. Politics lean to the right, and racial diversity has not yet arrived. The cost of living is 7% below the national average. The median home price is $340,000, which reflects an 18% increase since just last year.

The island portion of town is accessible via one bridge over a salt marsh and the Intracoastal Waterway (the old wooden pontoon bridge was recently replaced by a more modern structure).  About 1,200 beach cottages are packed onto the eastern side of the island and are generally only occupied during summer months (about 100 people live on the island year round).  

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Housing on the mainland, where the majority of year-round residents live, includes ranch ramblers, manufactured homes and condominiums. There are also several planned golf communities, including Sea Trail, Ocean Ridge and Sandpiper Bay.

Sunset Beach's commercial development is limited to a few eateries, a coffee house and a couple of outfitter stores. Some of the golf clubs have public dining, but many residents dine and shop in Little River, Ocean Isle, Calabash, Myrtle Beach or Wilmington.

The oceanfront beach is white, flat and often crowded. The pier is 900 feet long, wheelchair accessible and has a snack shack. Turtle Talks are held Sunday nights during the summer to educate vacationers about the green critters that nest in the island sand. The beach is nearly empty during the winter when tourists are back home.

Nearby Bird Island Reserve, accessible by foot during low tide, is a quiet, pristine state reserve with a variety of coastal birds and other wildlife. It also has a long white beach, dunes, salt marshes and tidal creeks.

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There is no local public library, but Brunswick County Library system has branches in Calabash (five miles) and Shallotte (12 miles).

Brunswick Transportation System has a Dial a Ride service Monday through Friday (advance notice required). The nearest large airport is in Wilmington, 40 miles to the north.

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Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. provides services within the County, but there is no senior center in Sunset Beach. The closest centers, which are open to Sunset Beach seniors (age 60+), are in Shallotte or Calabash. Services include nutritionally balanced congregate meals, socialization events, health and wellness classes, medical transportation, prescription assistance and referrals.

McLeod Seacoast Hospital is the closest hospital and is nine miles away in Little River, South Carolina. It is accredited by the Joint Commission.

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This area has a humid subtropical climate. Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 30s, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives 54 inches of rain per year. Hurricanes are a possibility. In fact, Hurricane Florence in 2018 brought fierce winds, downed trees and roof damage.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes |   Is North Carolina Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Somewhat

The lack of immediate amenities and hurricane threat are concerns, but Sunset Beach has what many retirees are seeking: a seaside location, pretty beaches and a laid back lifestyle. It is worth consideration at retirement time.

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North Carolina:

The Tar Heel State was one of the first to instruct its Continental Congress delegates to vote for independence from British rule. After the Revolutionary War, it entered the Union on November 21, 1789 and started developing an extensive slave plantation system. It became a major exporter of cotton and tobacco. North Carolina was one of 11 states to secede from the Union and to spark the American Civil War.

Bordered by South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Atlantic ocean, North Carolina's geographic regions range from the barrier islands and low plains of the eastern Atlantic coast to the mountainous regions of the west. The rolling hills and waterfalls of the Piedmont lie in between. Because of a wide variance in altitudes, North Carolina's climate can be hard to predict. Winters, especially on the coast, can be warm and mild.

The state has 17 major river basins and is rich in hydroelectric power. Tobacco, sweet potatoes, hogs, trout, and turkeys are a few of its agricultural products. The arts and culture industry has become an economic driver. It supports more than 43,000 jobs and generates almost $120 million in state and local revenue.

North Carolina is the home of several firsts. Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in Fayetteville. The Wright brothers launched the first manned, self-propelled airplane from a cliff near Kitty Hawk. Pepsi was invented and first served in New Bern. Vernon Rudolph first sold Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Winston-Salem.

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