Two NC cities rank among best places to retire in the South. What they’re known for

If retirement is on your horizon, you may not have to look far for an ideal place to settle down.

That’s because North Carolina is home to two of the best places to retire in the South, new rankings show. Blowing Rock ranks No. 1 for mountain towns, and the waterfront city of Beaufort is the top destination for “healthy living,” according to results that Southern Living magazine published Tuesday, Sept. 19.

To create the list of top places for retirees to live, Southern Living said it worked with the financial website Investopedia to evaluate 41 cities. In March, those cities had been named among “The South’s Best,” a distinction for places that received nominations from editors and reigned supreme after thousands of magazine readers completed a survey.

“The final list of Best Places to Retire was chosen based on how each city or town compared to the U.S. as a whole on a variety of economic and lifestyle criteria including: home and rental affordability, average resident age, unemployment, best industries for jobs and wages, prevalence of restaurants, hospitals, and colleges,” Southern Living wrote in its new report.

What do the NC retirement destinations offer?

Among the 12 categories considered, North Carolina destinations made their mark in two. Blowing Rock was described as a “place where retirees rule the roost, given the median resident age of 61 (as opposed to the national 38.9).”

In addition to boasting an older population, the town roughly 90 miles west of Winston-Salem received nods for its “lavish floral displays,” nearby forests and, of course, Blowing Rock — a cliff that hangs 3,000 feet above a gorge.

The town of about 1,000 people also received a nod for restaurants that serve local fare. Last year, one Blowing Rock dining destination — The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge — ranked among the nation’s best places for upscale meals and date nights, McClatchy News reported.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is seen near Blowing Rock, which was named one of the top retirement destinations in the region.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is seen near Blowing Rock, which was named one of the top retirement destinations in the region.

Also on the more recent list, Beaufort was named the top retirement destination for “healthy living.” Southern Living gave the town roughly 160 miles southeast of Raleigh praise for its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and said “60% of Beaufort residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.”

Beaufort, home to about 4,000 people, also received praise for offering residents chances to stay active by riding bikes and building boats. When it’s time to unwind, the magazine highlighted the town’s waterfront dining scene.

“We had fresh tuna and saw a pod of dolphins and three wild horses in the distance,” retiree David Cartier told Southern Living. “Sometimes we watch yachts on the Intracoastal Waterway. It never gets old.”

On the Southern Living list, Chattanooga, Tennessee, ranked as the “best all around” retirement destination. Other categories included the best places for food, beaches, cities, outdoors, nature, affordability, lifelong learning, home buying, and arts and culture.

Southern Living only published one top winner in each category. In an email to McClatchy News, the magazine said the rankings focused on the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

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