The “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands,” as Beaufort is known, is improbably charming. More than 300 acres within the town have been named a National Historic Landmark, and retirees will find horse-drawn carriages rolling through the streets of downtown’s historic district.
Though Beaufort lies just north of Hilton Head Island, the town remains a far more affordable retirement destination alternative, as the cost of living is far below the national average.
Con: Hot and humid summers
Best For: Boat and golf lovers
Cost of Living: 11.8% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $165,200
Top State Income Tax: 7%
Crime Rate: more than twice the national average
Median home prices are less than $170,000, and number of upscale 55+ communities have sprung up near Beaufort in recent years, many with amenities geared toward golfers.
Beaufort also attracts arts lovers; quaint galleries dot the streets, and retirees can enjoy performances at the Beaufort Orchestra Society, the University of SC-Beaufort’s Performing Arts Center, and the Penn Center.
There is also a large military presence around Beaufort. The area is home to the U.S. Marine Corps Recruitment Depot at Parris Island, the Naval Air Station, and the Beaufort naval hospital.
Perhaps the town’s main drawbacks are its hot summers — average highs in August are around 91 degrees; and a crime rate higher than the national average, though neighborhoods where retirees tend to settle usually have much lower crime rates.