When Peter Thomson and his wife were preparing to retire from their home in Canada, they checked along the East Coast from Norfolk, Va., to Beaufort, S.C.

“We found Elizabeth City pretty unique as an affordable classic waterfront town,” Thomson said of the North Carolina town. “The services and real estate are less expensive, but you’re near city attractions in Norfolk and the beaches of the Outer Banks. At the same time, you enjoy the benefits of small-town living.”

Thomson became an advocate for Elizabeth City, in the northeastern part of the state, and helped convince local business and government leaders to promote the town as a retirement destination. Check out the city’s ad on page 23, which offers overnight accommodations and other incentives to lure potential retirees to check out the area.

“We’ve already had two Recreation News readers take advantage of the offer and promise to return with family and friends,” Thomson said.

Small-town living is a common attraction for many of the certified retirement communities in North Carolina. The state certification speaks to quality health care, amenities, and other factors that are generally attractive to retirees.

Edenton, just 30 minutes from Elizabeth City, also offers a historic waterfront location.

“Our location is great,” said Nancy Nicholls, who promotes the area. “We have a vibrant downtown just 90 minutes from Norfolk and an hour from the Outer Banks. It’s the best of all these worlds.”

Edenton offers a wide range of pricing for real estate and faces Albemarle Sound.

Central North Carolina

The High Point/Jamestown area is part of the Piedmont Triangle that includes Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point. Famous for the annual Furniture Mart and price-friendly furniture shopping, High Point offers a quality of life that includes lots of parks, a growing downtown, and things to do, such as a new children’s museum for the grandkids, according to Nancy Bowman, who promotes the area.

“Our location means it is easy to reach either the mountains or the beach in a few hours,” Bowman said. “High Point University is a great partner in creating a better High Point. There are lots of opportunities to engage.”

Lumberton sits along Interstate 95 halfway between New York and Florida, but also along the Lumber River, which contributes to its recreational offerings. The town is surrounded by cultural activities, historic homes, and museums, and great golfing and beaches are just an hour away.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mount Airy may be more familiar to Baby Boomers as the real “Mayberry” and birthplace of Andy Griffith.

“The ‘Mayberry’ connection acts as a hook to get people looking at us,” said Jessica Roberts, “but our revitalized downtown, affordable cost of living, and recreational opportunities like three state parks convince people they’d like to retire here.”

Some retirees are expanding Mount Airy’s economy by opening new businesses like restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts.


Learn more about North Carolina’s affordable cost of living, four distinct seasons, and other amenities and about the nearly 20 certified retirement communities scattered throughout the state by visiting retirenc.com.

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