The Best Places to Retire in North Carolina

The majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and Atlantic Ocean beaches draw many retirees to North Carolina. You could spend your retirement years taking classes at a major research university, immersing yourself in the performing arts or rooting for your favorite professional sports team. The affordable cost of living and low housing prices mean relocating to North Carolina could help improve your retirement finances. Many of North Carolina’s most beautiful attractions, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, cost nothing at all.

Consider these retirement communities in North Carolina:

1. Asheville.

2. Raleigh and Durham.

3. Winston-Salem.

4. Hickory.

5. Charlotte.

6. Greensboro.

[See: The Best Places to Retire in 2022.]

1. Asheville

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,357 Median monthly rent: $953

Asheville is a scenic mountain town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city is an ideal base to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville is noteworthy for its innovative food and beverage scene that uses locally sourced ingredients in creative ways.

The area often attracts artists, writers and musicians looking to be inspired by the natural beauty and interact with other creative people. “Asheville is a thriving small city with a dynamic cultural life,” says Nortin Hadler, an emeritus professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and author of “Rethinking Aging.” “For retirees seeking life in breathtakingly beautiful mountains, Asheville is no longer a secret.”

2. Raleigh and Durham

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,602 Median monthly rent: $1,162

The research triangle is named for the three research universities in the Raleigh and Durham area: Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. The universities have created an educated workforce and frequently partner with industry to foster innovations.

“The result is a concentration of highly educated and productive individuals for whom a world-class cultural mecca has come into being,” Hadler says. “The retirement communities take advantage of educational opportunities in retirement and have access to a respected center for the performing arts.”

North Carolina residents age 65 and older are eligible to audit courses tuition-free at NC State University. Duke University even has a continuing care retirement community near campus. The universities also provide health care services to the community at Duke University Hospital and the University of North Carolina Hospitals.

3. Winston-Salem

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,178 Median monthly rent: $790

The Yadkin Valley’s rich soil and mild climate make this an ideal place to grow grapes for wine. Retirees can stroll through the scenic vineyards or swirl and sip the latest vintage with friends.

“Our weather is wonderful because we do have seasonal change with beautiful foliage in the fall, a moderate winter with just enough snow that we get excited and enjoy our snow days, early spring,” and a long summer, says Kim Myers, owner of Laurel Gray Vineyards and Yadkin Valley Wine Company in Hamptonville. “The lifestyle in the Yadkin Valley is still rural and slow-paced but studded with small towns and beautiful vineyards.”

Once a center for the tobacco industry, the Winston-Salem economy is now more diversified. The city is home to many well-known companies, including the first Krispy Kreme and Hanes Brands, yet it’s still affordable to live in this wine-producing region.

[See: Affordable Mountain Towns for Retirement]

4. Hickory

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,048 Median monthly rent: $708

Hickory’s housing prices are considerably lower than in many other parts of North Carolina. The affordable homes in Hickory can help retirees live well on a very modest retirement income.

“Being right in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Hickory residents can be in the mountains in about 30 minutes, and if you want to visit a bigger city, Asheville and Charlotte are both just an hour away,” says Deaton Smith, a certified financial planner for Thayer Financial in Hickory. “We are also a city that supports the arts between the Western Piedmont Symphony, Hickory Museum of Art and Hickory Choral Society, to name just a few.”

5. Charlotte

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,419 Median monthly rent: $1,073

While not the most affordable part of North Carolina, Charlotte could feel affordable to many people relocating from other parts of the country. “Retiring in Charlotte and North Carolina is attractive for older adults due to the overall lower cost of living,” says Julian Montoro-Rodriguez, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Many people relocate to Charlotte for job opportunities, and seniors could find options to work in retirement. North Carolina’s largest city has added 416,369 people over the past decade, according to Census Bureau data. Charlotte is a center for the banking industry and is home to Bank of America’s corporate headquarters. Retirees interested in volunteer work can contribute at the city’s many museums and performing arts venues. Professional sports fans will find a lot to love about Charlotte, including the Hornets, Panthers and Checkers.

[See: The Best Places to Retire in Florida.]

6. Greensboro

Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,195 Median monthly rent: $846

Greensboro is a considerably more affordable part of North Carolina than Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, but it also provides convenient access to these larger metro areas.

“Retirees are drawn to Greensboro because of its centralized location and because it’s a midsize city with a small-town feel. It has many of the great amenities and diversity of a larger city but without the congestion and costs,” says Matt Johnson, a certified financial planner at Defining Legacy Financial Advisors in Greensboro. “The cost of living in North Carolina in general is lower than the national average, and even compared to the other major metro areas in the state, Greensboro is an affordable place.”

Thinking about retiring in North Carolina? Find a local financial advisor now.

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The Best Places to Retire in North Carolina originally appeared on

Update 01/23/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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