States – South Carolina

south carolina

South Carolina has some of the best retirement destinations in the U.S. There are a range of historic villages, coastal communities, and small Southern towns and cities. Add in a relaxed lifestyle and abundant outdoor recreation, and retirees can find a nice package by choosing the Palmetto State.

South Carolina is distinguished by over 200 miles of beaches and nearly 400 golf courses, as well as great restaurants and distinctive cuisine based on delicacies from the land and sea.

There are, of course, some downsides to living in South Carolina. For one thing, the summers can be very hot and humid (average July temperature is near 90 degrees). Also, much of the state is rural, and while there’s a lot of history and culture, outside of the expensive big cities there’s little in the way of shopping or nightlife.

The state income tax rate tops out at 7%, the 13th highest in the country. Retirement income up to $10,000 is deductible from state income tax. Lower income seniors who meet certain conditions are not required to file state income tax returns. The property tax rate is 4%, and the first $50,000 of value is exempt for those age 65 and over.

If you want to enjoy the perks of living in South Carolina without the premium costs, here are several locations.


The small town of Bluffton (population 13,000) exudes Southern charm. Its Old Town is perched along the May River, the quaint historic Old Town Bluffton district, is lined with antebellum homes, art galleries, antique shops and restaurants, historic Rose Hill Mansion features prominently in the landscape, and Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q Ribs offer local dining.

The great beaches and golf courses of Hilton Head are just a bridge away, so residents get the benefit without the price. Bluffton also shares the temperate climate of its more well-known neighbor, and has a very low crime rate. But Bluffton has a cost of living 9% above the national average. There are also many health care facilities to support the growing senior population.

Housing options range from new retirement community developments to single-family homes along the scenic Colleton River. For travelers, the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is about 20 miles away.


With a population of 120,000 Charleston is one of the larger cities in the state. It has a range of amenities for retirees including libraries, art galleries, shopping at the city market, adult education, and world-class dining. Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Charleston in the top 10 in the country for theater and performing arts in 2010. There are also many physicians and healthcare facilities. The nearest international airport is just 15 miles away.

The warm weather, beaches, and cultural offerings attract not only new residents but also four million visitors each year. Many come in May for the 17-day Spoleto Festival, one of the country’s premier performing arts events which features performances by renowned artists as well as emerging stars in opera, theater, dance, and a range of musical styles. Although the home prices in town can be expensive, the surrounding suburbs offer much more affordable options, often below the national average.

For example, Goose Creek is an inland town of 40,000 and is part of the Charleston metropolitan area. The median home sales price was $163,000 in 2015, below the national average. Although it doesn’t have a lot of amenities, the attractions of Charleston are just 30 minutes away, and the international airport is just 10 miles away.


The second-oldest city in South Carolina behind Charleston, Beaufort is located among the islands and Low Country in the southern tip of the state. It is known for its natural scenery and its careful preservation of its antebellum history. The city has been named “Best Small Southern Town” by Southern Living, a “Top 25 Small City Arts Destination” by American Style, and a “Top 50 Adventure Town” by National Geographic Adventure.

Major annual events include the Home Water Festival, a two-week party in the middle of July, and the Shrimp Festival, celebrating the traditional local industry.

The city is also known for its thriving arts scene. It was ranked the No. 14 Small City Arts Destination by American Style Magazine in 2008. Around 20 galleries operate within the city, with hundreds of local residents participating.

The University of South Carolina Beaufort has a performing arts center which attracts regional and national acts to the community. The Arts Council of Beaufort supports the arts through live performances, grants, art exhibitions, and ARTworks, its 12,000-square-foot community arts center, theater, and gallery. The Beaufort International Film Festival is held in mid-February and screens independent films.

Other events include A Taste of Beaufort, held on the first Saturday in May featuring local restaurants, fine wines, and live music. Historic Beaufort Foundation’s Fall Tour of Homes and St. Helena’s Spring Tour of Homes allow visitors to view the historic homes in the area. Hunting Island is nearby on the Atlantic Ocean and is the state’s most visited state park. In case all of that isn’t enough, Charleston and Savannah are each about an hour away.


Conway is one of the most historically rich places in South Carolina. It is located in the eastern part of the state along the Waccamaw River. Myrtle Beach is just 15 miles to the east. Its downtown area underwent a renovation in the 1980s and now has shops, bistros, and art galleries.

The town of 20,000 hosts many annual events including holiday parties, food fests, and music and art celebrations.Local attractions include Kimbel Library, which has sections focused on the history of the region and the American South, and the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery at Coastal Carolina University. The gallery houses differing exhibits throughout the year. The gallery is free and open to the public.

The Horry County Museum is also free and has exhibits about early life in the area and an aquarium with local fish. The Main Street Theatre and Theatre of the Republic show quality live performances by local actors. The L.W. Paul Living History Farm allows visitors to learn about early farm life. The River Walk is a comfortable way to enjoy the scenery, and has porch swings, benches, picnic tables, and a playground.

For more information about retirement in South Carolina:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement