The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina For 2021


We analyzed over 57 places in North Carolina to identify the ones that offer the most to retirees.

Editor’s Note: Data has been updated for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the best places to retire in North Carolina.

Are you reading this article on a slow Monday morning, wondering how you will make it through yet another long work week? Even if we love our jobs, there are always moments where you wonder what will life be like after work? Well, you should take a look at these cities in North Carolina for retirement.

Retirement is a time in life when you can pursue your hobbies in greater depth. For example, you open a small bike shop in Boone as a hobby or you can bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or how about taking out that old DSLR camera you've always wanted to master and use it to create breathtaking landscape shots in Asheville? If those scenarios seem appealing to you, then perhaps moving to North Carolina for retirement would be a great option for you.

North Carolina has the best of everything: great weather, access to beaches and mountains, affordability, and great community involvement. But where in North Carolina is the best to retire? We crunched the numbers to determine the places that offer retirees safety, affordability, and things to do. It's the kind of criteria you can count on -- this is the seventh time we've ranked the best places to retire in the Tarheel State. And many of these places appear on our other lists of best places for families and safest cities in North Carolina -- they are just overall good places to call home.

So if you're looking for a place to settle down for good, grab a biscuit, a good cup of coffee, and read on.

The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina For 2021

  1. Smithfield
  2. Newton
  3. Morganton
  4. Eden
  5. Lenoir
  6. Kings Mountain
  7. Cary
  8. Albemarle
  9. Wilmington
  10. Southern Pines

Why did Smithfield take the top spot? And where are Raleigh and Greensboro?

We analyzed 56 cities to determine the top ten best cities using retirement factors like safety, affordability, and access to fun stuff. The best place to retire in North Carolina? Congratulations Smithfield!

Smithfield is a small town sandwiched between Charlotte, Statesville, and Black Mountain in North Carolina that is perfect for any retiree. You can spend weekends swimming Lake Norman or camping in the mountains.

North Carolina is a state that constantly comes up on lists about great places to live in the U.S., so why not move here for retirement? Keep reading to learn more about our methodology and to see why each city is perfect for retirement.

For more North Carolina state reading:

The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina For 2021

Smithfield, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 12,400
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Rent: $688
Distance to Closest Airport: 34 miles
More on Smithfield: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Newton, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 13,059
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Rent: $754
Distance to Closest Airport: 34 miles
More on Newton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Morganton, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 16,481
Rank Last Year: -
Median Rent: $685
Distance to Closest Airport: 55 miles
More on Morganton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Eden, NC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 15,055
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Rent: $666
Distance to Closest Airport: 68 miles
More on Eden: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Lenoir, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 17,879
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $626
Distance to Closest Airport: 57 miles
More on Lenoir: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Kings Mountain, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 11,028
Rank Last Year: 26 (Up 20)
Median Rent: $741
Distance to Closest Airport: 23 miles
More on Kings Mountain: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Cary, NC

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 166,268
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Rent: $1,246
Distance to Closest Airport: 6 miles
More on Cary: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Albemarle, NC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 15,980
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $682
Distance to Closest Airport: 43 miles
More on Albemarle: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Wilmington, NC

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 120,194
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Median Rent: $998
Distance to Closest Airport: 4 miles
More on Wilmington: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Southern Pines, NC

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 14,022
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Median Rent: $912
Distance to Closest Airport: 58 miles
More on Southern Pines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

How We Determined The Best Places To Retire In the Tar Heel State for 2021

To create our list of the best places in North Carolina to retire, we first used Census data to find all places in the Tar Heel State -- 736 cities and towns.

We then narrowed it down to places with at least 11,000 people that weren't townships. This left us with 56 places from across the state.

For these 56, we looked at the following criteria taken from the Census, the FBI's Crime Report, National Weather Service, and OpenFlights:

  • Low cost of living as measured by rent
  • Low crime
  • Things to do (Museums, Colleges, and Libraries in town)
  • Nice weather
  • Distance to the closest international airport
  • Other retirees (High median age)

We then ranked each of these places for each criteria from one to 56, with the lowest number being the best.

Finally, we took the average rank across these criteria. The place, in this case Smithfield, with the lowest average rank was crowned the best of the best, a place for you to start your second careers. You can download the data here.

Maybe You're Not Ready To Retire In North Carolina Yet...

So there you have it, the best place to retire in North Carolina goes to Smithfield.

If you're not ready to hang up your office apparel yet, then these places might be up your alley:

  1. Hope Mills
  2. Monroe
  3. Havelock

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Retire In North Carolina?

Rank City Population Median Rent
1 Smithfield 12,400 $688
2 Newton 13,059 $754
3 Morganton 16,481 $685
4 Eden 15,055 $666
5 Lenoir 17,879 $626
6 Kings Mountain 11,028 $741
7 Cary 166,268 $1,246
8 Albemarle 15,980 $682
9 Wilmington 120,194 $998
10 Southern Pines 14,022 $912

How Is The Area In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.