Port Townsend Historic District, Washington. Image credit 365 Focus Photography via Shutterstock

7 Best Small Towns to Retire in the Northern United States in 2024

The northern states of the US harbor many amazing small towns for those looking for a place to retire. Whether it is affordability, proximity to amenities, an escape to nature, or just somewhere that boasts four distinct seasons of weather per year, discover top-rated destinations to spend your golden years.

These seven small towns will catch your eye, and offer ideal retreats for when you decide to stop working. Retirement is a big step, and it is important to ensure that all, or at least most, of your individual needs are met.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Aerial view of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Overlooking Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, is a town of about 10,000 residents just north of Green Bay. It offers both a touch of natural beauty away from the city and the ability to drive into the city with ease should you need to. Sitting right on Lake Michigan, this is the right place for you if you enjoy the water.

The cost of living here is relatively low, with an average housing price of approximately $300,000. This is likely because of its smaller and slower economy compared to much bigger towns and cities in Wisconsin. However, the amenities in Sturgeon Bay are still robust enough because this town is seen as a popular retreat for city dwellers. The Door County Medical Center, for example, is a high-quality hospital and medical facility for anyone but has many top-notch services for seniors. The downtown core, which is cut in two by the picturesque Sturgeon Canal, is filled with several great local shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels, not to mention an abundance of easy-to-access residential areas.

Kitty O'Reillys Irish Pub is a downtown staple for drinks that has many great weekly and daily specials. The Bluefront Cafe is perhaps a little more appropriate for your morning walk. Sit here for a coffee with a great view of the waterfront. Looking for a bite right on the water? Try out Sonny's Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria, located at the entrance to the marina walking trail.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Shops and galleries line Butler Street in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Butler Street in Saugatuck, Michigan. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock.com

Saugatuck, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a haven for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike. The town's scenic landscapes, sandy beaches, and vibrant arts scene make it an ideal retirement destination. Saugatuck offers a wide range of recreational activities, including boating, hiking, and birdwatching along its lengthy lakeshore. 

Retirees can spend many good days exploring the historic downtown area, visiting the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and indulging in the multitude of farm-to-table dining experiences available like The Butler and The Southerner for food, and a great selection of cafes like Uncommon Coffee Roasters on the waterfront. Accommodation options include cottages, waterfront condos, and boutique hotels, and offer living options for a wide range of budgets.

This is one of the most affordable yet livable towns in the northern United States with the average needed income for a single adult only needing to be around $28,800 per year. This is mainly because it is a sizable distance from the bigger cities of Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Detroit, but having all the necessary amenities within reach if you have a car. Seniors who may need a bit more assistance can find long and short-term living spaces at Grace of Douglas Senior Living home just at the southern end of town. 

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of Stowe Vermont and autumn colors.
Overlooking Stowe, Vermont and autumn colors.

One of the farthest northeast reaches of the United States is Stowe, Vermont, a town of about 4,500 residents. For those who want to enjoy a more outdoorsy and remote lifestyle in their retirement years, this is just the place for you. 

With relatively affordable housing options due to falling housing prices in the area (dropping from the previous 1 million average, beginning early in 2024) compared to bigger cities and towns on the Upper East Coast, Stowe can be your home base in the middle of Vermont's vast wilderness in the White Mountains. West Branch Apartments retirement home is in the center of downtown for those looking for extended senior care.

The epic Mount Mansfield is just a short drive north of town, and several resorts are nearby too, including the the Stowe Mountain Resort for avid skiers. Many great restaurants, shops, and other businesses exist in this tight-knit community, ranging from fancy dining at The Bench to more laid-back fare at Stowe Bee Bakery & Cafe. Thirsty for some local product? Give Stowe Cider a visit, and bring cans home with you if you love it.

In nearby Morrisviille, there is the Copley Hospital for those who value having quality healthcare nearby.

Port Townsend, Washington

Downtown Water Street in Port Townsend Historic District, Washington
Downtown Water Street in Port Townsend Historic District, Washington. Image credit 365 Focus Photography via Shutterstock

Moving across the country to the west coast is Port Townsend in Washington State. At the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, this idyllic beach town overlooking the Salish Sea is a picturesque spot to spend your later years. Filled with many quality amenities, including the Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center, parks like Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, and a downtown that is filled with several shops and businesses, this small town has everything you need to settle down after retirement.

Housing options are plentiful, and healthcare options are always close at hand, with the Life Care Center of Port Townsend being a quick trip west of downtown. There is even a robust senior association headquartered downtown at the Port Townsend Senior Association.

Whether it is a day at the nearby Fort Worden Historical State Park or a spin out on the water with your boat, activities in the town are plentiful and easy to access.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The beautiful downtown area of Bar Harbor, Maine.
The beautiful downtown area of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Yet another community on the water, this Atlantic coastal town is near one of America's most iconic national parks, Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor, Maine provides views and activities in all directions for anyone who wants to retire in a haven of natural beauty, whether it is the ocean to the east or the Cadillac Mountain to the south.

Living options are abundant, with several, apartment communities like the Malvern Belmont Estates for retirees, summer homes, neighborhoods, and resorts within the town. Healthcare options are close by with the Cooper Gilmore Health Center and the MDI hospital, and resources for seniors are available just north of town at the Birch Bay Retirement Village.

Explore the islands just off of the coast on the Bar Island Land Bridge, a perfect place to get your steps in while taking in the timeless views of this part of Maine. Great restaurant options are abundant, too. La Bella Vita offers a picturesque view of the ocean over some fantastic Italian food for something more laid back (and less expensive), give the Thirsty Whale Tavern a go for comfort eats.

Traverse City, Michigan

Overlooking downtown Traverse City, Michigan.
Overlooking downtown Traverse City, Michigan. Image credit Matthew G Eddy via Shutterstock

On the northern end of the Michigan Peninsula is Traverse City, a town of town with 10,000 residents that is loaded with useful amenities for retirees while also being affordable and away from the buzz of bigger cities down south. With an advanced medical system at the Munson Hospital, ease of travel in and out of town at the Cherry Capital Airport, and a robust downtown core filled with shops, businesses, and events of all kinds, like the renowned National Cherry Festival, this oasis in the northern United States has everything the retired person needs to survive and thrive.

Along the Boardman River running through the center of town, you can find a plethora of tasty restaurants and other great culinary spots, primarily breweries like The Filling Station Microbrewery, North Peak Brewing Company, 7 Monks Taproom, and many more. Traverse City is a dream come true for retirees who never want to run out of places to grab a cold one.

Along with all of the amenities are an assortment of living options, whether it is retirement communities (such as Village at Bay Ridge Senior Community), condos, or houses. For those who enjoy outdoor activity, there a many world-class golf courses nearby, including the Traverse City Country Club, and parks near the city limits, like the Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park with its many shoreline trails and beaches to relax.

Sandpoint, Idaho

First Avenue, the main street through the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho, on a summer day, via Kirk Fisher / Shutterstock.com
Downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via Shutterstock.com

Located in the northern panhandle of Idaho, this town is nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountain range and is a perfect spot to settle down and retire. With a mix of natural beauty and an abundance of convenient amenities, this escape is an ideal place to move to when living near a big city for work is no longer necessary.

Being on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint provides residents not only a home near mountains, but the ability to partake in water-based activities such as boating, swimming, and a beach to relax at. In the hills surrounding the town are many great trails of varying difficulties, like the popular Mickinnick trail.

What retirees may find the most alluring about Sandpoint is its abundance of quality retirement homes and services. These include Huckleberry Retirement, Sandpoint Seniors Center, Lakeside Assisted Living, and the Bonner Country Senior Companion.

Downtown Sandpoint is full of high-quality local shops, restaurants like The Burger Dock, breweries like the MickDuff's Brewing Company, and cafes like the Panhandle Cone and Coffee. There are a variety health clinics in town, and the central hospital, Bonner General Health is a full-service hospital that boasts high-quality patient care.

Make the Most out of Your Retirement Up North

The northern states of the US stretch from ocean to ocean, offering retirees a plethora of options when it comes to where to settle down for a simple and easier life. From the verdant hills in Vermont to the Great Lakes, to the vast shores of the Pacific Ocean, the options are seemingly endless.

These locales are not only beautiful places to call home but also provide many of the amenities that most retirees need, such as easy access to healthcare, professionals, and affordable housing.

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