Fairhope, Alabama USA 5 September 2021 the Storybook Castle Bed and Breakfast

7 Towns Perfect for Retirement in Gulf Coast

What isn't there to love about the Gulf Coast? It offers inexpensive properties, tranquility, miles of pristine beaches to soak up the sunshine, and southern hospitality to make you comfortable and feel right at home. This region consists of five states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The close proximity enables easy access to neighboring states and their culture, cuisine, and landscapes, with endless adventures being just a short drive away. This article will explore eight perfect towns for retirement on the Gulf Coast.

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Aerial view of Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Aerial view of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Image credit pisaphotography via Shutterstock.

Starting off the list is Fort Walton Beach. Fancy yourself a relaxing walk? Head over to Okaloosa Island and explore its powdery soft white beach and crystal-clear waters, and discover the Okaloosa Island Pier, which stretches 1,262 feet into the ocean basin. In addition, you can see dolphins, explore the underwater world through snorkeling, and experience the Emerald Coast Sunset & Dolphin Cruise provided by Soundside Cruiser, a well-known boat tour agency. The two-hour voyage takes you on a two-hour journey that culminates in a mesmerizing and dreamy view of the golden sunset. According to Zumper, the average rent in this area is $1,700, which is a 15% discount compared to the national average.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Miner's Doll & Toy Store in old downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Miner's Doll & Toy Store in old downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Retiring in Ocean Springs isn't just good for your wallet, but also for your mental well-being! This town earned a spot in the top 10 Happiest Seaside Towns by Coastal Living back in 2015. In addition, Ocean Springs also boasts a reputation for being an art town, as it's home to seven art galleries and shops, including the esteemed Walter Anderson Museum which features over a thousand pieces in its collectio, on top engaging the community with interactive painting lessons for beginners and aspiring artists. A short 13-minute journey lies the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, which spans more than 19,000 acres — this park protects endangered wildlife and native species living on the Gulf Coast while providing plenty of outdoor space to hike and observe the wildlife. As per Realtor, the average listing price for a home stands at $298.9K in a buyer's market as of March 2024, offering favorable conditions for those looking to purchase their dream home.

Fairhope, Alabama

The seaside town of Fairhope, Alabama.
The seaside town of Fairhope, Alabama.

The humble town of Fairhope became a city 116 years ago, with only 500 residents calling it home. Today, it has a vibrant community of around 25,000 residents, features a popular quarter-mile-long pier for scenic walks, and a mild climate with stunning outdoor scenery to explore. One such gem is the Weeks Bay Estuarine Research Reserve, a vast nature preserve covering over 6,000 acres of tidal wetlands, providing a rich atmosphere for a wide array of wildlife and fish. Furthermore, the park contains self-guided trails, an interpretive center for learning, and a boat ramp to enjoy the waters. In addition, Fairhope features over 100 unique shops in its lively downtown center, which includes local Alabama cuisine, art galleries, and several parks around the city. To live here, rent averages around $1,699 as per RentCafé. Plus, Alabama's low taxes will enable you to keep more of your hard-earned dollars, letting you enjoy a fun lifestyle without breaking your bank.

Longboat Key, Florida

Aerial view of Longboat Key town and beaches in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Aerial view of Longboat Key town and beaches in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Longboat Key served as a tropical getaway for Timucuan and Caloosa natives for centuries. And its legacy of being a tourist town continues today, as tens of thousands flock here each year to enjoy its stunning shores and incredible weather. Hop in the water with Happy Paddler Kayak Tours, an award-winning enterprise that lets you explore the sea, the waters around Anna Maria Island, and Lido Key — the relaxing adventure may even bring you face-to-face with playful dolphins or gentle manatees, creating memories that will last a lifetime. And when you're hungry, stop by the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, where you can devour all the fresh seafood your belly can handle. Finally, do not overlook Coquina Beach on the north end. The picturesque shoreline offers a tranquil environment for basking in the sun and swimming in areas manned by lifeguards.

Rockport, Texas

Rockport Texas waterfront,
Rockport Texas waterfront, By BrianGrunberger - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:Rockport, Texas.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Rockport is famous for its dazzling beach, vibrant art scene, and the many museums that call it home. Its main pride and joy, though, is Rockport Beach which offers tourists a serene spot to retreat and enjoy the pearly white sands. The beach also offers kayaking tours, including GlowRow's unique glowing kayak tour during twilight hours, in addition to Deep Sea Fishing with Blue Water Excursion's dolphin and sunset tour. The latter entails sailing to the Lydia Ann Lighthouse to witness the fiery sky as the sun descends for the night. Less than 10 minutes away, the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site stands proudly as one of the earliest built structures in Texas, offering a glimpse into the architecture of the Second Empire back in Emperor Napolean's time. Another perk of retiring in Rockport is its affordable housing market: the median home price stands at 327,816 as per Zillow, on top of the fact Texans enjoy some of the nation's lowest tax burdens, paying only 7.6% of their income toward state and local taxes, compared to the national average of 10.3% according to the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets
Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets, via Billy Hathorn on Wikipedia

Natchitoches, pronounced na-kuh-tuhsh, is one of the oldest cities in the state. French-Canadian explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis established this town back In 1714, and its early French roots can still be seen today in the town's architecture, cuisine, music, and festivals. In addition, the cost of living is relatively affordable as it scored a rating of 84.2 by BestPlaces, meaning the aggregate cost of housing, food, transportation, and other factors is lower than the national U.S. average. A few popular tourist destinations in the area include the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Cane River National Heritage Area Inc., and the Natchitoches Art Guild & Gallery, a non-profit enterprise promotes local artists in the area and engages the community in lively workshops.

Carrabelle, Florida

View of Carrabelle RV resort, Florida
View of Carrabelle RV resort, Florida. Image credit Fsendek via Shutterstock

Enjoy state parks and forests? They surround Carrabelle — Tate's Hell State Forest boasts 202,000 acres of Florida's unique wetland, flatwoods, and swamps. Furthermore, it's perfect for those seeking outdoor activities such as fishing, camping, and hunting. North of town lies the Apalachicola National Forest which, according to the USDA Forest Service, shelters some of the world's most endemic and rare plant and animal species in the world. Aside from Carrabelle's stunning outdoors, the town is also home to a specialty museum, the Crooked River Lighthouse, and the Carrabelle History Museum, known for having a vast exhibition that explores the town's deep maritime history.

Final thoughts

To summarize, the Gulf Coast has everything you need for retirement: affordability, tranquility, as well as lots of sunshine and nature. From the many pristine beaches to the vibrant art galleries available to explore, these eight towns offer something for everyone to enjoy, with the added benefit of some good old southern charm.

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