People enjoying time on vacation in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

8 Best Small Towns to Retire in South Carolina in 2024

Many retirees have a love-hate relationship with big cities. They appreciate the amenities that come with living in big cities but cannot stand the constant hustle and bustle. Therefore, an increasingly popular decision is to find a peaceful, small town located at a comfortable distance from a big city. This ensures retirees can enjoy the best of both worlds: a laid-back environment and access to crucial big-city amenities, including hospitals. If this resonates with you, explore the 9 best small towns to retire in the Palmetto State below.

Murrells Inlet

Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

Murrells Inlet is a welcoming place to retire, located just south of Myrtle Beach. It's common here to see residents smiling at people across the street or going out of their way to help strangers. Known for its crabs and oysters, Murrells Inlet has earned the nickname "Seafood Capital of South Carolina." This town is particularly popular with retirees, as indicated by the residents' median age of 60.2 years. Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital, located within the town, has received numerous prestigious awards, including the America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Spine Surgery Award and the Outpatient Orthopedic Surgery Excellence Award. For outdoor enthusiasts, Brookgreen Gardens offers beautiful sculptures, bubbling fountains, and ancient oak trees for enjoyment. Additionally, encountering alligators, especially along the causeway at Huntington Beach State Park, is often an unforgettable experience.

Tega Cay

Lowes Foods Tega Cay, South Carolina
Lowes Foods Tega Cay, South Carolina, By Mike Kalasnik from Fort Mill, USA - Lowes Foods Tega Cay, SCUploaded by AlbertHerring, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Tega Cay is recognized for its safety, with Safewise ranking it as the fourth-safest city in South Carolina. Residents enjoy spending afternoons at Windjammer Park, which is perfect for swimming, kayaking, or simply relaxing. Runde Park is another venue that frequently hosts lively summer concerts. Although the town has a population of about 14,500, it's conveniently located just 20 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, offering access to a wide range of excellent health facilities, including the highly-regarded Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center. Situated on Lake Wylie, the town offers water enthusiasts plenty of fun and adventure. The median age in Tega Cay is 41.6 years, facilitating easy social connections for retirees with both younger and older residents.


The old square in Pendleton, South Carolina.
The old square in Pendleton, South Carolina. Image credit: Let Ideas Compete via

Pendleton is ideally located, being just approximately 11, 14, and 30 miles from Seneca, Anderson, and Greenville, respectively, with Atlanta only a two-hour drive away. Known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, retirees here can expect to feel accepted and are unlikely to encounter indifference or cold shoulders. Clemson University, located nearby in Clemson, offers various programs through its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where retirees can engage and network with peers. With several excellent hospitals in Greenville, retirees have quick access to medical care in emergencies. Outdoor opportunities abound, including Fant's Grove, and the downtown area is one of the largest historic districts in the United States.

Little River

The picturesque town of Little River, South Carolina.
The picturesque town of Little River, South Carolina.

Despite the influx of tourists, especially given its location in the North Myrtle Beach area, Little River remains an ideal retreat for retirees. The town’s median age is 62 years, indicating a community well-suited for those seeking peers with similar life experiences and interests. Outdoor attractions like Vereen Memorial Gardens offer stunning salt marshes, scenic hiking trails, and wooden boardwalks, perfect for morning walks. McLeod Seacoast Hospital in Little River has received recognition for the Vascular Surgery Excellence Award. Additional healthcare options are available in Myrtle Beach, Loris, Conway, and Bolivia, North Carolina. With a median home price of $356,000, Little River is considered relatively affordable for many.

Surfside Beach

People on Surfside Beach, South Carolina
People on Surfside Beach, South Carolina

Surfside Beach presents a dense suburban atmosphere with a population of about 4,100, yet it is known for its vibrant community, numerous restaurants, and cafes. The town maintains a relaxed environment, making it ideal for retirees seeking a quieter, less crowded space near Myrtle Beach but at a comfortable distance to ensure tranquility. The local community is welcoming, ensuring that newcomers feel immediately at home. The area is surrounded by hospitals, notably in Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, and Conway, with Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach earning several accolades, including America's 250 Best Hospitals Award. Homes in Surfside Beach have a median price of $535,000.


Awendaw, South Carolina, with U.S. Highway 17 in foreground
Awendaw, South Carolina, with U.S. Highway 17 in foreground

Awendaw offers a serene and secluded environment, surrounded by stunning natural scenery, making it perfect for those wishing to escape the city's hustle and bustle. While neighbors may be sparse, they are known to be friendly and engaging. Just 24 miles from Charleston, residents have easy access to a wealth of cultural attractions and essential city amenities, including top-notch hospitals. The Francis Marion National Forest, located nearby, is celebrated for its exceptional wildflower displays and diverse ecosystem, including grass species and carnivorous pitcher plants. Awendaw’s appeal as a retirement destination is evident in its median age of 57.8 years, indicating a supportive community for social connections. The town is also noted for its diversity, with Blacks and Whites making up 53% and 46% of the population, respectively.


The Main Street Clock at Lexington, South Carolina.
The Main Street Clock at Lexington, South Carolina.

Coastal spots in South Carolina tend to be expensive and overrun by tourists. For this reason, it's wise to consider locations a bit inland. Lexington, while more than two hours from the ocean by car, offers retirees the chance to live near water. Lake Murray, a key feature of Lexington, has over 600 miles of shoreline and is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States. Additionally, homes in Lexington have a median price of $321,000, which is quite affordable, especially in comparison to Charleston's median home price of $571,000. As a suburb of Columbia and just about a 20-minute drive from South Carolina's capital, Lexington offers retirees excellent access to big-city amenities, including hospitals and shopping centers.


Street view in Irmo, South Carolina
Street view in Irmo, South Carolina, via ScottNodine /

Located northwest of Columbia, Irmo is a peaceful Tree City USA Community that quickly endears itself to retirees. With approximately 12,200 residents, Irmo offers a serene rural setting that perfectly blends small-town charm with modern conveniences. The community is friendly and tight-knit, ensuring newcomers feel genuinely welcome. Irmo, neighboring Lexington, also enjoys access to Lake Murray, where the crystal-clear waters provide delightful and refreshing swimming experiences. The area boasts numerous hospitals, especially in Columbia. With a median age of 35 years, Irmo offers retirees the opportunity to engage with younger people, benefiting from their energy and enthusiasm.

The Takeaway

Whether you're drawn to coastal living in places like Myrtle Beach or Charleston, or prefer the inland tranquility of the Columbia or Greenville areas, South Carolina offers a range of appealing options. The state is dotted with charming small towns, many of which provide easy access to big-city amenities and cultural attractions. Standout locations include Murrells Inlet, Tega Cay, and Pendleton, with Pendleton being notably close to Clemson University as well as to Greenville and its cultural offerings. Regardless of your choice, retiring in South Carolina is poised to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.

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