You've visited South Carolina many times and fallen in love with its beaches, its mountains, its lakes and its relaxed lifestyle. Maybe you've even dreamed about what it would be like to spend your golden years living in the Palmetto State. Here are a few places to put on your list as you start mapping out your future.
Sun City Hilton Head
The largest active adult community in the South Carolina Lowcountry with more than 8,000 homes and 14,000 residents, Sun City isn't actually on Hilton Head Island-it's 13 miles west in the town of Bluffton. It's close enough to spend a day at the beach, while the town of Bluffton, sitting along the May River, is a charming locale, too-particularly the farmer's market, shops and restaurants in Old Town Bluffton. Sun City is a planned community with three golf courses, three fitness centers, six pools, a nature trail and walking paths set on 5,000 acres of woodlands and lagoons. There's a Village Center at the heart of the community, complete with a clock tower. At one end of the square is the Pinckney Social Hall, a 17,000-square-foot venue with a ballroom that hosts lectures, workshops, dances and concerts. At the other end of the square is an expansive fitness center, with indoor and outdoor pools-even a cushioned-floor aerobics studio.
Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick
Enjoy lakefront living? And golf? And nature viewing? Savannah Lakes Village, a recreation-inspired lakefront community in the western part of the state on Lake Thurmond is worth checking out. Bordering South Carolina and Georgia, Lake Thurmond covers more than 71,000 acres. And with more than 2,100 residents, Savannah Lakes Village is home to three lakefront golf courses, community events at restaurants, daily programs at the recreation and tennis center, and hundreds of miles of land and water trails. It's located near the small town of McCormick in the heart of the Sumter National Forest.
The Waccamaw Neck, Georgetown County
The Waccamaw Neck is a narrow peninsula along the coast in Georgetown County, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Waccamaw River. The neck was a major hunting and fishing ground for the Waccamaw tribe and later became the site of rice plantations on the west and beach resorts to the east. Today, the 27-mile stretch south of Myrtle Beach is dotted with beach, golf and tennis retreats, filled with vacationers and year-round residents, including a large number of retirees. The Neck runs from the fishing and restaurant village of Murrells Inlet to the port city of Georgetown. It's home to the historic beach community of Pawleys Island, the upscale residential oceanside community at DeBordieu Colony and resort living in Litchfield Beach. On the west side of US 17 are several planned communities, including Wachesaw Plantation, Willbrook, Litchfield Country Club and The Reserve. But the area is more than just a beach and golf resort. Check out Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,100-acre sculpture garden and wildlife preserve just south of Murrells Inlet that opened in 1932 on the site of four former rice plantations. Just across the road is Huntington Beach State Park, originally the property of Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer M. Huntington, whose former home, Atalaya Castle, is located in the park.
If you like horses and beautiful weather, you'll want to put Aiken on your list of potential retirement locations. Located in the western part of the state, just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga., it's been popular with horse lovers for generations for its fox hunting, polo and steeplechase events. In the late 19th century, the town was famous as a wintering spot for wealthy people from the Northeast, earning it the name "the Winter Colony." It's still a spot for the horsey set, home to the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum and races sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association. The historic downtown is populated with restaurants, art galleries and boutiques, and the University of South Carolina-Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learners, offers educational and intellectually stimulating programs.
Kiawah Island is about 20 miles south of downtown Charleston-close enough to take advantage of top-flight restaurants and cultural life in one of the nation's best cities. But the upscale, gated beach and golf resort of Kiawah is known for its own natural beauty and luxury. It is home to five championship golf courses, including the renowned Ocean Course. Kiawah boasts 10 miles of beaches and preserved maritime forests and marshes-with bike and walking trails making it easy to explore. Nearly two-fifths of its population of under 2,000 is age 65 or older, and Kiawah has earned a spot on Forbes' list of top 25 places to retire. Housing ranges from high-end beach and golf course condos to large single-family homes. Freshfields Village, a town-center mix of shops, restaurants and services, is located just before you enter the gate to Kiawah.
Daniel Island, Charleston
It's been around for just 20 years, but the planned community near Charleston has turned into a true island town with more than 10,000 residents. Traditional neighborhoods feature tree-lined streets and sidewalks with a variety of homes-from townhouses and condominiums to single-family homes along golf courses. It's surrounded by rivers, creeks and Charleston Harbor, so there's plenty of access to boating, swimming and fishing. But it's the parks and natural areas that set it apart, with 400 acres of the sea island set aside as green space and more than 20 miles of leisure trails. The Daniel Island Club, a private country club, has two golf courses with a true Lowcountry setting. The community has earned a spot on Where to Retire magazine's list of America's 100 Best Master-Planned Communities.
Lake Keowee in the South Carolina Upstate combines lakeside living with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge mountains. The large reservoir with 300 miles of shoreline was created by damming the Little River and the Keowee River. About 45 minutes west of Greenville and just seven miles from Clemson University, Lake Keowee is becoming a hot development site for retirees, families and weekend visitors. The area is home to dozens of upscale housing developments, including the Cliffs communities, offering a variety of housing and community options around the lake, and The Reserve at Keowee, which features a golf course, town center and marina.