Charleston, South Carolina

Best Places to Retire in South Carolina


Charleston is a major port city known for its history, charm, and cultural sophistication. It is also one of the largest containerized cargo shipping points in the South Atlantic and has a strong base of manufacturing as well as a large military presence. It boasts a multi-billion dollar tourist industry, testimony to the attractiveness of the region.

The city, founded in 1670, was named for King Charles II of England. It was the colonial capital and the wealthiest city in the South, based upon its exports of rice and indigo, and trading with the Indians.

The city has preserved a good amount of its storied history and offers a great variety of resources. There are many excellent art galleries and antique shops, there is dining for virtually any taste, excellent live theater and dance, a full-time professional symphony, plus opera, choral music, festivals, special events, and more. Charleston has outstanding healthcare resources, four colleges, Charleston International Airport, large marinas, fresh water, salt water, and off-shore fishing, and direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway. Minutes away are a number of sea islands offering pristine sand beaches.

Charleston’s population is near 100,000 and its metropolitan area takes in three counties and stretches nearly 50 miles inland with 90 miles of oceanfront. Its combined population (city and metro area) of 550,000 and booming tourist business helps to support its outstanding amenities.

Among the dozens of communities around Charleston, prospective retirees would likely be most interested in its barrier islands, which offer a number of lifestyle choices. Kiawah Island, 24 miles southeast of the city, is the subject of its own report. Seabrook Island, which is adjacent to Kiawah is also reported separately.

The following are other charming satellite communities in the greater Charleston area:

Isle of Palms, 12.5 miles north of the city is a barrier island with seven miles of beautiful sand beach. It connects to the mainland by a causeway over the Intracoastal Waterway. It offers the charm of a sea island and a full compliment of goods and services (groceries, specialty stores, churches, etc.). The northern end of the island is Wild Dunes resort community which has two and a half miles of beach, two championship golf courses, a top 50 tennis center, and more. Isle of Palms marina, located at the north end of the island, is a large, first class facility. Access to the ocean is via an inlet at the southern end of the island, or nearby Charleston harbor.

Sullivan’s Island, just south of Isle of Palms, forms the north side of the ocean inlet into Charleston harbor. It offers a casual, relaxing lifestyle with family oriented beaches and charming seaside neighborhoods. Sullivan’s Island also has notable historic significance. During the Revolutionary War, on June 28, 1776, the battle of Sullivan’s Island became the first Patriot victory over the British. And it from was Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island that the first shots of the Civil War were fired — on Fort Sumpter across the harbor.

Folly Beach is a beautiful six-mile long barrier island only 15 minutes east from Charleston’s downtown historic district. It offers six miles of sandy ocean beach with great surfing and in-shore or off-shore fishing. The area is also great for bird watching. Folly Beach also boasts one of the longest piers on the East Coast where you can fish or dance the evening away to live band music.

Arts & Culture

Charleston Symphony Orchestra has nearly 50 full-time professional musicians. It performs a busy year-round schedule with a major concert series, community concerts, special events and school programs throughout the state.

The annual Spoleto Festival USA is a major arts and cultural event, attracting many thousands of visitors to the city. It offers 17 days and nights of performances, including opera; theater; dance; music/theater; chamber, symphonic and choral music. Some of the events are by world-class professionals, and there are many additional events under the name “Piccolo Spoleto” that are presented free by local groups.

North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center is a 14,000-seat complex that is home to the South Carolina Stingrays ECHL hockey team, the Charleston Swamp Foxes, and the new NBDL North Charleston Lowgators basketball team. The Performing Arts Center is a 2,300-seat facility with full production capabilities. It is home to the Broadway Nights Series, as well as other entertainment.

North Charleston’s Cultural Arts Program hosts a variety of entertainment throughout the year. Its Dinner Theater Series at The Charleston Area Convention Center Ballroom runs from fall to early spring. Plays, City Gallery exhibits, festivals and outdoor concerts, “Sunday in the Park” at Park Circle, are on the list of events throughout the program.

There are more than 20 galleries in Charleston, and in 1999 the Charleston Fine Arts Dealers Association was founded by a number of the gallery owners and artists to develop Charleston into a fine arts destination.

Patriots Point, just across the Cooper River in Mt. Pleasant, is one of the world’s largest naval and marine museums. Here you can board the aircraft carrier Yorktown and other permanently moored ships.

Charleston has many interesting museums, ranging from the Gibbes Museum of Art to the Karples Manuscript Museum and The Confederate Museum

If you are looking for fine dining, a raw bar, a French restaurant, live jazz, low-country fare, outstanding seafood, and great ribs — Charleston has it all!


The Charleston Department of Recreation has 18 playgrounds, 62 tennis courts (47 of them are lighted), and operates four pools. There is a full schedule of youth and adult sports programs and several regional tournaments. It also manages Angel Oak Municipal Golf Course and Herbert Hasell Aquatic Center. Other facilities include gymnasiums, sports complexes, gymnastic training center, biking/walking trails and a nature center.

There are water sports of every kind in the area: great beaches, surfing, kayaking, fresh water and off-shore fishing, sailboat charters and more. Opportunities are seemingly unlimited.

There are many outstanding golf courses throughout the area — from Isles of Palms, to Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, Charleston, Kiawah, and Seabrook. All have championship caliber courses.

Daniel Island Tennis Centre, host to major tournaments, offers 17 world-class courts at its 32-acre complex. (800) 677-2293

Kiawah Island Resort has been rated among “The top 5 tennis resorts.” It offers 28 hard and Har-Tru courts. (843) 768-2121

The Charleston Battery professional soccer club plays its home matches at Blackbaud Stadium, located on Daniel Island.

Carolina Ice Palace has two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks for year-round public skating, youth and adult hockey, and figure skating.


Charleston Southern University was founded in 1964. It is a fully accredited four-year independent liberal arts college affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Enrollment is 2,800.

The Citadel was founded in 1842 as The Military College of South Carolina. It enrolls 1,900 men and women in 19 degree programs.

The College of Charleston, founded in 1770, was incorporated into the state’s college system in 1970. Its mission is to provide a liberal arts curriculum providing quality education in the arts, sciences, education and business to 8,000 to 9,000 students. The graduate school was established in 1972 and offers 17 programs and five masters degrees.

Johnson & Wales University’s Charleston campus is one of five locations the school operates. The university, which dates back to 1914, offers a variety of two- and four-year degrees in food service, hospitality and travel-tourism. Its curriculum focuses on integrating general education, professional skills and career focused education. Most students earn two degrees in four years. Enrollment is 1,300.

Trident Technical College was founded under a different name in 1964 and after a merger with Palmer College in 1973, became Trident Technical College. Today it serves over 11,000 students, offering 159 programs in various technical and career areas. It also offers transfer programs for students who plan to continue toward four-year degrees.

Medical University of South Carolina offers degree programs in medicine, dental medicine, health professions, nursing, and pharmacy. Enrollment is 2,300.

Webster University is an independent non-denominational college whose main campus is in St. Louis, Missouri. Webster claims more than 30 campus locations, including a number of international locations. Charleston enrollment is 625.

Miller-Motte Technical College, enrollment 250. (843) 574-0101 Limestone College, enrollment 500. (843) 745-1100

Senior Programs

The Lowcountry Senior Center is a state-of-the-art facility designed and built to offer recreational opportunities for area residents age 50 and over. Residents are encouraged to take part in exercise classes, educational sessions, personal development, sports activities, computer labs, fitness workouts, trips, and other activities designed to encourage participation through social interaction.

College of Charleston Center for Creative Retirement (CCR) offers continuing education programs for seniors. It is a member-led organization focusing on enriching the mind through continued learning at the College of Charleston. CCR is a learning center for members to pursue academic interests and a “clearinghouse” to share members’ unique talents and lifetime experiences. Established in 1993 at the College of Charleston, the CCR program is patterned after similar institutes at over 100 universities in the U.S. It is also affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network to provide opportunities for domestic and international travel and study. 


Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center is a 596-room acute care teaching hospital.

Roper Hospital, now a part of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, was founded in 1850 as the first community hospital in the Carolinas. It is a 453-bed acute care facility and a regional referral center. Services include a heart center for cardiac rehabilitation, a cancer center, orthopedics (including a joint replacement center), a neuroscience center and more.

Charleston Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of Medical University of South Carolina.

Charleston International Airport –


Charleston’s weather is semi-tropical with mild winters and hot, humid summers, tempered by ocean breezes. Average temperatures are a high of 59 and low of 38 degrees. In July the averages are 89 and 71 degrees.


The Post and Courier –

Property Taxes

Charleston County Tax Assessor –
Berkeley County Tax Assessor –

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Myrtle Beach – 95 miles
Isle of Palms – 12 miles
Sullivan’s Island – 9.5 miles
Folly Beach – 12 miles
Seabrook Island – 22 miles
Kiawah Island – 24 miles
Hilton Head Island – 98 miles
Savannah, GA – 107 miles

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