16 Best River Towns For Retirement In The South

These charming river communities offer a respite for retired life.

Two adirondack chairs at sunrise on banks of May River in heart of South Carolina lowcountry.

Pam Ullman/Getty

Trust us: Retiring to one of the South’s many river towns is a great idea, and for a good reason. These small, riverside communities are tucked away away from the hustle and bustle of booming cities and former day jobs. Their riverbanks offer sweeping water views, peaceful sunrises and sunsets, and plenty of critter-watching. Not to mention, they maintain incredible restaurants and cultural experiences. Add waters ports or other water-adjacent hobbies like fishing, and you’re left with the ideal recipe for a restful retirement. Here are some of the best towns in the South to retire by the river.

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Bradenton, Florida

Grandmother pointing out something in the distance to grandsons in Bradenton, Florida

Chris Stein/Getty

Bradenton is situated alongside the Manatee River, and retirees can spend their days along the Bradenton Riverwalk, a 1.5 mile, ADA-accessible park. Here, you’ll find an amphitheater, skate park, beach volleyball courts, and a fishing pier. As the name implies, this area is known for its manatee population. In fact, at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, yogis can even practice manatee yoga.

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Blue Ridge, Georgia

Fishers in the river in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Fanin County Chamber of Commerce

Just over an hour from Atlanta, Blue Ridge, Georgia, is a quaint mountain town that sits along the Toccoa River. Its charming downtown is filled with shops and restaurants. Add nearby apple orchards, the Blue Ridge scenic railway train, and even a few North Georgia vineyards within driving distance, and Blue Ridge has all the ingredients for a delectable retirement.

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Goldsboro, North Carolina

Kayakers in Goldsboro, NC

Visit Goldsboro

For those seeking an adventure-filled retirement, look no further than Goldsboro, North Carolina. Besides being known for its BBQ, the town is situated near the Neuse River, the second largest estuarine system in the United States. Pair dense tree canopies and loads of wildlife with 70 miles of interconnected rivers, streams and tributaries perfect for paddling, and you’re left with an ideal retirement for water sport participants.

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Helen, Georgia

Helen, Georgia

Alpine Helen Hite County Convention and Visitors Bureau

If you can’t retire to Europe, do the next best things and retire to a Bavarian village in the North Georgia mountains. Helen, Georgia, is best known for its picturesque buildings and chilly Chattahoochee River water. Each year, the river draws tubers, kayakers, and fishermen to its pools. Anglers will especially enjoy the ample trout fishing in this area.

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Magnolia Springs, Alabama

Magnolia Springs, AL

Nicole Letts

In Alabama’s delta, you’ll find Magnolia Springs, a tiny town along the Magnolia River. Here, giant oak trees line streets and camellias blossom throughout winter. The town has a monthly potluck dinner, is home to Jesse’s, one of Alabama’s best restaurants, and has been the setting of several novels including A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg.

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Monroe-West Monroe, Louisiana

Ouachita River

Ryan Musick

Get two river towns for the priarce of one in Monroe-West Monroe, Louisiana. These two communities are situated along the banks of the Ouachita River and Bayou DeSiard. You’ll find history and restaurants, as well as loads of antiques at the famed Antique Alley, the 100-300 blocks of Trenton Street.

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Camden, Alabama

Camden, Alabama

Nicole Letts

The Alabama River runs through Wilcox County’s Camden, a small agricultural town in Alabama’s Black belt. With a population of fewer than 3,000, Camden is among the smaller towns on our list. This is an ideal place for those looking to truly escape. Multiple boat ramps as well as the county’s annual tour of homes gives retirees plenty to do.

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Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez River View
Robbie Caponetto

The town of Natchez will tell you its biggest attraction is the Mississippi River, and the best views of it are found at Bluff Park. Of course, should you retire here, you can visit Bluff Park whenever you desire, and take in everything else the city has to offer, too. You’ll enjoy exploring Longwood, America’s largest octagonal house and will be fascinated by the Natchez Museum of African American Culture and History. 

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Sandy Springs, Georgia

Sandy Springs, GA

Visit Sandy Springs

This Atlanta suburb boasts more than 22 miles of river front along the banks of the Chattahoochee River which makes for countless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Here, there are more than 20 parks perfect for hikers, kayakers, history buffs, wildlife enthusiasts, and fishermen. After a long day on the river, head to dinner at to one of Sandy Springs’ 100 independent restaurants.

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Townsend, Tennessee

Cades Cove road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cheryl Pelavin / 500px / Getty

Nicknamed the “peaceful side of the Smokies,” Townsend is a beautiful mountain community close to incredible outdoor experiences. There’s Cades Cove, a picturesque valley complete with ample wildlife and historic structures. It’s also just a hop, skip, and jump from quirky Gatlinburg. The Little River runs through town and is great for tubing, fishing, or just enjoying its flow.

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Urbanna, Virginia

Urbanna, VA

Virginia Tourism Corporation

The tidewater town of Urbanna, Virginia is home to the state’s oyster festival and jokes that “there are more boats than folks” here. The town is found along the banks of the Rappahannock River. The historic district offers 65 historic buildings including one of Virginia’s eleven surviving Colonial courthouses.

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Bluffton, South Carolina

Two adirondack chairs at sunrise on banks of May River in heart of South Carolina lowcountry.

Pam Ullman/Getty

Located between Hilton Head and Savannah, Bluffton offers small town allure with access to all of the perks of larger community living nearby. Shops such as Spartina 449 and restaurants like Farm dot the streets as a breeze from the May River keeps things cool. This close-knit community gives residents loads to explore and ways to get involved. 

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Wytheville, Virginia

Wytheville Water Tower, VA


Home to Virginia's biggest pencil and smallest church, Wytheville is a quirky yet charming place filled to the brim with Hallmark movie allure. The population 10,000 town is situated a stone's throw from the New River, the second oldest river in the world. Its location allows for active watersports and leisurely fishing surrounded by breathtaking greenery. 

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Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah Riverfront
Getty Images/JT Crawford

Settled along the banks of the Ohio River, Paducah, Kentucky boasts an impressive arts and culture scene. From its 50 painted floodwall murals to its impressive National Quilt Museum, Paducah brings art to life in more ways than one. Add the bustling culture scene to hip eateries, and you’re left with a delightful retirement recipe. 

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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Ali Majdfar / Getty Images

History buffs will enjoy the dense past waiting for them in Harpers Ferry. Whether you’re intrigued by its abolitionist ties or its national park, there is plenty of history to see and explore. The gorgeous confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers only further adds to this city’s charm.

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Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Blue Springs Heritage Center

Courtesy of the Eureka Springs City Advertising & Promotion Commission

Located in the Ozark mountains, Eureka Springs is known for its beautiful setting and spring waters. People once flocked to the area to be healed by the natural springs. Today, it’s an eclectic town that offers everything from outdoor activities to unique shopping. 

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