Best Lake Towns To Retire To in the South

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When looking for a place to retire, lake towns make a strong case. The outdoor offerings—which often include boating, fishing, picnicking, hiking, golfing, and lounging on the shores—are great ways to spend newly free hours during the weekdays and weekends. Add that to the shops, restaurants, and galleries that fill these charming small towns, and you'll find inviting places to spend your retirement years. From big lakes to small ones, natural ones to human-made, there are plenty of bodies of water calling out for you to explore them—and maybe even make your new home in one of the lovely towns on their shores. For more places to explore, check out The South's Greatest Lakes and The South's Best Small Towns.

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Branson, Missouri

Branson Images

This charming Missouri town is nestled in the Ozarks on the shores of Table Rock Lake and has lots of outdoor activities happening in and around the lake year-round, as well as indoor attractions including museums, galleries, and a historic downtown district filled with shops and restaurants.

Plan a visit.

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Davidson, North Carolina

Lake Norman
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Retire to Davidson and you'll find all the small-town charm you crave near North Carolina's Lake Norman, plus proximity to the bustling Charlotte metropolitan area. Don't miss the restaurants, like Kindred, located on the downtown stretch across from Davidson College.

Plan a visit.

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Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs Images

Eureka Springs is situated near several bodies of water, including Lake Leatherwood in the city limits and the enormous nearby Beaver Lake, as well as Table Rock Lake, which is located just across the Missouri border.

Plan a visit.

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Gainesville, Georgia

Lake Lanier
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This Georgia city is set on the shores of Lake Lanier, which is a busy spot in summertime and a lovely place to live year-round. Located about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, Gainesville has city draws along with a branch of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, a nature center, visual arts center, and a history center.

Plan a visit.

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Lake Lure, North Carolina

Lake Lure
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Nestled on Lake Lure in the forested hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the eponymous small town has unparalleled outdoor attractions, including the lake with its wide beach, greenways, golf courses, hiking trails, and Chimney Rock.

Plan a visit.

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Lexington, South Carolina

Lake Murray
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Situated near Columbia, South Carolina's capital city, and just a short drive from Lake Murray—a 50,000-acre reservoir with more than 600 miles of shoreline—Lexington is a great place to live. Its charming downtown, great restaurants, and fun shops are sure to keep you busy.

Plan a visit.

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Florence, Alabama

Wilson Dam
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Florence is a fun small town with great downtown shops and restaurants as well as outdoor adventure in Shoal Creek Preserve and Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve. Neighboring Muscle Shoals has a deep music history. The Tennessee River runs between the two, and the stretch between Wilson Dam and Wheeler Dam is known as Wilson Lake, a popular reservoir for fishing.

Plan a visit.

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Greensboro, Georgia

Lake Oconee
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Located about 85 miles outside of Atlanta, Greensboro is situated on Lake Oconee, a 19,000-acre lake that's also a popular destination for golfing, boating, and fishing. The charming red-brick downtown is filled with fun shops and restaurants.

Plan a visit.

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Cashiers, North Carolina

Lake Toxaway
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Located near Lake Toxaway, the largest private lake in the state, Cashiers has long been a favorite vacation spot and has also inspired people to relocate there for retirement. With beautiful mountain scenery, the nearby lake (about 15 miles away), and lots of waterfall-dotted hiking trails, there's not shortage of enjoyment to be had in Western North Carolina.

Plan a visit.

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LaGrange, Georgia

West Point Lake
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Find a warm welcome in LaGrange, a cozy West Georgia town located on West Point Lake. Meander the historic district, then break out your boats or find a picnic bench along the shore to take in a few relaxing hours in LaGrange.

Plan a visit.

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Lakeway, Texas

Lake Travis
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Set your sights on Lakeway, Texas, which is located in the Hill Country near Lake Travis, and you'll have bountiful opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking in the picturesque landscape of the sunny Lone Star State.

Plan a visit.

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Mandeville, Louisiana

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On the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain is Mandeville, Louisiana, a locale with lots of natural beauty and places to explore in the outdoors. Sandy beaches and waters for boating and kayaking are inviting spots to spend the afternoons.

Plan a visit.

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Paducah, Kentucky

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Paducah and the small towns that surround it offer up fun on the area's many lakes and rivers. The Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers have their confluence at or near Paducah, and nearby are two long lakes, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, with the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area situated between them.

Plan a visit.

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Winter Park, Florida

Lake Maitland
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The area around Winter Park, Florida is a veritable lake oasis. The lakes in the region include Osceola, Maitland (pictured), Minnehaha, Virginia, and Mizell, and those who visit and live in Winter Park can enjoy them all. While it's near the big central Florida tourist attractions, it has its own charm, with greenspaces like Central Park and museums like The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, and Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

Plan a visit.

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Seneca, South Carolina

Lake Keowee
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Located at the southern edge of Lake Keowee and just a short drive from Lake Hartwell, Seneca is a great small town for retirement. In town, you'll find its historic district and long-loved restaurants. Clemson, with the cultural draws of the university and the South Carolina Botanical Garden is just a stone's throw across the water.

Plan a visit.

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Clarksville, Virginia

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Virginia's only lakeside town is located on Kerr Lake and has become a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy the boating, fishing, swimming, camping, and hiking opportunities at Occoneechee State Park.

Plan a visit.

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Covington, Louisiana

Louisiana family acitivities: Tammany Trace bike trail
Chris Granger

There's a stretch of great small towns north of Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana. Covington is an excellent one, with state parks, biking trails, easy access to the lake, a great brewery in Abita Springs, coffee shops, restaurants, and waterways streaming through.

Plan a visit.

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