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Margie Casey's Blog

By Margie Casey | Broker in Florida

Safest Cities to Live in at Retirement

Margie Casey's Blog:

As you search for where to retire in the Southeast, it would be logical to consider which cities are the safest. If you see warning signs on city streets and police observation towers in public places, that’s a pretty good indication of a crime problem. So far, we’ve analyzed the crime index, cost of living, housing costs and quality of life in 25 cities featured on our website, in the states of Florida, Georgia, the Carolina’s and Tennessee. We thought you’d like to know which cities we consider to be the safest to live in at retirement:


  1. Loudon Tennessee - Lake Tellico area Eastern Tennessee
  2. Highlands Cashiers - Western North Carolina
  3. Blowing Rock - Western North Carolina
  4. Charleston - Coastal South Carolina
  5. Waynesville - Western North Carolina
  6. Gainesville Georgia - Lake Sidney Lanier area Northern Georgia
  7. Savannah - Coastal Georgia
  8. Andersonville - Norris Lake area Eastern Tennessee
  9. Cookeville - Eastern Tennessee
  10. Southport - Coastal Wilmington area North Carolina

The majority of the cities on our list are what we consider to be micro cities, those cities with a population under 100,000. Our Top 10 Safest Cities to Live In list validates moving to a smaller city or town off the beaten path may not be such a bad idea. Offering an even a higher level of peace of mind would be moving into a gated community and our expertise is to find the very best. For those who must be closer to city conveniences and culture, I’ll start by discussing the safe metropolitan cities on our list:

Charleston and Savannah are the largest metropolitan cities on our list. Although most Baby Boomer’s prefer not to relocate to a big city, Charleston has always been a favorite destination for family vacations and second homes. Charleston’s crime rate has been consistently falling over the past 10 years and Charleston has been named the Friendliest City in America by Conde Nast Traveler. There are four distinct areas to consider in Charleston: northern Charleston near Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, downtown Charleston and southern Charleston on Kiawah or Seabrook Island. Beautiful beaches, exquisite golf courses, outstanding restaurants and classic architecture define Charleston. To me, the only drawback would be the large bodies of water and skyscraper bridges you would need to cross over to reach all the barrier islands.

Dating back to the 1700’s, Savannah pleasantly surprised us by its steadily decreasing crime rate over the years. We expected this historic city’s crime rate to be much higher as buyers have voiced their concern to me over Savannah’s crime. It appears to us the City of Savannah has done a bang up job of bringing crime under control with the crime index now inline with the national average. If the city life is not for you, Savannah has a number of interesting islands to consider at retirement: Tybee Island, Skidaway Island, Wilmington Island and the historic, Richmond Hill area. Savannah is one of the best college towns and is home to the Savannah College of Art & Design. The city is a foodie hot spot, home to the 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and is an art mecca.


There are three of the best mountain towns in North Carolina on our Top 10 Safest Cities to Live In list - Waynesville, Blowing Rock and Highlands Cashiers. Waynesville is the closest of the three to downtown Asheville, about 30 minutes to the southwest. Floridian’s have been staking their claim in the towns of Waynesville and Maggie Valley for decades, to escape the summer heat and enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. The heart of Waynesville is Main Street lined with art galleries, great restaurants and interesting boutiques. Two big box stores recently opened on the west end of Waynesville, a Wal-Mart Super Store and Best Buy. The Frog Level and Hazelwood Village adds to the charm of Waynesville NC.

Second in our group of the safest mountain towns and #2 on our list is the city of Highlands, about an hour or so drive southwest of Asheville. This high elevation region is seated atop the Appalachian Mountains and is next door to the Land of Waterfalls, a neighboring county where you can find more than 250 beautiful waterfalls. The narrow winding roads have kept access difficult limiting home density in the area. The population swells during the summer months to enjoy the region’s scenic beauty and prestigious golf courses. Affluent families such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and the Rockefeller’s chose the Highlands area for their summer homes.

Blowing Rock is #3 on our list and is located northeast of Asheville by about 2 hours. Blowing Rock, Boone and Banner Elk are nicknamed the High Country of North Carolina where mountain elevations range from 2,000 feet to well over 5,000 feet. Blowing Rock has been named Prettiest Small Town in North Carolina. Three major ski resorts provide winter and summer sports to vacationers and college students. Appalachian State University is 10 minutes from Main Street in Blowing Rock, one of the best college towns in North Carolina. For those folks who want winter snow, the High Country is a great option in Western North Carolina.


Loudon on Tellico Lake in Eastern Tennessee, Andersonville on Norris Lake in Eastern Tennessee and Lake Sidney Lanier in Gainesville Georgia are on our list as the three safest lake towns. 30 minutes southwest of Knoxville, Loudon is #1 on our list as the safest city to live in at retirement. Tellico Village is the most well known master planned community bordering Tellico Lake although we recommend several others. Loudon is far enough away from Knoxville, yet close enough to access city conveniences when necessary. Knoxville is #24 on our list, second to last as the safest city to live in.

Andersonville is located on the northeast side of Knoxville bordering emerald green Norris Lake. We find this small town has the easiest access to the Knoxville yet still has the characteristics of living in a rural farm area. The majority of the roads leading to Norris Lake are narrow winding roads leading to small neighborhoods along the lake. The biggest draw back or plus, depending on how you look at it, is the lack a brand name shopping, chain restaurants and big box stores.

Lake Sidney Lanier is Georgia’s largest lake located an hour north of Atlanta. The city of Gainesville is located on the east side of the lake and Dahlonega Georgia is just to the north, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area has a combination of tourist attractions, vineyards and a wild west flavor. Gainesville is one of the best college towns in Georgia, home to the Breneau University. Life in the area clearly revolves around the lake and the crystal clear Chestatee River. Dahlonega Georgia has been named a Best Value Retirement City by U.S. News and World Report because of the low cost of living.


Located about half way between Nashville and Knoxville, Cookeville is one of the largest cities on our list and is next door to Crossville, the Golf Capital of Tennessee. Atop the Cumberland Plateau, Cookeville has been ranked as one of the Top 10 Places to Retire in America. Most folks who consider the area, consider moving to Fairfield Glade. This 12,500 acre master planned community is a self sustaining town in and of itself. Established in the 1970’s, Fairfield Glade perhaps offers the lowest cost of living in Tennessee.


On the mainland, southeast of Wilmington North Carolina, is the sleepy fishing village of Southport. The area reminds me of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. While some folks complain that it is ‘too far’ out there, I believe this is exactly what makes Southport special and safe. Sailing, fishing and antiquing are the most popular pastimes. Folks searching for where to retire on the coast of North Carolina will find Southport less touristy as opposed to the busier barrier islands Bald Head Island, Kure Beach and Oak Island.

If you would like our recommendation of the best master planned communities and neighborhoods to consider in any of these safe cities to live in, reach out and say ‘hello’ at margie@realestatescorecard.com

This is how we help buyers in this market and it is our pleasure to help.


By Becky Morris,  Fri Jun 8 2012, 17:29
I love Charleston!

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