While many American retirees are remodeling their homes to help them age in place, others who have bid adieu to the workplace are seeking a new locale. With no shortage of choices, how do they decide?
Some ways to narrow down the list include moving closer to grandkids or choosing a vacation spot that has generated wonderful family memories over the years. Folks who get the blues from high taxes and cold weather can find plenty of tax-friendly, warmer settings to establish new roots. Likewise, those with aspirations of spending time on perfectly manicured greens with a club in hand have their pick of communities that cater to golf enthusiasts.
Big cities have advantages, but retirees shouldn’t overlook small towns. Many smaller communities enable residents to live a quiet lifestyle while offering plenty of cultural and recreational activities, restaurants, shops, and other amenities. Some towns offer advantages that appeal to denizens of all generations, like Del Mar, Calif., while others have been specifically designed for adults, like Cypress Lake, Fla.
To help retirees planning to move, Stacker referenced Niche’s Best Places to Retire study, which lists America’s 50 small towns that offer the best retirements. A maximum of 10 towns from each state and towns with a population of fewer than 40,000 were considered for the rankings, which Niche calculated according to retiree representation, weather quality, cost and safety, access to healthy living, and a handful of other factors. For each town, Stacker has included the town’s resident population along with figures for median home value, median rent, and median household income.
Read on to see which small towns are among the best spots to retire in America.
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- Population: 12,367
- Median home value: $1,181,400 (48% own)
- Median rent: $1,987 (52% rent)
- Median household income: $95,592
Numerous trails make it easy to enjoy the beauty of this Marin County town and its surrounding area. Downtown Larkspur is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its restaurants and stores provide unusual experiences inside interesting buildings. Larkspur is a 25-minute drive over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
[Pictured: Blue Rock Inn in Larkspur, California.]
- Population: 7,922
- Median home value: $1,019,300 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,402 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $130,433
[Pictured: Manhasset, New York LIRR trestle.]
- Population: 2,838
- Median home value: $118,000 (83% own)
- Median rent: $799 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $42,667
The Mohave County town along the Arizona-California border is just minutes from the Refuge Golf & Country Club and a short drive from two different kinds of escapes—Lake Havasu State Park and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. Desert Hills is an ideal destination for those who wish to escape precipitation and cold temperatures: It’s one of the driest and hottest places in Arizona, according to BestPlaces.
[Pictured: Sunset over Desert Botanical Garden in Desert Hills, Arizona.]
- Population: 8,684
- Median home value: $831,100 (87% own)
- Median rent: $2,367 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $166,568
This hamlet within the town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County offers a plethora of recreational activities. They include nearby beaches, the par-70 Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course, and the 400-acre Trail View State Park, a local treasure for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and birdwatchers. Free concerts and movies at local parks and beaches have become a summer tradition for residents.
[Pictured: Woodbury Commons promenade in Woodbury, New York.]
- Population: 1,409
- Median home value: $364,200 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,101 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $76,771
This community sits on the 25.4-mile barrier island of Bogue Banks, which is part of an area known for its white beaches and clear water called the Crystal Coast. With numerous water trails and a temperate climate, the coast is a paddler’s paradise. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers a different kind of fun, as well as volunteer opportunities.
[Pictured: Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina.]
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- Population: 2,797
- Median home value: $370,400 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,750 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $117,917
Holly Hills is a small Denver suburb, which gives residents the advantage of being close to the excitement of the city with the ability to go home to a small, friendly community at the end of the day. It’s perfect for those who enjoy winter weather; it gets an average of 23 inches of snow a year and its average annual high temperature doesn’t quite hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Population: 1,240
- Median home value: $892,700 (92% own)
- Median rent: National$949 (8% rent) *Note: Should NATIONAL be in there?
- Median household income: $195,865
This hamlet totaling a mere 0.2 square miles is one of several communities in the Great Neck area. Getting to New York City’s Penn Station takes about 35 minutes by train, but there are plenty of reasons to stay close, including the activities and programs offered by the Great Neck Park District.
[Pictured: Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, New York.]
- Population: 2,910
- Median home value: $452,400 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,766 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $156,842
This town on the shoreline of Lake St. Clair offers residents beautiful views and bountiful water pursuits, and the all-inclusive Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is the city’s only commercial property. Area cultural institutions include the Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra and the Grosse Pointe Theatre. With Detroit about a 20-minute commute away, there is easy access to even more arts and entertainment.
[Pictured: Village of Grosse Point Shores, Michigan.]
- Population: 1,085
- Median home value: $159,800 (96% own)
- Median rent: $1,330 (4% rent)
- Median household income: $81,528
Lake enthusiasts who desire a rural community can find a match in this town that sits on the southern shores of Lake Wichita. Nearby Wichita Falls, home of Sheppard Air Force Base, is a larger city with numerous leisure activities.
[Pictured: Museum of North Texas History in Wichita, Texas, located just north of Lakeside City.]
- Population: 2,733
- Median home value: $251,600 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,061 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $76,219
The Portofino Shopping Center of this Houston suburb offers more than 60 stores and restaurants and, with its Venetian Gothic architecture, a structure of visual interest, too. The fun isn’t just inside: Shenandoah is only minutes away from the iconic Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest, and the George Mitchell Nature Preserve.
[Pictured: Portofino shopping Center Shenandoah, Texas.]
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- Population: 11,030
- Median home value: $693,000 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,037 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $164,649
This affluent St. Louis suburb is the home of the Bellerive Country Club, host of the 2018 PGA Championship. In 2017, Town and Country began creating a New England-style town square to foster a more tightly knit community.
[Pictured: Anheuser-Busch brewery, located a short drive from Town and Country.]
- Population: 5,267
- Median home value: $680,000 (85% own)
- Median rent: $857 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $103,516
The self-proclaimed “California desert sanctuary” in the Coachella Valley lives up to its moniker with amazing mountain views, 350 days of sunshine, renowned golf courses, and several residential country clubs. The Southern California town also sponsors a number of sporting and cultural events, including the world’s fifth-largest tennis tournament, the BNP Paribas Open.
[Pictured: Scenery in Indian Wells, California.]
- Population: 14,800
- Median home value: $255,300 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,475 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $54,124
This master-planned community near Phoenix says it provides “a resort vacation lifestyle and country club living.” Indeed, it has five adult country club communities represented by three homeowner associations, numerous golf courses, and hundreds of special-interest clubs. The community also has a community college campus that offers lifelong learning opportunities.
[Pictured: San Tan Mountain Regional Park located half an hour from Sun Lakes, Arizona.]
- Population: 1,423
- Median home value: $216,300 (94% own)
- Median rent: $1,083 (6% rent)
- Median household income: $103,529
This town is minutes away from Springfield and all the restaurants, attractions, and shopping the state capital has to offer. A 2013 regional planning commission report noted Leland Grove’s “high-quality residential character represents its greatest strength,” and that its “community spirit is a valuable asset.”
[Pictured: Washington Park, a short drive from Leland Grove.]
- Population: 2,829
- Median home value: $446,500 (93% own)
- Median rent: $1,710 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $96,912
This mostly residential town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a haven for beach enthusiasts, and its beaches are only open to residents and vacationers. Southern Shores is home to the Duck Woods Country Club, which offers amenities like golf and tennis.
[Pictured: Southern Shores Beach in Southern Shores, North Carolina.]
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- Population: 4,575
- Median home value: $1,170,600 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,990 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $131,597
Del Monte Forest is a coastal community on California’s Monterey Peninsula with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, multiple hiking and equestrian trails, and proximity to the world-renowned golf courses of Pebble Beach. The Del Monte Forest Property Owners Association works with public and private sector agencies to ensure that the area retains “world-class status as a place to visit and live.”
[Pictured: Point Joe, Del Monte Forest, California.]
- Population: 1,788
- Median home value: $109,500 (68% own)
- Median rent: $586 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $61,726
This Waupaca County town, which Niche says has the lowest cost of living in Wisconsin, is brimming with outdoor recreation options. Nearby Hartman Creek State Park, for example, offers activities like hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
[Pictured: Hartman Creek State Park.]
- Population: 2,784
- Median home value: $305,200 (75% own)
- Median rent: $963 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $70,370
The bucolic neighborhoods of this Chatham County community, one of North Carolina’s first planned developments, surround a Village Center that honors the area’s heritage. The granary of the dairy farm that once occupied the land is now the town’s coffee shop, for example. Meanwhile, residents seeking big-city amenities can reach the Triangle areas of Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh in less than an hour.
[Pictured: Fearrington House Hotel at Fearrington Village.]
- Population: 1,189
- Median home value: $390,200 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,211 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $116,250
This community created its Design Review Board “to preserve, protect, and enhance the ecologically and historically unique environment and aesthetic charm of the village.” Residents are just minutes from Detroit and 30 miles from the Brighton Howell area, which has 123 miles of trails and 20 golf courses.
[Pictured: Detroit, located a short drive from Bingham Farms.]
- Population: 4,747
- Median home value: $450,200 (97% own)
- Median rent: $1,836 (3% rent)
- Median household income: $105,486
St. James, located on North Carolina’s southeast coast, was incorporated in 1999. Wetlands, open spaces, ponds, and marshlands add to the town’s visual appeal. It also has four-and-one-half golf courses, a community center with activities, a number of tennis courts and swimming pools, and a marina and beach club along the Oak Island seashore.
[Pictured: Oak Island Lighthouse, located a short drive away from St. James, North Carolina.]
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- Population: 6,964
- Median home value: $338,900 (55% own)
- Median rent: $1,839 (45% rent)
- Median household income: $74,303
Great Neck Plaza, a small village on Long Island measuring one-third of a square mile, has three parks, plenty of retail shops, and a railroad station connecting the community to New York City. The village was designated as a “Preserve America” community by the White House and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 2004.
[Pictured: Ben Rebhuhn House, a Frank Lloyd Wright structure located in Great Neck, New York.]
- Population: 3,330
- Median home value: $865,300 (85% own)
- Median rent: $1,496 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $155,769
This hilly, four-square-mile patch of Texas is conveniently located near Austin’s downtown and two of its gems: Zilker Metropolitan Park and Lady Bird Lake. West Lake Hills received a 2019 Certified Scenic City award, which recognizes cities that demonstrate a “commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and spaces.”
[Pictured: View of West Lake Hills, Texas.]
- Population: 4,338
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (53% own)
- Median rent: $2,130 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $122,563
With pristine beaches, a pleasant climate, top-notch cuisine, and charming shops, Del Mar is a coastal playground known for its racetrack “where the turf meets the surf.” The seaside city holds events throughout the year at its Del Mar Fairgrounds and is 20 miles north of San Diego.
[Pictured: Harbor in Corona del Mar, California.]
- Population: 8,752
- Median home value: $234,000 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,104 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $51,667
The MarshWalk is a source of pride of this beach town known as “the seafood capital of South Carolina." It’s a half-mile boardwalk along a saltwater estuary where residents can eat, listen to live music, shop, and enjoy recreational water activities. Myrtle Beach is 10 miles away, and Huntington Beach State Park is even closer.
[Pictured: Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.]
- Population: 9,844
- Median home value: $897,000 (79% own)
- Median rent: $2,341 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $173,333
Easy access to the Metro subway system makes it a cinch for residents of this suburb of Washington D.C. to take advantage of the myriad museums and attractions in the nation’s capital and surrounding areas. The local nonprofit Chevy Chase at Home is dedicated to helping residents age in place, and Maryland residents 65 and older can sign up for a free daily telephone check-in.
[Pictured: American City Diner in Chevy Chase, Maryland.]
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- Population: 3,769
- Median home value: $263,300 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,052 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $56,689
Golfers and those who love to fish won’t find it hard to fill their days in this town that spans both the island that bears its name and parts of the coastal mainland. Sunset Beach is also a short walk from Bird Island, the undeveloped barrier island that is home to threatened or endangered species like loggerhead sea turtles.
[Pictured: Kindred Spirit Mailbox, located in Sunset Beach. Visitors can anonymously write whatever they'd like to the next passerby and read what others have written. It is regarded as a place to reflect and enjoy the natural environment.]
- Population: 8,684
- Median home value: $718,000 (89% own)
- Median rent: $2,113 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $160,303
Though South Kensington has its share of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, residents also have easy access to the sights, shops, and eateries of Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas. There are also loads of hiking trails throughout South Kensington’s county, Montgomery.
[Pictured: Kensington's Antique Row.]
- Population: 3,302
- Median home value: $317,600 (86% own)
- Median rent: $3,310 (14% rent)
- Median household income: $101,450
This San Antonio suburb describes itself as “a great, peaceful, and friendly place to live.” The Hollywood Park Community Association works toward that goal by hosting community events and running programs like Neighbors Lifting Neighbors, which pairs people needing assistance with others seeking to help.
[Pictured: San Antonio River Walk located just an hour away from Holly Park.]
- Population: 1,010
- Median home value: $495,500 (95% own)
- Median rent: $1,211 (5% rent)
- Median household income: $78,889
Bethany Beach is among the southern Delaware coastal towns known as the Quiet Resorts. It hosts concerts, movies, and bonfires in the summer when its population swells, and is close to the peaceful Assawoman Bay State Wildlife Area.
[Pictured: Fenwick Island State Park, located a 10-minute drive away from Bethany Beach.]
- Population: 39,666
- Median home value: $454,300 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,153 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $72,569
Numbers can help tell the tale of why so many visitors return to retire in Hilton Head. The island offers 12 miles of beaches, more than 250 restaurants, more than 200 shops, 24 championship golf courses, over 360 tennis courts, and moderate average temperatures that range from 59 in January to 89 in July and August.
[Pictured: Skull Creek Boathouse, a popular restaurant on Hilton Head Island.]
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- Population: 13,961
- Median home value: $1,406,700 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,789 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $175,673
This Phoenix suburb sits on the edges of both the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and Camelback Mountain and has three golf courses, four medical centers, nine resorts, and 294 sunny days per year. Its stated mission is to provide “high-quality public services to a community which values limited government.”
[Pictured: Arcosanti, gallery and studio of Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri.]
- Population: 1,976
- Median home value: $675,600 (74% own)
- Median rent: $824 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $133,654
Olmos Park is surrounded by the City of San Antonio, offering the community quick access to all the attractions found in the larger city. It also lays claim to warm weather year-round.
Pictured: Olmos Park.]
- Population: 39,000
- Median home value: $130,100 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,022 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $37,708
Billed as “The Original Fun City,” Sun City is dedicated to creating a fun, relaxing place for active retired adults. Residents can join over 130 recognized clubs (including political organizations, performing arts groups, and fitness groups), spend their days on the putting green, or attend classes at nearby colleges and senior education centers.
[Pictured: Agua Fria River bordering Sun City.]
- Population: 24,047
- Median home value: $387,800 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,184 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $76,729
This safe, master-planned community in Maricopa County holds numerous community events throughout the year and is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The town, known for its large fountain, is an International Dark Sky Community, a designation given to places that “promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship.”
[Pictured: World famous fountain which gave Fountain Hills its name.]
- Population: 1,218
- Median home value: $878,900 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,231 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $85,729
There’s a lot to enjoy in this town’s one square mile, including its pristine beaches, and the attractions, shops, and restaurants along its mile-long boardwalk. In the summer, Rehoboth Beach hosts a free concert series.
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- Population: 25,085
- Median home value: $188,400 (88% own)
- Median rent: $1,254 (12% rent)
- Median household income: $46,067
This unincorporated community near Phoenix that Del Webb founded in 1978 bills itself as “the nation’s premier active adult golf community.” In addition to its seven golf courses, Sun City West offers amenities like adult learning opportunities, organized trips, more than 100 clubs, and four recreation centers.
[Pictured: White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located a short drive from Sun City West.]
- Population: 2,162
- Median home value: $251,900 (98% own)
- Median rent: $1,675 (2% rent)
- Median household income: $96,167
Home to early pioneer families, Windy Hills has a 3.5-mile paved loop for walking enthusiasts and offers community events throughout the year. Known as a “City of Historic Homes,” visitors can view the exteriors of houses built as early as 1790.
[Pictured: Old Stone Road, Windy Hills, Kentucky.]
- Population: 21,912
- Median home value: $163,500 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,019 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $47,583
Recreation and learning opportunities abound in this retirement community 25 miles south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. The nonprofit Green Valley Recreation operates 13 rec centers and offers more than 1,000 classes. Every March it hosts the Southern Arizona Senior Games in which more than 1,000 participants compete in events that include bicycling, mah-jongg, tennis, and powerlifting.
[Pictured: The Titan Missile Museum, located in Green Valley, is the last remaining Titan II missile site active during the Cold War.]
- Population: 9,702
- Median home value: $138,400 (76% own)
- Median rent: $953 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $42,879
Garden City is a prime spot for crabbing and fishing because of its access to the Atlantic Ocean and Murrells Inlet. The community’s 668-foot-long fishing pier provides an ideal spot for anglers during the day and acts as a live music venue during summer evenings. For anyone considering a move to Garden City Beach, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce offers a relocation guide.
- Population: 5,850
- Median home value: $659,400 (85% own)
- Median rent: $1,417 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $84,890
A barrier island off the coast of Sarasota, Fla., Siesta Key is known for its white-sand beaches. More musically inclined new residents might be interested in the community drum circle that begins on one of the beaches one hour before sunset every Sunday.
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- Population: 5,207
- Median home value: $137,200 (90% own)
- Median rent: $934 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $45,938
The Timber Pines Community Association, which says it’s dedicated to offering premier “country club living for active adults,” calls Timber Pines the “best-kept secret in Florida.” Residents can swim in two geo-thermally heated pools, golf on four courses, play tennis on eight courts, and join more than 100 clubs, classes, and organizations.
[Pictured: Weeki Wachee Preserve, located less than 10 minutes from Timber Pines, Florida.]
- Population: 3,112
- Median home value: $1,156,900 (97% own)
- Median rent: $3,501 (3% rent)
- Median household income: $167,083
The village of Lake Success offers residents fitness center memberships, as well as park activities including bingo, tennis, bocce ball, and movie nights, among other pastimes. Residents can play golf at Lake Success Golf Club or join the Fresh Meadow Country Club, which has attracted celebrities in the past, including Babe Ruth in 1941.
- Population: 1,400
- Median home value: $238,700 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,672 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $56,250
Less than a mile long, South Palm Beach is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. The community offers a number of activies, from a lecture series and exercise classes to live music and art exhibits.
- Population: 12,505
- Median home value: $137,200 (68% own)
- Median rent: $1,084 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $45,955
Cypress Lake is a community for people 55 and older, specifically designed to provide retirees with a safe and active lifestyle. A multimillion-dollar clubhouse contains everything from a full-service restaurant to a craft and ceramics room, and golfers can play 36 holes of PGA championship golf.
- Population: 4,979
- Median home value: $222,700 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,090 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $75,407
Located within the Fort Myers and Cape Coral areas, the Whiskey Creek neighborhood sits near the Caloosahatchee River, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. Community members may join the semi-private Whiskey Creek Country Club for access to an 18-hole golf course and a bar and restaurant, as well as social activities, such as bridge and dancing.
[Pictured: Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve located a short drive away from Whiskey Creek.]
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- Population: 3,878
- Median home value: $160,900 (68% own)
- Median rent: $942 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $52,202
Located in Sarasota County, which is full of beaches and attractions, Niche scored Ridge Wood Heights particularly high on health and fitness. The community is only a 15-minute drive to Siesta Key, a Gulf of Mexico barrier island with sandy beaches, tidal pools, and coral reefs.
[Pictured: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located a short drive away from Ridge Wood Heights.]
- Population: 3,405
- Median home value: $184,300 (71% own)
- Median rent: $1,124 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $46,206
North River Shores sits on the banks of the North Fork St. Lucie River. Residents can appreciate the four waterfront neighborhood parks and a private boat ramp. North River Shores is located in Martin County.
[Pictured: The Elliott Museum, located a short drive away from North River Shores, which features a variety of collections, including vintage cars, baseball artifacts, and artwork.]
- Population: 1,465
- Median home value: $376,300 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,784 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $71,833
Hillsboro Beach sits northeast of Fort Lauderdale on the eastern coast of Florida. The Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse—installed in 1907—runs tours regularly and offers membership. Members of the lighthouse have free admission to tours, lectures, and programs run by the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.
[Pictured: Hillsboro Inlet Light.]
- Population: 5,265
- Median home value: $360,700 (73% own)
- Median rent: $996 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $70,179
South Sarasota in Sarasota County is near Roberts Bay, home to Edwards Islands Park, a pair of islands perfect for beach days, boating, and fishing. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Field Club was originally the winter home of Stanley and Sara Carroll Brown Field of Marshall Field’s department stores.
[Pictured: Ringling Museum of Art, located in Sarasota, featuring a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods from around the world.]
- Population: 5,876
- Median home value: $852,300 (95% own)
- Median rent: $1,595 (5% rent)
- Median household income: $127,361
Pelican Bay is in the Naples–Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area and is full of private white-sand beaches as well as a wide variety of fitness and wellness amenities, including personal training, beach fitness classes, and massage. Community members can join one of the multiple member organizations, such as the Pelican Bay Women’s League or the Mangrove Action Group.