10 Best Places To Retire In Washington State (From A Local)

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Many people spend their entire lives in a cubicle while dreaming of retiring to a beautiful hobby farm or cabin on a lake.

Others of us imagine having the means to buy a large house in the suburbs where our grandkids can visit and swim in our pool.

What if it were possible to have both? A place where you can have beautiful outdoor spaces, lakes, beaches, and all the amenities of big city life.

Well, welcome to Washington.

In the past decade retirees have been flocking to the Pacific Northwest for the weather, the scenery, the strong sense of community, and (until recently) the lower cost of living.

With current house prices and the Pacific Northwest’s personal plagues (drugs, homelessness, and a lack of housing) many people are wondering if Washington is still a decent place to retire to. And what will the state be like it 10 years?

Well, thankfully I can provide a bit of insight on both of these as well as some recommendations of where you should be house shopping if you plan to retire to Washington anytime soon.

Is Washington State A Good Place To Retire To?

Personally, I love Seattle. However, nearly every criticism that can be leveled at Washington mainly applies to Seattle.

Pretty much every one of the state’s problems is embodied in Seattle. While you can still retire to Seattle and have a wonderful time, it’s not what it used to be.

It’s less artsy, less safe, less clean, and just less fun overall.

However, outside of Seattle, the state has changed relatively little in the past 20 years. Small communities have grown but others have also sprung up.

You can still enjoy Washington as a retiree if you’re willing to get out of Seattle and enjoy some of the other cities or small towns.

So where should you be looking to move? Well, it really depends on your budget.

While expensive places are necessarily better there are places that will simply be out of reach if you’re on a fixed income or a tight budget.

So let’s start with those before moving a few of the more ritzy places to retire to.

5 Best Places If You’re Retiring On A Budget

First off, if you want to retire extremely cheaply in Washington you can do it. There is a huge amount of rural space that qualifies for great mortgage rates, and low taxes.

If you want to have a small farm in the boonies you can find it. The entire Olympic Peninsula, for example, is very cheap, as is the middle of Washington. However, you’ll have to make concessions. These extremely cheap places are often far from amenities such as restaurants, normal grocery stores, and health care.

If you’re the type to want to retire to solitude, go for it. However, we’ll mainly be talking about normal towns and cities that will be enjoyable for the majority of people.

1. Bellingham

The Brochure Description:

Founded in 1858, Bellingham is a historic city located in Whatcom County, Washington. With a population of over 80,000, it is the largest city in the county and the tenth largest in the state. Situated on Bellingham Bay and surrounded by mountains, the city is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. Popular attractions include Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Whatcom Falls Park, and Bellingham Bay. The city’s history is fascinating, from its early days as a center for the lumber and fishing industries to its more recent transformation into a thriving hub for technology and innovation. Today, Bellingham is a vibrant community that offers something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a retirement destination that offers stunning natural beauty, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and an active outdoor lifestyle, look no further than Bellingham, Washington.

The best part is that it’s managed to maintain a more “small-town” feel with historic Fair Haven and the famous boardwalk.

Bellingham is nestled in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains, Bellingham is surrounded by pristine forests, snow-capped peaks, and pristine lakes and rivers. The city itself is home to a thriving arts community, with galleries, theaters, and live music venues scattered throughout the downtown area.

And for those who enjoy spending time outdoors, Bellingham offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and boating. Best of all, the cost of living in Bellingham is extremely affordable, making it an ideal retirement destination for budget-minded retirees.

If you want an even cheaper (and more secluded) retirement you can take a close look at small suburbs of Bellingham such as Custer (although I might be biased as my wife grew up in Custer…).

2. Spokane

The Brochure Description:

Spokane is the largest city in the state of Washington, with a population of over 208,000 people. The city is located on the Spokane River in the eastern portion of the state, approximately 20 miles from the Idaho border. Spokane is home to a number of major attractions, including Riverfront Park, the Spokane Falls, and Gonzaga University. The city also has a rich history, dating back to its founding by James Nettle Glover in 1881. Today, Spokane is a vibrant and thriving community that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for an exciting nightlife or a relaxing day in the park, you’ll find it in Spokane.

If you’ve always dreamed of retiring to warm sunny skies then the Pacific Northwest might seem like an odd choice. However, even in a state known for dreary gray winters and rain every spring/fall there are places that are much warmer and drier.

You just have to get away from the coastal rainshadow.

Spokane (in the eastern part of the state) is a favorite destination for retirees as it has a much more welcoming climate (and is rife with golf courses).

With a population of just over 200,000, Spokane offers all the amenities of a big city without the high cost of living. And thanks to its location in the Rocky Mountains, residents can enjoy the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities all year round.

You’ll still have the joy of four distinct seasons thanks to the northern latitude so, if you hate both the heat and the cold, Spokane is a solid option. You just have to be willing to forgo the coast and beaches.

3. Enumclaw

Mt. Rainer from WA-410 in Enumclaw

The Brochure Description:

Enumclaw is a city in King County, Washington that lies just 35 miles southeast of Seattle. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census. The Enumclaw plateau, on which the city lies, was formed by a volcanic mudflow from Mount Rainier approximately 5200 BC. The name “Enumclaw” comes from a corruption of the Nisqually Indian word ngwhe’lakw, meaning soupy ground or marshy meadow.

Major attractions in Enumclaw include the Plateau historian Museum, Mt. Rainier National Park, and the White River Valley Museum. Enumclaw celebrates its lumber heritage every summer with the Loggers’ Jubilee Days festival.

All in all, Enumclaw has a rich history that is worth exploring for everyone.

If you’re looking for a scenic and welcoming place to retire, look no further than Enumclaw, Washington. This charming town is nestled at the base of Mt. Rainier, offering stunning views of the mountain and surrounding forests.

The Enumclase community is close-knit and friendly, and there’s plenty to do in your free time. There are ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, and golfing, and Seattle is just a short drive away.

Enumclaw is spread out and, if you’re looking to garden or own a hobby farm, the valley is a great place to buy land and get to it!

4. Sequim

Sequim Marina

The Brochure Description:

Sequim is a small city in Washington state, located in the Olympic Peninsula. The city has a population of just over 6,000 people, and it is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Olympic National Park. Sequim is also known for its lavender farms, and the annual Lavender Festival is a major event in the city. In terms of history, Sequim was founded in the 1850s as a logging town. However, the city began to decline in the early 20th century as the timber industry declined. Sequim has had a resurgence in recent years and is now a thriving community with a strong focus on tourism and agriculture.

Sequim, Washington is a beautiful place to retire, especially if you plan on sailing or spending time on the water.

The scenery is breathtaking, with the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the east. The area is also known for its mild climate, which is perfect for enjoying all that nature has to offer.

There are plenty of activities to keep retirees busy, from hiking and biking to golf and fishing. There are also a number of interesting museums and shops in the area. And, if you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Sequim is the perfect place to do just that.

5. Port Angeles

Port Angeles From The Pier

The Brochure Description:

Port Angeles is a city in Washington state’s Clallam County. The population of Port Angeles was 19,038 at the 2010 census. The city is located on the Olympic Peninsula, on the north coast of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The harbor is deep water and landlocked, making it ideal for both recreation and commerce. There are several marinas and boating facilities nearby, as well as a public pier and swimming beach. Major attractions in Port Angeles include Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, and the Olympic National Forest. The area has a long history of human settlement, with evidence of prehistoric campsites dating back more than 6,000 years. The city was officially incorporated in 1913, and today it is a thriving community with a strong commitment to preservation and stewardship.

When retirees are looking for a place to retire, they often want somewhere with a low cost of living, good weather, and plenty of things to do…at least I assume so. I’m not quite to that point yet.

However, Port Angeles, Washington checks all of those boxes.

Nestled in the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles is a small city with a big heart. The community is close-knit and welcoming, and there are plenty of activities to keep retirees busy, from golfing and hiking to visiting the nearby casinos.

The cost of living is affordable by PNW standards, and the temperate climate means that retirees can enjoy the outdoors all year round.

5 Best Places If You’re Retiring With Means

It should come as no surprise that there are some very expensive places to live and visit in the Pacific Northwest. Washington, with a higher cost of living than Oregon, is home to most of these places.

Now, just because these places are expensive doesn’t mean they’re necessarily better. However, if you have the means to retire in comfort you might find that some of these are more in line with your preferred lifestyle.

1. Orcas Island

The Brochure Description:

Orcas Island is one of the San Juan Islands in the northwestern corner of Washington State. The island is 22 miles long by 10 miles wide and has a population of around 4,876 people. Orcas Island is a popular tourist destination due to its scenic beauty, mild climate, and abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing. The island also features several charming towns and villages, each with its own unique history and character. One of the island’s most popular attractions is East Sound which is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums.

Orcas Island also has a rich history dating back to the early days of European exploration and settlement in the Pacific Northwest. The island was initially inhabited by the Coast Salish people for thousands of years before being explored by Europeans in the 18th century. In 1847, Orcas Island was officially claimed by the United States as part of the Oregon Territory. Today, Orcas Island is a thriving community that combines natural beauty with a rich cultural heritage.

Orcas Island is one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state, and it’s a popular spot for retirees. The island is known for its beautiful scenery, mild climate, and friendly community. There are plenty of activities to keep retirees busy, including hiking, fishing, golfing, and kayaking.

Orcas Island is home to several small towns, each with its own unique charm. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy your retirement or a vibrant community to stay active, Orcas Island is a great option.

Among the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island is the only one that I would recommend most people look at for retirement. East Sound gives you access to restaurants, grocery stores, and a steady influx of interesting people.

2. Redmond/Sammamish

The Brochure Description:

Redmond is a city in Washington with a population of over 63,000. The city is located in King County and is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. Redmond is home to many major tech companies, including Microsoft, Nintendo of America, and T-Mobile USA. The city also has a variety of parks and recreation areas, including the Sammamish River Trail and the Marymoor Park. Redmond also has a rich history dating back to its founding in the mid-19th century. The city was originally called Salmonberg and was later renamed to Redmond in 1885. The name was chosen to honor Luke McRedmond, the first postmaster in the area. Redmond continued to grow throughout the 20th century and remains a vibrant community today.

Redmond is just a short drive east of Seattle and is the home to many large tech companies and the families of those that work there.

It is also a favorite for retirees who want a suburban feel with PNW scenery. Many retirees move here to be close to family and, when their family moves on, they realize that they never want to leave.

The climate is mild as you would expect and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and biking. The cost of living is a bit more manageable than in Seattle, and there is a strong sense of community.

In addition, Redmond is home to a number of healthcare facilities, including skilled nursing care and assisted living. If you’re trying to convince your kids to follow you when you move, you can also mention that Redmond has some of the best public schools in the state (private schools as well, for that matter).

So whether you’re looking for an active lifestyle or a place to relax, Redmond may be the perfect retirement destination for you.

3. Lake Stevens/Marysville

The Brochure Description:

Lake Stevens is a city in Snohomish County, Washington with a population was 28,069. The city is named after the lake it is built around, Lake Stevens. The city boundaries encompass the entire lake, making it one of only seven cities or towns in Washington to be built around a natural body of water.

With 20 miles of shoreline and 5 public boat launches the lake provides many recreation opportunities including fishing, swimming, and boating. Visitors can also enjoy other outdoor attractions such as Cavalero Hille Park and Kayak Point Regional Park.

For those who enjoy golfing, there are several courses located within city limits including Canyon Lakes Golf Course and Legion Memorial Golf Course. In addition to its many outdoor recreational opportunities, Lake Stevens also offers a variety of shopping and dining options as well as several annual events.

Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Lake Stevens offers retirees a chance to enjoy all that nature has to offer. Especially for those that want to live on or near a lake but don’t want to pay the prices around Lake Washington.

With mild weather and plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and boating, it’s easy to stay active in retirement. And with a small-town feel and close-knit community, it’s also the perfect place to relax and enjoy a slower pace of life.

Lake Stevens in of the best of the lake communities in Washington and has a mountain town kind of feel with lots of nice little restaurants and shops.

My wife’s parents live in Seattle and my kids absolutely adore visiting them, even if it’s just to get pizza from Conto’s.

4. Bellevue

The Brochure Description:

Bellevue is a city located in the state of Washington. The city has a population of 122,363 people and is situated in King County. Bellevue is located on the Eastside of Lake Washington and is considered to be a suburb of Seattle. Some of the major attractions in Bellevue include the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Bellevue Downtown Association, and the Bellevue Square Mall. The city was founded in 1869 by William Meydenbauer and was originally named Medina. The name was later changed to Bellevue, which is French for “beautiful view.” The city’s economy is largely based on technology and retail. Bellevue is home to many high-tech companies, such as Microsoft and T-Mobile. In recent years, the city has undergone a massive transformation, with new high-rise buildings and a growing downtown area. As Bellevue continues to grow, it remains an exciting place to live and work.

In my opinion, Bellevue is a lot like Seattle, just better.

Located just to the east Bellevue is home to many of the people with means that don’t want to deal with the dirtiness and bustle of downtown. Not to mention you don’t have to deal with the constant hoard of tourists and traffic is marginally better.

Even though it’s on Seattle’s doorstep Bellevue has a good amount of open space and is home to a number of nature parks and trails, providing ample opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The city also boasts a thriving arts and culture scene, with museums, theaters, and festivals all year round.

Bellevue’s vibrant downtown area also offers plenty of shopping and dining options. In short, Bellevue has something for everyone. So if you’re looking for a retirement destination that has it all, Bellevue might be it.

5. Bainbridge Island

The Brochure Description:

Bainbridge Island is a beautiful island located in the Puget Sound, just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. The island has a population of around 23,000 and is home to attractive parks, quaint shops, and excellent schools. Bainbridge Island is also known for its strong arts community and its vibrant food scene. History buffs will enjoy exploring the island’s many museums and historic sites, while nature lovers can spend hours hiking the island’s trails or paddling its waterways. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an exciting adventure, Bainbridge Island has something to offer everyone.

If you’re looking for an island lifestyle within striking distance of Seattle any of the western islands is a solid choice. However, Bainbridge is the best-known option and, in my opinion, has the most going for it.

In addition to being beautiful, Bainbridge has a temperate climate, stunning scenery, and friendly people. There are plenty of things to do on the island, from exploring the many beaches and parks to taking part in the vibrant arts scene. And, of course, there are ample opportunities for golfing, fishing and boating.

One of my personal favorite attractions on Bainbridge Island is the Bloedel Reserve which hosts acres of beautiful and peaceful gardens and is a great place to enjoy in retirement.

Conclusion

Wherever you choose to retire to in Washington you’ll be hard-pressed to be unhappy.

As long as you enjoy the general outdoor vibes of the state you’ll be happy in most small towns.

And the best part is that, because everything on the west part of the state is so compact, you’re never more than an hour from somewhere else that you love!