9 Best Places to Retire in Washington State

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I am not a retirement expert other than I retired in Washington State. Here’s how I organized my list of places to retire. I read as many articles as I could find on where to retire in Washington. I then went through the lists of towns and villages and noted which ones appeared on several lists. Articles by pension experts use statistics on taxes, crime, cost of living, proximity to medical facilities, and more. So I will not cover this information. I then refined my list with my knowledge of life and travel in the state with additional factors that I think appeal to The journey awaits you readers.

We all love to travel and when I retired I wanted a place that had a lot of things I loved about my travels. Things that were important to me included great views, a welcoming community, great coffee, proximity to a major airport, and plenty of places to explore within driving distance.

What I love about Washington is the temperate year-round climate that helps keep energy costs down, the lack of poisonous snakes in western Washington, and the lack of income tax in the area. ‘State. It’s called the evergreen state for a reason: gorgeous trees and beautiful natural scenery all over the state. The things I don’t like so much are the high sales tax rate (almost 10%), the higher costs of housing, gasoline, and groceries compared to other parts of the country, and traffic.

I’ve learned to embrace gray skies, but the cloudy, rainy winter weather in western Washington can really touch people. We had a year with over 100 days without sun. Despite this, there are some bright spots.

Here is my list:

Peggy cleveland

1. Steilacoom

You won’t find this quaint town I retired to on any national listing because you have to live nearby to get to know it, which is exactly how the community loves it. Steilacoom is Washington’s oldest incorporated city. Each year, it hosts a July 4th parade that will take you back in time as well as fireworks funded by local donations. The small town center has a few small businesses, but it is mostly residential. The neighbors are welcoming and everyone works hard to keep Steilacoom’s small town charm. It is good that it is located between the major towns of Tacoma and Lacey / Olympia. It’s a 45-minute drive from the airport and an hour from Seattle. The views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound are simply breathtaking.

Gig Harbor on a cloudy, crisp day.
Peggy cleveland

2. Concert port

What’s not to love about Gig Harbor? This charming town sits right across the Narrows Bridge from the larger city of Tacoma. It’s the perfect blend of modern amenities and small town charm. Uptown has all the chain stores you love while the downtown area surrounds the harbor and is a pedestrianized destination with local restaurants and shops. The retiree population is very active in volunteering within the community and there are plenty of fun local events to keep you busy year round. Its central location makes it easy to drive to Tacoma’s theater and museum districts, or you can catch a ferry from Bremerton to Seattle if you want to spend time in the big city.

Black dog in foreground, Cascade Mountains in background of Wenatchee, Washington.
Cascade Mountains (Photo credit: Peggy Cleveland)

3. Wenatchee

Located in eastern Washington, Wenatchee was on the Forbes list of “Best Places to Retire in 2019”. I love it because of its location on the Columbia River. It is very scenic and not far from the Cascade Mountains and the more touristy towns of Leavenworth and Chelan. You will eat well in this sunny city, the “Apple Capital of the World”, with many orchards, vineyards and farms nearby.

Numerica Skyride on Spokane Falls, Washington.
Numerica Skyride above the falls (Photo credit: Peggy Cleveland)

4. Spokane

Located on the Idaho-Washington border, Spokane is the second largest city in the state. You get the best of both worlds with a bustling downtown area and plenty of outdoor activities. The performing arts are popular, especially at the charming Fox Theater, a restored Art Deco treasure. Spokane is considered one of the most affordable cities in the Northwest. It is also a college town with Gonzaga and Whitworth and several satellite state university campuses. There are 75 parks in the city with the crown jewel, Riverfront Park overlooking Spokane Falls. Foodies and wine lovers will love the downtown wine route with its multiple tasting rooms. The annual Crave Festival is one of the Northwest’s largest food festivals and celebrates Pacific Northwest cuisine.

Port Townsend, Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center.
Peggy cleveland

5. Port Townsend

Driving through Port Townsend is a step back in time due to the beautiful Victorian architecture and quirky downtown buildings. Located on the Olympic Peninsula overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this small town is full of activities for its small population. You won’t find all the amenities of a big city, but there is so much to make up for it. The Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center is located in the heart of Fort Worden State Park and is home to 16 nonprofits and creative businesses. Public programs include wellness, outdoor recreation, education, arts and culture.

Traffic and city life in the city of Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Michael Gordon / Shutterstock.com

6. Bainbridge Island

Charming Bainbridge Island can be reached with a short ferry ride from Seattle or across the Kitsap Peninsula, giving you more transportation options than just relying on a ferry or boat. Safewise.com ranks it as one of the safest cities in Washington. For a small town, health care is excellent on the island. Many larger medical networks have specialists who visit the island on certain days of the week. There are several helicopter landing pads so you can reach Seattle, which offers some of the best emergency medical care in the world. The bustling town of Winslow offers excellent restaurants, shops and art galleries. On the island you will find many public parks and beaches as well as the astonishing Bloedel reserve with its historic mansion and gardens. History buffs can learn more about the Japanese internment during WWII. Bainbridge Island was the first place Japanese-Americans were taken from their homes and many members of the local community kept in touch and watched over their vacant property.

Vancouver, revitalized waterfront with white daisies in the foreground.
Peggy cleveland

7. Vancouver

The city of Vancouver is located on the banks of the Columbia River with Portland, Oregon just across the border. The city has put together many lists of the best places to retire in Washington, and it’s easy to see why. One of the downsides of retiring to Washington is the high rate of sales tax, but living near Oregon all you need to do is cross a bridge for duty-free shopping. Vancouver is the gateway to the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge with stunning scenery for outdoor adventures. The newly revitalized riverside connects to downtown Vancouver via the 5-mile Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail. Vancouver offers Fifty and Better programs through its Parks and Recreation Department. There are a variety of fun options and a great way to meet people if you’re new to the area.

Yakima Region Arboretum
Peggy cleveland

8. Yakima

Yakima was appointed by Where to retire as one of the top eight food and wine retreat destinations. The Yakima Valley has over 120 wineries and is known as the new “Napa”. Although wine is growing in popularity, the region is known for its hops. Over 75 percent of the hops grown in the United States come from Yakima, which also creates a great craft beer culture. Foodies will love the fresh produce of this farming community with the region known for its asparagus and apples. Yakima is also known as Washington’s Palm Springs due to its sunny weather. In addition to a large outdoor area ideal for hiking and views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, the Yakima River offers plenty of fishing and water sports opportunities. There are also numerous festivals throughout the harvest seasons celebrating the agricultural bounty of the region.

Long Beach, pink tinted sand at sunset
Peggy cleveland

9. Long beach

Long Beach includes six darling small towns: Ilwaco, Long Beach, Nahcotta, Ocean Park, Oysterville, and Seaview. With 28 miles of continuous sandy beach, the Long Beach Peninsula claims the longest beach in the United States. This seaside community has lovely shops, galleries and restaurants, but none of the amenities of big cities. With Seattle just 165 miles away and Portland just 115 miles away, you have two major cities within a day. Astoria, Oregon is also across the Columbia River. The mild climate all year round makes it an ideal retreat destination. The beautiful beach is perfect for long walks or for watching storms during the winter months. There are many state parks in the area as well as the Discovery Trail that follows the coastline to Cape Disappointment State Park and to the town of Ilwaco.

Long Beach, kite on a blue sky day.
Peggy cleveland

The area has a rich history, particularly that of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The World Kite Museum and the Kite Festival in August attract people from all over the world. The windy beach makes kite flying a breeze. Seafood is fresh and plentiful from the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River. Even though it is a great tourist destination, the peninsula is so large that it never seems crowded. It is a very peaceful and quiet community to live in.

Pro tip: When looking for a retirement destination, take the time to articulate what’s important to you. There are many lists of places to retire and each is based on different qualities that the author considers important. Make your own list, then visit the destination. Stay a few days and schedule a visit during the extreme season. In Florida it would be summer and in Colorado it would be winter. Do you still love the area at this time of year?

Washington has a lot to offer all seasons of the year.

Other Washington attractions to explore:


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