Best Places to Retire in Washington

NW Best Places to Retire Annual 'Round-Up'

This special edition of Northwest Prime Time features our 20th Annual Best Places to Retire issue. Read about the places in Washington State that have achieved national acclaim this past year as great places to live and to retire. Can you guess the Northwest towns and cities that made this year’s list of best places to retire?

The pandemic has upended most things, including considerations for moving in retirement. On the other hand, the red-hot real estate market had some retirees selling their long-time homes sooner than anticipated.

But where to move?

In years past, towns and cities in the Great Northwest often ranked high on the national “Best Places to Retire” lists. Sometimes two, three or more Northwest places made the top ten. But in recent years, high cost of living and other factors have knocked Washington State locations out of the running with the major ranking organizations—with a notable exception.


Sunny Wenatchee Valley is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Forbes says Wenatchee is one of the nation’s top places to retire, calling it a scenic, sunny small city with good doctors, a low crime rate, low cost of living, performing arts centers and wineries, plus a revitalized downtown.

One Washington city made Forbes’ top 25: Wenatchee. At the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers, Forbes describes Wenatchee—the Apple Capital of the World—as having sports and recreational activities for any season. Relatively low real estate prices (compared to West of the Cascades), high quality medical care, low crime rates and abundant sunshine make Wenatchee, according to Forbes, one of the best cities in the country for successful aging.

Ritual.com ranked cities across the country for healthy aging and longevity, but not cost of living. “For those who prioritize a healthy lifestyle, some cities offer better opportunities than others,” says Ritual. They looked at broad categories of data around healthcare and health outcomes, community and general livability. Not including cost of living, they ranked Seattle as the 13th best city for healthy aging and longevity. San Jose, CA topped their list.

HomeSnacks.net “combines data from dozens of sources into ‘bite sized’ articles to help you understand what it’s like to live in different places across America.” They look at the latest FBI and census data, then add safety, affordability, rent and proximity to an international airport. Here is their 2021 Top 10 Places to Retire in Washington.

  1. Camas
  2. Anacortes
  3. Washougal
  4. Kenmore
  5. Bainbridge Island
  6. Spokane
  7. Des Moines
  8. Lynden
  9. Vancouver
  10. Longview

SmartAsset.com studied tax-friendly cities for retirees, factoring in property, income, fuel, sales and Social Security tax data. Without factoring in services and amenities that are important to seniors, their Top 10 in Washington are:

  1. Birch Bay
  2. Wollocet
  3. Lake Stickney
  4. Barberton
  5. East Port Orchard
  6. Maplewood
  7. Brier
  8. Union-Hill/Novelty Hill
  9. Sudden Valley
  10. Sedro-Wooley

AARP offers a resource: “Great Neighborhoods for All Ages,” which scores communities across the country for the services and amenities that impact older adults’ lives the most: livabilityindex.aarp.org. Check out your community to see where it lands.

Take a comprehensive look at what makes your life enjoyable and satisfying, advises AARP— factors that rankings can’t quantify. Despite all the raves and reviews of far-flung places, being near family and friends always ranks as the very best retirement destination for most retirees.

Wherever your retirement takes you, Northwest Prime Time wishes you a happy and healthy adventure.


How to Choose a Retirement Destination Most organizations that rank Best Places to Live, like Kiplinger, Forbes and US News, advise keeping certain factors in mind when contemplating a move in retirement. To attain their lists, organizations analyze the amenities seniors want vs. cost of living. Over the past year, access to quality healthcare may have jumped to the top of that list. Also consider living and housing costs, how tax structures impact retirees, agreeable climate, low crime rates, scenic beauty and outdoor recreation such as walking and biking trails, a strong local economy and infrastructure that support services for seniors such as public transportation, easy access to a pharmacy, senior center, library and others. Educational, volunteer and employment opportunities are meaningful to many. Being near a college or university can boost a place’s ranking. Having a dynamic downtown with an array of dining, shopping and cultural experiences are often considered. Is the area prone to natural disasters? Does it have clean air and a safe water supply? One pundit says not to choose a retirement spot based mainly on weather. “My little town, once a bastion of the sweetest springs and autumns, is now the newest version of Hurricane Alley in the fall and historically unheard-of cold in the winter. Another point, endless sunshine can be too much of a good thing.” And climate change might mean that waterfront living will have that same water lapping on your doorstop in a few short years.