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When you think about Washington state, “retiring” might not come to mind. However, there are plenty of options when it comes to the best places to retire in Washington – including our very own Spokane!
Today’s retirees look beyond retirement homes, and toward how they’re going to spend their post-career freedom. Gone are the shackles of 9-5, board meetings, sales calls, or whatever took up their working days.
Post-career, retirees can look forward to long hikes in the woods or mountains, enjoying a hot cup of coffee or tea with friends, and taking vacations at a relaxing pace. So, off to Boca? Orlando? Not quite so fast. Washington is home to communities perfect for retirement, which include delightful outdoor recreation, recreation centers, retirement communities, low crime rate and much more.
Washington state really embodies a great quality of life, with fantastic public parks, only a short drive from many outdoor activities, and more. If you’re looking to spend your retirement years in the state of Washington, we’ve put together a great list.
Washington has become a favorite state to retire because of the absence of a state income tax, low property tax rates, nice climate, outdoor activities, and great coffee. In fact, MarketWatch recently listed Spokane, WA as a great place to retire because of those reasons – and more!
Here’s a look at some of the best communities to enjoy retirement in the Emerald State.
10 Best Places to Retire in Washington State
Less than an hour from Seattle attractions and restaurants, Gig Harbor’s population of roughly 10,000 gives retirees the feel of small-town life without big city issues. It’s not a shock Gig Harbor is at the top of the list of many ‘best places to retire in Washington’ listicles – it was recently named Best Place to Retire in Washington by SmartAsset.
While the cost of living is higher than the national average, living in Gig Harbor is much more affordable than living in larger cities. The area is ripe for outdoor activities, such as kayaking, fishing, hiking and more. While home prices will also cost you more than other places in Washington, if you want to be close to Seattle and other big city amenities without big city life, Gig Harbor is an excellent option for retirees in Washington state.
Enjoy a walk along the Harborview, with scenic views of The Narrows, Puget Sound, and Mt. Rainier. If you’d love to spend your time on the water, you can cruise the harbor in a Venetian gondola (yes, really!), kayak or use an electric boat, take guided kayaking tours, or fish!
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Craft brewing is popular in the area, including 7 Seas Brewing and Wet Coast Brewing, as well as Heritage Distilling Company. If it’s art you prefer, enjoy the year-round art walk at the waterfront. Or stop in at the free Harbor History Museum and learn about the Gig Harbor Peninsula and more.
If you’re a foodie, Gig Harbor doesn’t disappoint. From the Gig Harbor Farmers Market, to Peace of the Earth Organic Farm, and the Minter Brook Oyster Company, there’s something for everyone. You’ll also find tasty, unique restaurants in downtown Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor is home to several medical facilities, including Multicare primary care. Gig Harbor is also less than an hour away from hospitals in Seattle.
With about 10,000 people, Snohomish is considered one of the best cities to retire in Washington. Its proximity to Seattle means its housing prices are higher than what you may expect, but its proximity to Seattle also means you can get big-city amenities while being far enough away when you want to get away!
Located abut 40 minutes northeast of Seattle, it’s home to excellent medical care, including the University of Washington Medical Centers and more.
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With the Cascade Loop calling the area home the scenic byway offers people an opportunity to travel through nature, taking advantage of trails and amazing views that photographers love.
Prefer to walk around your new town? Sit on a bench and people watch, visit antique shops, enjoy a restaurant or drink at a wine bar and more at Historic Downtown Snohomish. There are nearby farms for pumpkin and apple picking, indoor swimming pools to get in some healthy exercise, and several museums.
Snohomish is also even home to the largest county fair in the region, the Evergreen State Fair. Held August through Labor Day, this fair draws more than 350,000 visitors!
Not only is Wenatchee an excellent place to choose to enjoy retirement in Washington, but Forbes magazine also said it was one of the best in the nation. Many of us here in Spokane know Wenatchee as a place you drive through to get to Leavenworth, but Wenatchee is well worth a visit, whether you’re retiring there or not!
Home to just over 34,000 people, Wenatchee is one of the more affordable places to retire on our list, with an average home price of $395,000.
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Located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, along the Columbia River, Wenatchee offers a variety of outdoor activities, as well as unique shopping opportunities. Stroll, bicycle or run along the Apple Capital Trail, a 10-mile paved trail. You can also enjoy the Art of the Avenues, a public art project featuring sculptures. Check out local artisans, hand-made products, and a farmers market featuring several family farmers at the Pybus Public Market.
A not-so-secret but beautiful part to enjoy in Wenatchee? Ohme Gardens, a rockscape with paths among trees, meadows, a pond and more. The Ohmes sold their estate to Washington State Parks so the public could enjoy it for decades to come!
Wenatchee has several hospitals and clinics, and is only a 2 and a half hour drive from Seattle if you need more specialized care.
No list of best places to retire in Washington state would be complete without including Spokane on the eastern part of the state! From the lower than average cost of living in Spokane, to the beautiful and unique Spokane neighborhoods, to our gorgeous Riverfront Park, we could talk about Spokane for days!
Spokane has everything outdoor enthusiasts could want, plus offers a small city, burgeoning downtown area, water sports, and a peace of mind you may not find in other, busier cities. Basically, if you want to live in a city with city amenities and a culture scene, but still want to explore great small towns nearby and take it easy, Spokane is for you.
Learn more about Spokane
There are so many great books about Spokane out there, but if you want a quick and dirty “what to do in Spokane”, you can’t miss the Spokesman-Review staff’s 100 Things to Do in Spokane Before You Die (pictured). If you want to learn more about Spokane’s history, I highly recommend Spokane Indians.
As of 2021, Spokane had a population of 229,000, but it certainly feels like that number has exploded in recent years. The second largest city in Spokane (don’t let Tacoma tell you otherwise!), Spokane has plenty of big city amenities with a small town feel.
Speaking of big city amenities, while it’s not Seattle, Spokane is no slouch when it comes to excellent medical care. In the city of Spokane itself, there are several hospitals, and even more in the surrounding cities (Spokane Valley, for example) and county.
There are plenty of things to do in Spokane, too, from visiting downtown Spokane (the Garbage Goat!), to antique shopping, visiting local farmers markets, hiking, golfing – you name it, Spokane probably has it!
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In Spokane for a weekend? Check out our list of free things to do in Spokane!
If you really have to get over to Seattle, don’t worry – it’s only a roughly 4 hour drive, and an even shorter flight.
With the Pacific Ocean on its western edge, Long Beach peninsula is an excellent area to call home. With only 1,400 people calling Long Beach, WA home, the housing market varies widely. You can find lots for $60k or homes for $1.5M and up, so make sure to partner with a realtor when you’re ready to retire to Washington state and call Long Beach home!
Nature enthusiasts love the area, with state parks, the world’s longest beach, razor clam digging, and giant kite flying regularly available, Long Beach is a beautiful area to live. There’s plenty to do in the area, including visiting Cape Disappointment, walking the very long Long Beach boardwalk, taking a gander at the Cranberry and World Kite Museums, plus visiting local farmers markets!
While there, be sure to visit The Chowder Stop, The Pickled Fish, and The Lost Roo – all local favorites!
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With an excellent cost of living compared with Washington communities, Long Beach is a great choice to call home. While the area doesn’t have a large population, it has an outstanding selection of medical centers, and is only a three hour drive from Seattle.
If you prefer a laid-back area, Yakima is for you. The city of about 93,000 is in the heart of the Yakima Valley, which is the apple capital of Washington. If you visited Yakima pre-2015, you may be surprised at the Yakima of the 2020s. The city is having a growth spurt, and plenty of new restaurants, amenities, and more are popping up to cater to all the new arrivals (retiree and otherwise!)
Between the classic art at the Larson Gallery and historic photos at the Lagat Gallery, Yakima is home to an outstanding arts community. The Yakama Nation Cultural Museum and Yakima Valley Museum offer looks into the region’s history.
You can also enjoy the Yakima Sportsman State Park as well as the Yakima Greenway, a walking path that stretches for more than 20 miles and also offers access to the Yakima Area Arboretum. Mount Rainier is also accessible from Yakima for a day trip or longer camping excursion.
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There are several hospitals in the Yakima area, although ratings do vary. If you need more specialized care, Seattle is only a 2 hour drive away.
With nature trails and the state’s oldest winery, Woodinville offers the attitude of a small town (about 12,000) just minutes from Seattle. The average home price in Woodinville is over $1 million, making it among the priciest Washington state cities to retire in, but if you want to be close to Seattle without being in Seattle, Woodinville is the answer!
With a higher-than-average cost of living, Woodinville’s easy access to medical care helps to make it one of the best areas to retire. It’s close to all local Seattle hospitals, plus the University of Washington medical system.
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Woodinville is also considered a “wine mecca” for Washington state wineries, and visiting wineries near Woodinville could take you weeks as is! You can also enjoy the Woodinville farmers market, plenty of gardens and nurseries, and more.
The state capitol makes for a perfect area to walk and explore, and with slightly over 50,000 people, is a charming area with plenty to see and do without a lot of traffic.
About 25 minutes south of Olympia, Tenino is home to the one-acre Monarch Sculpture Park, which is shaped like a butterfly. A few minutes north of the city, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge consists of about 4,500 acres of wetlands and protected estuary. With several types of animals and birds, including the blue heron, calling the area home, the refuge is a hiker and photographer’s dream.
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Olympia is also home to several museums, including the Bigelow House, which was the original residence in the city. With an affordable cost of living, the median price for a house is about $450,000, about half of what it is in Seattle.
With ample medical centers available, you’ll be able to find a physician office you’ll like. Olympia is also only a short, 1 hour drive to Seattle if you need more specialized care.
Located on the northern edge of Kitsap Peninsula, Port Orchard is about 30 minutes north of Tacoma, or about 90 minutes from Seattle via ferry service from Bremerton. With a population of just over 14,000, Port Orchard is small and charming – the perfect retirement spot for someone looking for peace and quiet!
Port Orchard’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, but below Washington’s average of almost 119 (19 percent higher than the United States’ average). The average price of a home in Port Orchard is around $460,000, and while there is almost always one home on the market, getting a house can take some patience. We recommend working with a realtor to find the perfect retirement home in Port Orchard.
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Port Orchard is home to some odd attractions, including the Hobbit House, based on the movie series. It’s known for its waterfront community, so if you love everything about water, Port Orchard is an excellent retirement place to live in Washington (and retire in Washington, as well!)
Port Orchard also has access to state parks, parks, museums, antique shopping and farmers markets. Given the size of Port Orchard, there are a fair number of medical facilities and clinics. Port Orchard is also not far from Seattle if you need more specialized care.
Just a few thousand people behind Spokane, Washington’s third largest city, Tacoma, is an excellent place to retire in Washington state. With over 212,000 residents, Tacoma is only 45 minutes away from Seattle – but you won’t miss much of Seattle’s big city amenities when you live in Tacoma!
Tacoma has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and is home to many interesting things to do, places to visit, and restaurants at which to eat. If you’re looking for a bigger city to retire to but don’t necessarily want to head to the east side (or live in Seattle), Tacoma might be the absolute best of all worlds.
The hometown of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly, you can find his work on display at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. While there, watch in-house artists create glass-blown art.
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Tacoma is also home to the LeMay-America’s Car Museum, you can view hundreds of classic cars over four floors. Enjoy walks along the waterfront at Puget Sound, while checking out public art exhibits.
Located a short distance from the city, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is one of the nation’s best wildlife refuges. Offering tram and jeep tours, you’ll get up-close to wild animals roaming freely. You can also check out other animal exhibits featuring cats, bears, wolves, and other animals native to Washington.
Tacoma home values have gone up over 22% over the last year, and is seeing the same housing squeeze as most other Washington cities. The average home price in Tacoma is currently over $440,000. Tacoma has its own medical facilities and clinics, as well as close proximity to specialists in Seattle.
In addition to being a great place to retire, Tacoma also made our list of most romantic getaways in Washington, too!
Best Place to Retire in Washington State
With a mild climate, an abundance of outdoor opportunities, and a decent cost of living, Washington is a great state in which to retire. With plenty of craft breweries, local coffee houses, and cultural activities, the state is home to several cities to call home. Wherever you decide to call home, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’ll be close to the great outdoors, as well as excellent food and shopping.
While we’re partial to retiring in Spokane, you can’t go wrong with checking out any of these 10 best places to retire in Washington. There’s something for everyone, so take a trip and visit which cities sound most promising to you!
A recap of the 10 best places to retire in Washington state:
- Gig Harbor
- Long Beach
- Port Orchard