6 terrific towns on the water

Many baby boomers dream of retiring somewhere by the water. These half-dozen places are on a lake, a river or an ocean - yet they won't sink your retirement budget.

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St. Joseph, MI
Pros: Great medical care; lots to do.
Cons: Winter winds off the lake can be mighty chilly.

Long, sandy beaches, clear blue water, brilliant sunsets...in Michigan? You bet. The stretch of Lake Michigan coastline that hugs the western border of the state has all the charm of the seashore, only without the stinging jellyfish, blanket-to-blanket crowds and impossibly high home prices. While lots of appealing little towns dot this "Riviera of the Midwest," St. Joseph - with its vibrant year-round community, topnotch medical care and proximity to Chicago - stands out.

St. Joe, as it's known, has a downtown bustling with residents and tourists who flock to the bakeries, boutiques and other local businesses that have set up shop in historic buildings near the bluff overlooking the lake. Nearby Silver Beach is a popular spot for boogie boarding and barefoot strolls. Travel along the coast just outside town and you can climb giant sand dunes, visit an old lighthouse or sample locally grown Cabernets, Pinots and Merlots.

And - wait for it - three-bedroom houses in St. Joe within walking distance of the water typically cost only about $250,000, says Sharon Halliburton, an associate broker with American Homes Real Estate. (However, at $4,400, annual property taxes on such a house are on the high side.)

NEXT: Marble Falls, TX

Last updated September 16 2008: 11:21 AM ET
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