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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Beaufort, SC
Beaufort, SC
The Beaufort River, seen from Bay Street
Pros: Great medical care - the local hospital is affiliated with Duke University.
Cons: Taxes can take a bite out of your savings.

When Hollywood movie scouts need the quintessential southern setting, they frequently call on Beaufort. Tucked among South Carolina's Sea Islands, this 300-year-old town with antebellum mansions and moss-covered oaks has been the backdrop for such blockbusters as Forrest Gump, Prince of Tides and The Big Chill .

But fame hasn't spoiled it. "We're still far enough off the beaten path that you have to go out of your way to find us," says Billy Keyserling, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners. "Many people find us by boat." Indeed, from the Beaufort River - otherwise known as the Intercoastal Waterway - boaters can cruise to dozens of other islands, head out to the Atlantic or, more commonly, pull up on a sandbar and enjoy a private beach. On a Sunday at low tide, there might be 20 to 50 boats anchored at the sandbar near the city's waterfront park.

There are dozens of golf courses in Beaufort County, including those on Hilton Head 40 miles away. But while new homes near the fairways are in hot demand there, the most prized real estate in Beaufort is the well-kept historic houses near downtown. Prices in old Beaufort start at $500,000, but nice houses in newer neighborhoods just 10 minutes away average about $300,000.

NEXT: Sequim, WA

Last updated September 16 2008: 11:21 AM ET
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