The line between extended vacation and permanent relocation has been, perhaps, forever blurred in 2020.
The nearly ubiquitous “green-light” to work remotely coupled with families who have children in virtual learning has expedited the exodus of thousands of Americans from densely populated high-tax areas to idyllic Sunbelt small towns.
If you’ve ever dreamed of putting traffic jams, poor air quality and high taxes in the rearview mirror, here are three small towns that offer residents an “extended vacation lifestyle” while providing all the arts, entertainment, activities and shopping of a mid-size city.
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Hendersonville is often overshadowed by the two larger, glitzier “villes” to its immediate north and south, Asheville, N.C and Greenville, S.C. The Apple Capital of the Old North State offers true small-town living, a bucolic existence its larger siblings simply can’t deliver.
Champion Hills, a private golf community that’s home to one of the state’s best Tom Fazio designs, is situated just minutes from Hendersonville’s charming Main Street area. N.C. Having recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, this iconic community is ideally positioned for the current luxury real estate market upswell.
It boasts a broad array of residential options – resale homes, building lots and low maintenance cottages and lock-and-leave villas – suiting a wide variety of buyers. For golf lovers, Champion Hills is synonymous with Tom Fazio, one of the greatest living golf course architects, who for decades made his home amid the Western Carolina hardwoods.
Fazio was so enamored with Champion Hills’ location near downtown Hendersonville that he relocated his office to Main Street where it remains to this day. His design work at Champion Hills is legendary, a magical mountain layout wrought by not only Fazio, but many of his brightest architecture pupils of the time, such as Beau Welling and Tom Marzolf.
Building lots at Champion Hills range from 0.5 up to 3.8 acres, with prices from $60,000 to $350,000. Move-in ready luxury residences range from $500,000 to $2 million featuring both golf course and mountain views. The golf club, operated by global leader Troon, offers both full-equity and 12-month trial memberships. Both include full access to golf, dining, the wellness center, pool, spa and tennis courts.
As residents are known to say at Champion Hills, “visit for a day, stay for a lifetime.”
It’s artsy, funky and emits a cool coastal vibe that’s more California than it is Florida. Stuart, Florida might be the sailfish capital of the world, but it’s also a haven for families in search of an excellent public-school district in paradise and retirees looking for the perfect climate and setting.
Stuart is situated on the southern end of Florida’s underrated, and underexposed, Treasure Coast. The region running from Indian River County south to Martin County is a throwback to the Sunshine State’s unspoiled coastal landscapes of the 50s and 60s.
Just minutes from downtown, Sailfish Point is a 532-acre luxury, oceanfront community surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River and St. Lucie Inlet. For prospective buyers, whose love of deep-sea fishing rivals their obsession with golf, there simply is no better place to park your flip-flops.
Its nationally-ranked Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course meanders through the waterways, wetlands and coastal dunes that define Sailfish Point’s Treasure Coast setting. The first time they play it, golfers are blown away by the course’s stunning collection of unobstructed water views from nearly every hole.
A host of move-in-ready luxury residences are available, from surprisingly spacious townhomes and condos to sumptuous villas and sprawling estate homes. Prices start just below $1 million for condos and scale up to $6.4 million for an estate home with inlet and ocean views.
A recently reimagined 60,000-square-foot clubhouse with resort-caliber beach club offers multiple dining options, a two-story fitness center, aquatic center, tennis courts, full-service spa and access to a staggering five miles of pristine beach.
Downtown Stuart, one of Florida’s artsiest small towns, and the hip-but-quaint Jensen Beach, are just minutes away. As is the deep blue water of the Atlantic’s Gulfstream current, offering anglers easy access to the sailfish, wahoo and other coveted sport fish.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Nothing says “life on vacation” quite like relocating to an island. And not just an island, but the No. 1 ranked atoll in the country according to the readers of Conde Nast Traveler.
Sea Pines has been synonymous with Hilton Head Island since its creation in the 50s by real estate mastermind and master-planning visionary Charles Fraser. Situated on the island’s south end, this 5,000-acre gated community features an incredible mix of residences spanning luxury beachfront and golf course homes to villas and condos.
Miles and miles of bike paths famously link the community’s enclaves with a bevy of amenities, such as the Sea Pines Beach Club. Restaurants and shopping abound, as Sea Pines is truly a self-contained Shangri La in which time slows down and days are filled with seafood and sunshine.
Golf fans know Sea Pines as the host venue of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage, held annually on Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort. What they may not know is there’s private, member-owned enclave situated just behind the community’s guard house, Sea Pines Country Club.
Its aptly named Club Course was designed by Arnold Palmer and later updated by local golf course architect Clyde Johnston. Many golf aficionados consider it among the island’s best layouts, a dexterous mix of challenging and fair holes set amid a Lowcountry backdrop that would make Pat Conroy proud.
While the Club Course is its golf calling card, Sea Pines Country Club’s lavish clubhouse, with its resort-style pool and expansive outdoor deck – situated along a vast tidal marsh with views of the Calibogue Sound – is where many members end up spending most of their time. Especially young families, of which the club has seen an influx this year.
Sea Pines Country Club holds the dual distinction of being both a “Distinguished Club” as awarded by BoardRoom Magazine, and one of “America’s Healthiest Clubs.” A 7,300-square-feet $3 million fitness center opened in 2019 featuring the latest cardio and strength training equipment, as well as a grab-and-go café and infrared saunas.
Staying fit is only half of the equation, and Executive Chef Brian Coseo ensures that members have access to fresh and local meats, seafood and produce to keep both their bodies and minds in a healthy state of being. Living in Sea Pines, and really living at Sea Pines Country Club, makes for a highly coveted island way of life.
Champion Hills www.championhills.com
Sailfish Point www.sailfishpoint.com
Sea Pines, Sea Pines Country Club www.seapinescountry.com