Retirees Come to Northwestern Washington and Cozy Sequim in Search of a Beautiful Coastal Location, a Cool Climate and a Relaxed Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Cozy, closely knit Sequim ("Skwim") is on Washington's pristine Olympic Peninsula, about 90 minutes northwest of Seattle. Settled by Europeans in the 1800s and then a fertile farming center, today this beautiful area is growing in popularity with retirees, attracting those in search of a peaceful, pretty community along the water and far from the hectic pace of modern life. In fact, of the 6,800 people who call Sequim their home, 65% are age 45 or better. They love the quiet lifestyle, one with plenty of outdoor recreation, respect for nature and an appreciation for simple pleasures.
Nestled among a bounty lavender farms and fruit farms, Sequim has grown by 70% within the last 10 to 20 years. Eighteen percent of residents have a four year college degree. Politics are split down the middle. The crime rate is well below the national average. The town has some racial diversity, and the cost of living is 14% above the national average.
The median home price is $240,000. Real estate consists primarily of two to four bedroom single family homes and town homes, many with either water or mountain views. Most residences in town are modest and in established, quiet neighborhoods, but the surrounding countryside has private, gated communities with large, elegant homes. There are seven RV parks, but apartments are in short supply.
When it comes to taxes, Washington is a friendly place to retire. There is no income tax so retirement income, including Social Security, is not taxed. Real estate is assessed at 100% of market value, but the state has four property-tax relief programs available to seniors, people with limited incomes and veterans. These are the Property Tax Exemption Program for Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons, the Property Tax and Special Assessment Deferral Program for Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons, the Property Tax Deferral Program for Homeowners with Limited Incomes and the Tax Assistance Program for Widows or Widowers of Veterans. Excluding exemptions, the annual taxes on a $240,000 Sequim house are approximately $2,645. The state sales tax is 6.5% (food and prescription medications are exempt).
Herds of elk graze outside of town, and outdoor recreation abounds. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is home to hiking trails, wildlife, an historic lighthouse and the longest natural sand spit in the country. Skiing at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park is just a short drive away. Nearby lakes and the Dungeness River are great venues for fishing. Dungeness River Audubon Center and Railroad Bridge Park are top spots for birdwatching. The John Wayne Marina (on land donated by the film star) is home to all kinds of pleasure craft.
Plays at Olympic Theatre Arts, exhibits at the Museum and Arts Center and live music at nearby Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra keep residents busy. A drive down Old Olympic Highway in springtime is a delight as strawberry farms, raspberry farms and lavender farms light up the countryside. The wonderful Lavender Festival is held every July, and the Irrigation Festival, which essentially celebrates water, brings people in from around the state each May. The region boasts a handful of wineries and three golf courses.
Shopping is adequate, with a couple of hometown groceries and some chain stores. The Open Aire Market has fresh meats and produce and is open on Saturdays. The downtown is healthy with banks, bookstores, coffee houses, eateries and shops. Nightlife is quiet. Port Townsend and Poulsbo are within an hour's drive and have more stores, galleries and restaurants.
Olympic Memorial Hospital, a part of Olympic Medical Center, is in Port Angeles, about 15 miles west of town, and it is a 67-bed Level III Adult Trauma Center. It is accredited by DNV Healthcare, and Medicare patients are accepted. For military retirees, Port Angeles also has a VA outpatient clinic. The closest VA hospital is in Seattle, about 65 miles away.
The Shipley Center is the senior center and is located in a cute red and white building. There is no mimimum age limit, and it is open Monday through Friday. Classes and activities, such as bridge, yoga and ping pong, keep members active. Short boat cruises, ferry trips to historic Victoria, British Columbia and casino outings are also offered. Membership is $45 per year ($80 for couples). Meals on Wheels is active as well.
Clallam Transit provides public transportation around Sequim and to towns in the county (the regular fare is $1 but people age 65+ ride for $.50). A dial-a-ride service and a para-transit service are also available. U.S. Highway 101 traverses the Olympic Peninsula and runs through Sequim.
Sequim has a cool climate with breezes (and occasional fog) from the Juan de Fuca Strait. Summer temperatures are in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and winter temperatures are in the 30s and 40s. On average, rainfall is just 16 inches per year, thanks to the "rainshadow effect" of the nearby Olympic Mountains. The town prides itself on its climate, but just a mile or two outside of town, typical western Washington weather reigns, with up to 150 inches of rain falling per year.
Retirement here does have some drawbacks. The outside world has discovered Sequim, and supporting growth while not losing the qualities that make people want to live here is a challenge for city leaders. Traffic is becoming an issue, and not all long-time residents are happy with the recent population boom, saying that Sequim's rural farm quality is fading. The outskirts of town have a few less than desirable areas.
Yet despite these issues, this colorful town entices. For those people hoping to find a quiet retirement in an idyllic, scenic town along the Pacific coast, Sequim is worth a look.
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