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Home | Idaho | Above Average Costs | September 2, 2017

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Sandpoint, Idaho

In Idaho's scenic panhandle, 60 miles south of British Columbia, the rugged but hip town of Sandpoint (population 7,400) is an outdoor recreation Paradise that has been "discovered." It has won national accolades for its natural beauty and has been named by Rand McNally as the most beautiful small town in America.

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It is easy to understand why since Sandpoint sits along the northern shore of Lake Pend Oreille (Pon-da-ray), a sparkling, 43-mile long body of water that is surrounded by blue-hued mountains. Boaters, hikers, fishermen, students (North Idaho College has a small campus here) and snow skiers (Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is nearby) all seem to love it here. The town is also popular with retirees in search of laid back Western living, simply breathtaking scenery and a cool climate.

In fact, 37% of the population is age 45 or better, and 22% of all residents hold at least a four year college degree. Most residents tilt to the right politically. Sandpoint has grown by 50% within the last decade or two but still has little racial diversity.

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The cost of living is 8% above the national average, and the median home price is $220,000. Housing stock includes chalets, bungalows, Craftsmans, cabins and others.

Sandpoint has gained somewhat of a resort atmosphere. The attractive downtown has restaurants, shops, coffee houses, real estate offices, pedestrians and pubs (Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale is a favorite beverage). The brick buildings date from the 19th-century and are in good shape.

And while the great outdoors beckon at every corner, Sandpoint also has a healthy arts scene with galleries sprinkled about town. Each August local studios open to the public during the Artist Studio Tour. For music lovers, the annual Festival at Sandpoint brings a variety of acts to town for 10 days of great tunes and good food.

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Other events include the annual Winter Carnival and Lost in the 50s, a classic car show. Theatrical performances take place at the Panida Theater, a beautifully renovated 1927 Spanish Mission-style building. The farmers' market is a popular spot, with fruits, baked goods, locally grown huckleberries and cheeses for sale (and with plenty of toe-tapping music).

Bonner General Hospital is a non-profit facility with 48 beds and provides 24-hour emergency care, home health care, cancer treatment, urgent care, comprehensive rehabilitation services and a helicopter response service. It is accredited by the Joint Commission, and Medicare patients are accepted. Another 10 hospitals are within 100 miles.

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Sandpoint Senior Center offers daily congregate meals to people age 60 or better. It also has a full calendar of activities and events.

SPOT (Selkirks-Pend Oreille Transportation) provides free bus/van transportation within town and travels to neighboring towns. Amtrak has service to Seattle, Portland and Chicago. The closest international airport is in Spokane, Washington, 75 miles to the south west.

The East Bonner County Library has a branch in Sandpoint, and it has an interlibrary loan program, a materials-by-mail program, computer classes, books and magazines.

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The elevation is 2,085 feet above sea level. Summers are spectacular with temperatures rarely rising above 85 degrees. Rainfall reaches 30 inches in the spring and summer. Winters, however, can be a little rough, with up to 80 inches of snow in a season and temperatures in the teens, 20s and 30s. The sun shines 175 days of the year.

It is worth noting that some locals grumble about the new money that has come to town in recent years, much of it from vacation home buyers. Residents are also concerned that Sandpoint is changing from an old timber and railroad town to a vacation playground.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes |   Is Idaho Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes

Breathtaking natural beauty, outstanding lake and mountain recreation, a fun downtown and safe neighborhoods make Sandpoint a place to consider for retirement.

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