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Colonial Beach, Virginia
Colonial Beach is a Safe, Slightly Faded Waterfront Town with Virginia's Second Longest Beachfront
In northeastern Virginia, 60 miles south of Washington, D.C. and directly to the west of Maryland, Colonial Beach (population 4,000) is a casual, slightly faded beach town and the last deepwater port for north-bound pleasure boats on the Potomac River. It was settled in 1650 by the great-great-grandfather of President James Monroe, and it has Virginia's second longest beachfront.
Colonial Beach also has a history of boom and bust. For many years, it was a seaside playground for the nation's Eastern elite, particularly for people from Washington, D.C. Most of these visitors arrived by boat, and grand summer "cottages" and elegant hotels were built to accommodate them. Then in the early- to mid-20th-century, the fortunes of this "Playground on the Potomac" began to dim, as automobile travel became more fashionable and reaching distant beaches became easier. Slot machine gambling revived Colonial Beach for a time in the 1950s, but a devastating fire in the 1960s and subsequent hurricanes all took their toll.
Today, Colonial Beach is primarily a working class community, but some elegant summer residences from the early days still stand, coexisting with newer bungalows, Cape Cods and ranch ramblers. The median home price is $315,000, reflecting a 15% increase since a year ago.
The town has grown 10% during the last decade. The cost of living is 16% below the national average. Twenty-seven percent of locals are college educated, and 50% of residents are age 45 or better. Politics are split down the middle. The crime rate is below the national average.
The beautiful mile long beach remains the main attraction. It fills up with bathers and umbrellas during summer weekends, but on weekdays the sand is often nearly empty. Winters are even quieter. Westmoreland State Park, just down the road, has boat rentals, camping facilities and more.
There are some fun festivals, including the Potomac River Festival, the Rod Run to the Beach, the Boardwalk Arts and Crafts Festival and the Alexander Graham Bell Croquet Tournament. The 4th of July fireworks over the water are a particularly popular event.
Golf carts are a preferred mode of transportation, and they are allowed on town streets (as long as the driver has a license and insurance). Cart rentals are available for non-owners. Bay Transit, managed by Bay Aging, a non-profit senior services organization and part of a statewide network, provides van transportation around town for people who do not drive a golf cart.
Bay Aging also offers Meals on Wheels, Medicare assistance, emergency home repair, home health care, legal assistance and congregate meals at the Westmoreland Senior Center.
Colonial Beach does not have its own hospital. The University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, Maryland, 19 miles away, is one of the closest hospitals. It is accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients.
Residents have 20 or more waterfront and land-locked restaurants in which to dine and a few antique and curio shops in which to shop. The Abraham and William Cooper Memorial Branch Library is small and sometimes doubles as a drivers' education location, but it has movie nights, public access computers and free wi-fi. A boardwalk (a wide path, really) runs along the beach, and the city pier is a popular place for fishing.
Summers bring temperatures in the 80s and low 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 20s, 30s and 40s. On average, the area receives 40 inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Colonial Beach meets the national average.
It should be noted that Colonial Beach has been hit by hurricanes, including Hazel (1954), Isabel (2003) and Irene (2011). It could happen again.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Virginia Tax-Friendly at Retirement? Somewhat
The distance to a hospital and the hurricane threat are downsides, but Colonial Beach's long, clean beach, relaxed way of life and reasonable costs are pluses. Overall, this historic village should be considered as a retirement spot.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is on the southern Atlantic coast. Nicknames include Old Dominion and Mother of Presidents (eight American presidents were born here). The motto for the state is Sic Semper Tyrannis, meaning Thus Always to Tyrants. This motto is on both the state's seal (designed in 1776) and the state's flag (first used in the 1830s).
The Virginia Company established the Colony of Virginia and Jamestown in 1607. The state was one of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution and joined the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond was even named the Confederate capital. Today, the Virginia General Assembly is the oldest continuous legislative body in the Western world.
Western Virginia has a distictly rural, southern feeling while eastern Virgina is home to military installations and northern Virginia is where many Washington, D.C. lobbyists and government workers live.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, Chesapeake Bay, the Shenandoah Valley and miles of eastern shore beaches are Virginia highlights.
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