It's not just birds that fly south to escape the treacherous winter. Today's seniors have taken a cue from our feathered friends, making their winter or summer homes in enviable destinations with more hospitable temperatures. A study from the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research revealed that Florida gains an additional million people each winter. These are the "snowbirds," people seeking warmer climates in the winter. Their counterparts are known as "reverse snowbirds," those who move to temperate climates during the summer months.
If you're dreaming about a second home in a place with pleasant weather, consider these five snowbird destinations.
1. South Padre Island, Texas
The warm Gulf waters and scenic beaches aren't the only draw for South Padre Island, but they're certainly persuasive.
"South Padre Island is a Go Texan Certified Retirement Community, meaning the Texas Department of Agriculture certifies this as a place with great weather, low taxes, housing availability and average age of 51.5 years," says Naida Robles, public information officer for the City of South Padre Island. "These characteristics make South Padre Island an especially welcoming community for retirees."
Active seniors can enjoy bird watching at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. A five-story viewing tower and 4,800 feet of boardwalk offer views of more than 318 bird species. Fishing and boating also are popular pastimes in this peaceful coastal community, where winter temperatures are a welcoming 70 degrees.
2. Port Townsend, Wash.
The quaint, Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend sits in the Olympic Rain Shadow, an area with better weather and less rain than nearby Seattle. In the summer, Port Townsend's boating community surges as people flock to the area seeking moderate temperatures that average from the mid-40s to high-70s, depending on the season. Boat U.S. Magazine recently named Port Townsend one of its "Top 10 Places to Retire for Boaters."
More than a dozen award-winning golf courses are within a two hour's drive, according to City of Port Townsend Marketing Director Christina Pivarnik. And miles of trails, state and national parks, and shoreline on three sides of the city add to the active lifestyle.
3. Coachella Valley, Calif.
Coachella Valley (Greater Palm Springs) is bordered by the largest lake in California (the Salton Sea) and three mountain ranges. The area includes Palm Desert and Palm Springs, two popular resort towns. Weather in the Southern California desert hovers around the high-60s to low-80s in the winter months. The consistently sunny days are perfect for enjoying a round of golf. The Coachella Valley is home to more than 110 courses, some of which boast Pete Dye and Arnold Palmer designs.
"Many recognize us for golf, but there is so much more," says Joyce Kiehl, media relations manager for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau." From miles of hiking and amazing spas to fabulous dining and world-class events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, this area offers something for everyone."
4. Blowing Rock, N.C.
This North Carolina mountain town has long been a summer haven for reverse snowbirds. Blowing Rock has been welcoming them since the end of the Civil War, according to the North Carolina Division of Tourism. It's easy to see the allure: A 4,000-foot elevation brings cooler 70-degree weather in the summer. And with a median age of 58.9, Blowing Rock caters to an active senior community.
Nature is the star here, and it's showcased through attractions such as the Blue Ridge Parkway (known as "America's favorite drive"); the mile-high Grandfather Mountain nature preserve; and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a 3,500-acre estate with trails, lakes and horse-drawn carriage rides. You"ll also find local winery tours, "Art in the Park" shows May through October, and shopping that ranges from local boutiques to outlet malls.
5. St. Petersburg, Fla.
Winter sun-seekers needn't look further than the "Sunshine City" of St. Petersburg, which earns its title with 361 days of sunshine a year. Snowbirds love St. Pete for its white-sand beaches. TripAdvisor® named St. Pete Beach its No. 1 U.S. Beach in 2012.
But, there's more to this Florida peninsula than sunny days and dozens of great beaches. Additional activities include the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve; the 100-year-old Sunken Gardens; weekend art walks through dozens of galleries; and the Pinellas Trail, a 37-mile multi-use trail that's great for walking, jogging or biking. As an added bonus, the theme park mecca of Orlando is less than a two-hour drive away, perfect for when the grandkids come to visit.