Georgia may not be a major retirement destination like Florida—but it’s becoming more and more popular. Maybe it’s the championship golf courses—and the high number of sunny days for avid golfers to get on the course. Maybe it’s the picturesque and surprisingly affordable neighborhoods in beautiful seaside fishing villages, cozy hamlets nestled in the Appalachian foothills, or bustling cities like Atlanta and Savannah. Or maybe it’s the variety of climates throughout the state’s various elevations. For all these reasons and more, senior living in Georgia is the next big thing.

If you love the outdoors, Georgia is a great place to retire. The Appalachian Mountains offer a beautiful setting for hiking, camping, and fishing. There’s boating, deep-sea fishing, and other water sports by the coast. And if you’re into golf, you can’t go wrong by moving to Georgia. There are exceptional golf courses throughout the state—and plenty of sunny days to get out on the golf course. In Greensboro, for example, you’ll find a small town of fewer than 5,000 people—as well as an extravagant Ritz Carlton resort and golf courses designed by Palmer, Crenshaw, Nicklaus, and Fazio. There’s also the Golden Isles, a golf retreat featuring championship-level courses and world-renowned resorts such as Jekyll Island and St. Simons—which attract their fair share of celebrity and millionaire golfers.

But you don’t have to be a millionaire to retire in Georgia. Senior living in Georgia is surprisingly affordable, even on the coasts—a rare thing in Florida and other more well-known retirement destinations. If your budget is small, you can still have a high quality of life in Georgia. The per-capita income in the state is approximately $24,558—well under the national average—and the average home price in Georgia in 2010 was at about $130,400.

Georgia’s top marginal income rate is 6%, activated at a low $7,000—but in Georgia, your retirement income is exempt from taxes up to $35,000 per person if you’re aged 62 or older. Starting in 2012, all non-working income will be exempt. Social Security income is already exempt, and property taxes are below the national average. In addition, there are a wide variety of property tax exemptions based on your area, income, and age.

Here are a few places to check out if you’re considering retiring in Georgia.

Savannah

This city was profiled as “The Most Beautiful City in the Country” by Condé Nast, and it’s easy to see why. With its beautiful historic 18th-century homes and buildings, beaches and rivers, excellent shopping and dining, and its art galleries, museums, theatre and musical entertainment, Savannah is a perfect place for sophisticated seniors to retire.

Atlanta

With a high percentage of active seniors, Atlanta is fueling the trend for independent living communities. Because of local demand, developers have introduced many new retirement communities that have allowed Atlanta seniors to downsize and move into a comfortable retirement—while hanging on to their active lifestyle and staying within their own communities. There are many resort-style senior living communities in Atlanta that offer a wide range of activities as well as close proximity to a vibrant city—with shopping, entertainment, culture, outdoor activities, and excellent health care.

Athens

Home to the state’s flagship public university, the University of Georgia, Athens is a small town with the sophistication and entertainment options of a larger city. The town was named one of the nation’s best places to retire by Money Magazine, as well as “Best Place to Recapture Your Youth” by Fortune and “#1 Small Metro Area for Relocating Families” by Primacy Relocation. It offers a mild climate year-round, close proximity to Atlanta’s metro area, and access to some of the state’s best medical care.

Choosing a place to retire is never easy. It’s tough to find the perfect combination of beautiful weather, affordable housing, a high standard of living, favorable tax conditions, and individual activities that most seniors hope for. Georgia is close to perfect, however. With its mild climate year-round and its combination of dynamic cities, sophisticated college towns, sleepy seaside and mountain villages, and more, Georgia has something to offer everyone. Check out our listing of senior living communities in Atlanta, Savannah, and throughout Georgia—and find the perfect retirement community for you.