Lake_09 photography by Dave Shafer

Lake_10 photography by Dave Shafer

Golden years on a pond  //  Lake Palestine

25,560 acres  //   Drive time: 2 hours
Waterfront restrictions: No general waterfront restrictions (boat houses are permitted), although some subdivisions do have their own restrictions.

It might be a cliche to say that retirees like nearby hospitals and golf courses. But retirees like nearby hospitals and golf courses. They also like a calm waterway.

“They come here because our lake is never busy, never crowded, even on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day,” says real estate agent Dana Staples, who sells mainly to buyers from Dallas and Fort Worth. “You never feel like you’re going to get run over by a boat or a Jet Ski.”

Retirees like that they aren’t likely to be sideswiped by a Sea-Doo—but they also like knowing that should such an accident occur, Tyler’s medical community is just 12 miles away. One ambulance sits in a parking lot off Highway 155, just off Lake Palestine, and Tyler’s two main hospitals have built medical facilities right along that highway. “Many of the other lakes, although they’re beautiful as well, don’t have the city that’s close by,” Staples says. “People want to know, How long does it take an ambulance to get here?”

Only about one-third of the properties are second houses. Prices, which range from $50,000 to $2 million, started increasing in the early 2000s and didn’t look back until 2009, when they leveled out. Last year saw a slight slip in prices, but this year looks stable, Staples says.

The watershed from the Neches River keeps the lake’s level constant. Catfish and striped bass are plentiful, and the Purple Pig Cafe in nearby Flint makes a mean barbecue and coleslaw sandwich.