How about NC Coastal Plain?
Hi, city freedom seeker...
Your situation has some similarities to ours. We are probably in the same age bracket, more or less, definitely not ready for retirement. This is my 2nd marriage, and we have no childen but I do have 3 (grown) from my first.
I can't say we've moved around a lot, but a few years ago we moved from PA to KY to be near my oldest daughter and grandaughter, now almost 6. No regrets there, and we truly love KY but somehow can't see ending our days here.
Recently, my younger daughter in PA had a baby, so now we are very torn. We talked about moving to OH to split the difference, and this has has some appeal, but more and more I long for a warmer climate and proximity to the water.
We are focusing on eastern NC, somewhere along the coastal plain...far enough inland to be affordable and out of the hurricane's eye, but close enough to be within easy driving distance of the Carolina coast and barrier islands. We think this will ensure frequent visits from friends and family. We vacationed there several times with the kids when they were younger so they have fond memories. It's also a good fit employment-wise with resort and retirement communities continually expanding along the coast. ( I am a kitchen and bath designer, and my husband is in the retail coatings business.)
We are looking primarily at small towns and surrounding areas.. Edenton, Bath, Plymouth, Washington, New Bern...very pretty and lots of historical interest.
I have been doing RE searches online and feel pretty comfident we can find what we want in terms of housing at a reasonable price. Like you, we don't want acreage but also don't want to live cheek by jowl. As you might expect, waterfront usually comes at a premium price even in smaller towns but I believe there are a lot of small inlets, creeks and other desirable locations in less developed areas.
We are probably a year or two from making a move, but it just feels right. I feel very drawn to the area.