Newport, Tenn.

  • They say the best times to experience the majesty of the Smoky Mountains are spring and fall. But summer is good too. And come to think of it, winter isn't all bad. A great little town for all these seasons is Newport, Tenn., snuggled up against the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and attracting retirees and vacationers for the same reason: there is much to see here and even more to do.

    Located in 434-sq.-mi. Cocke County, Newport is a short drive from two national forests with recreation areas for camping and picnicking. Throughout the county, which has a population of only 31,500, outdoor lovers can meditate on the beauty of forest, mountain peaks and clean rushing streams, or they can indulge a passion for golf, fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding or skiing. The pastoral setting is not totally removed from the rest of the world. Little more than an hour away are the shops, museums and restaurants of Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C.

    What retirees like most, however, is the low cost of living. Tennessee has no income tax, and electric and water bills are inexpensive. "I would say you could live here comfortably for around $25,000 a year," says Frank Butler, 68. He and his wife Vernie paid property taxes of $4,000 on their South Florida home; for the 80-acre farm near Newport they bought in 1996, they're paying a third of that. The average price for a two-bedroom, two-bath home on one acre is $75,000. For that, you also get the weather. Joy and Mac McMurray are another couple who left the Sunshine State, selling their West Palm Beach home and building their dream house on 88 mountaintop acres. "We've joined the other half-backs," explains Joy, 55. "That's when you go from up north to Florida and then come halfway back again."