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The Best East Coast Road Trips in the USA

The Best East Coast Road Trips in the USA - Image of a road curving through fall foliage
I love hitting the road to explore somewhere new!  If you’re looking for some inspiration for a road trip on the East Coast of the USA, I asked my fellow travel bloggers for their recommendations.  They’ve suggested some crackers, so check out this list of the best east coast road trips to enjoy!

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These road trips are roughly ordered by destination from South to North.  Some road trips work well as a weekend getaway, whereas others are longer and could take several weeks.  You could even combine some road trip itineraries, so take your time to explore! 

Raleigh to New Orleans Road Trip

Explore some of the best southern cities in the United States by taking a road trip from Raleigh to New Orleans.  You’ll visit a National Park, a number of important Civil Rights Movement sites, and four state capitals!

Kick off the journey in Raleigh, North Carolina and head south to Congaree National Park and Columbia, South Carolina.  Then continue through Augusta and Atlanta, Georgia into Montgomery, Alabama, a city that played a key part in the Civil Rights Movement and with Martin Luther King. From there, continue on to Mobile, Alabama and Biloxi, Mississippi before arriving at your end destination, the fabulous New Orleans, Lousiana.

This road trip takes you through 6 states clocking in at just under 1000 miles and 15 hours of driving.  While it can be done in as little as 2 days, you can easily spend a week or even two weeks on this path exploring each of the culturally rich cities along the way.

By Julia, The Cure for Curiosity

Atlanta Georgia - East Coast Road Trips
Atlanta Georgia – East Coast Road Trips | Credit: The Cure for Curiosity

Miami to the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

The Everglades National Park is an ecosystem and a World Heritage Site, located in the sunny state of Florida, 80.5 miles (130 km) from Miami, approx. 1:30 hour driving.  This road trip makes a great day out to visit this heaven for outdoor lovers, with loads of nature, many hiking trails to choose from, and water activities like kayaking and the traditional airboat. 

To get to the Everglades, drive west from Miami on the U.S. Highway 41. You’ll pass through Miami’s outer suburbs before entering the largely undeveloped wetlands, making it a beautiful drive to observe the nature of this unique place. 

If you are planning to visit the Everglades for a few days or choose to stay overnight, the best option for accommodation is Everglades City. In this little charming fishing village, you can find shops, restaurants, accommodations, and places to rent a canoe, kayak, bicycle, and also, you can take boat and airboat tours.  

Another must-visit place during your trip to the Everglades is the Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge, the second largest mangrove forest in the world forming fascinating labyrinths of water and islands with very rich wildlife, including some endangered species.   

By Paula, Paula Pins the Planet

Everglades National Park
A Florida Road Trip – Miami to the Everglades | Credit: Paula Pins the Planet

Florida’s Overseas Highway:

Florida’s Overseas Highway, frequently referred to as the “Highway that Goes to Sea”, is one of, if not the, best road trips on the East Coast.

The Overseas Highway is a little more than 100 miles and can be completed from Miami to the Florida Keys in as little as four hours. However, to make the most out of your vacation, you should plan a couple of days traveling along the Overseas Highway to stop at some of the area’s best attractions!

The best place for diving and snorkeling on this East Coast road trip is at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Learn more about the history of these exhilarating activities at the History of Diving Museum located on mile marker 83.

Finish your road adventure Key West, park your car and jump on a ferry heading towards the Dry Tortugas National Park for a fantastic last day in the sun!

By Ellie, Ellie’s Travel Tips

Florida Keys - Florida Overseas Highway
Florida Keys – Florida Overseas Highway | Credit: Ellie’s Travel Tips

Orlando, Florida to Savannah Georgia

All the fun of Orlando to the picturesque city of Savannah is perfect for a road trip. You need at least a week to really do this journey justice and take in the varied landscape. Start your journey with all the attractions in Orlando (there are some great Orlando day trips to take here too so it’s good to use as a base) before snaking north along the coastline.

Stop off at beautiful Amelia Island with its miles of sandy beaches, the perfect place to relax. Then head further north into Georgia and the old world charm of Jekyll Island. Stay at the Jekyll Island Club and cycle your way around the island – don’t miss picturesque Driftwood Beach with its fallen tree limbs scattered across it.

Then it’s time for the more vibrant Saint Simons Island with its attractions and opportunities for active pursuits like kayaking and hiking. Finish up in the southern gem city of Savannah with its colourful houses, wonderful parks and great foodie scene. This is a road trip that really brings in the best of these two states.

By Nichola, Globalmouse Travels

Sunset over Amelia Island
Sunset over Amelia Island | Credit: Global Mouse Travels

Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia

Driving from Charleston to Savannah is a fantastic one-way, 107-mile East Coast road trip. Since these cities are located just two hours apart, you’ll spend less time in the car and more time exploring each city.

Five days is the perfect amount of time for your road trip—spend two days in Charleston, two days in Savannah, and one day traveling!

While you’re in Charleston, visit Boone Hall Plantation for beautiful scenery and a sobering history lesson, and snap a picture at the Pineapple Fountain or Rainbow Row. Stop at Poogan’s Porch for a delicious brunch, or FIG for a fancy dinner.

On your way to Savannah, stop at Kiawah Island for some relaxing beach time and learn how tea is made at the Charleston Tea Garden.

Once you arrive in Savannah, go on a spooky Ghost Tour, stroll through Forsyth Park, and visit historic City Market and River Street. Savannah has incredible places to eat, as well. Enjoy an upscale dinner at The Olde Pink House, order an ice cream cone at Leopold’s, and get brunch at The Collins Quarter.

By Brittany, Travel by Brit

A Fountain in Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA
Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA | Credit: Travel By Brit

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is an amazing US East Coast road trip destination. Most visitors to the OBX barrier islands typically spend a week in a vacation rental beach house and break up the 95-mile coastal scenic drive into a few excursions.

One day, drive north to Corolla and see the wild horses and drive on one of USA’s longest unpaved beach roads. Another day drive south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and visit USA’s tallest lighthouse, learn about the 600 shipwrecks and pirate history, and hike in the marshes.

In between, visit Kitty Hawk (where the Wright Brothers were the first humans to fly), Nags Head, and other NC coast scenic attractions. 

Some of the best things to do in Outer Banks include enjoying the beach sun and fun, magnificent sunrises and sunsets, and tasting the abundant fresh produce and seafood (especially shrimp and crabs).

As for activities in the Outer Banks, try your hand at kayaking in a maritime forest, hang gliding on the largest sand dune in the eastern US or riding horses on the beach. You could even fly over the Outer Banks in a vintage open cockpit airplane!

By Charles, McCool Travel

Outer Banks Beach Drive - View from a car driving on a wide sand beach
Outer Banks Beach Drive | Credit: McCool Travel

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway– which stretches from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia– has to be one of the best road trips in the United States of America. 

It’s the longest linear park in the US, traveling through Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests. The majority of the 469-mile scenic route was completed in 1966, but the gorgeous 8-mile stretch between the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina wasn’t finished until 1987.

There are 200 remarkably scenic Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks along the way, offering stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, wondrous waterfalls, and verdant valleys. There’s also wildlife such as Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, and countless other birds. 

Driving the 45 mph speed limit without stopping, you could theoretically cover the whole route in 15 hours. But that would totally defeat the purpose. The BRP’s stunning scenery encourages you to slow down and soak in the majestic beauty of one of America’s largest remaining stretches of wilderness. 

There are no billboards, gas stations, neon signs, or other commercial interests along the route. Just jaw-dropping scenic views, which reach their dynamic peak when the colors of autumn are at their most splendiferous.  

by Bret & Mary, Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

Blue Ridge Parkway Viewpoint of the coastline
Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip | Credit: Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

Washington DC to Charlottesville

One of the best east coast road trips is the drive from Washington, D.C. to Charlottesville, Virginia. This road trip isn’t exactly far, but a popular overnight or weekend trip for many. The drive from DC is about two and a half hours one way.

Start in the city and visit all the Smithsonian Museums and check things off your Washington, D.C. bucket list. In the early to mid-morning when you are done in DC, head for Charlottesville. The best part of the drive is taking the detour to see Skyline Drive, which in the fall, is one of the best drives in the country!

Charlottesville is known for the Monticello Wine Trail and has dozens of fantastic wineries to enjoy, which is the big attraction to visit. The Napa of the east. Don’t miss Pippin Hill, King Family or Early Mountain!

By Nicole, Bucket List Lists 

King Vineyard in Charlottesville - purple grapes hanging on a vine
King Vineyard in Charlottesville | Credit: Bucket List Lists

Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Take a 2 to 4-day road trip on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to enjoy beautiful parks and wetlands, local seafood, and quaint beach towns. It’s just 65 miles from Chincoteague to Cape Charles, but there is plenty to do on this scenic peninsula.

Begin your trip at Chincoteague, a cute town full of casual local restaurants and family-friendly activities. Here you can explore the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where wild ponies, made famous in the children’s classic Misty of Chincoteague, still roam free. Next door is Assateague National Seashore where you can climb a lighthouse or spend the day at a spacious Atlantic beach.

Heading south, spend a night in the quaint waterfront town of Onancock, home to art galleries and excellent dining. Your final stop is the cute beach town of Cape Charles. Rent a golf cart to explore around town and check out excellent restaurants, unique shops, and a quiet Chesapeake Bay beach. End your trip with a drive over the dramatic 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel.

By Julie, Fun in Fairfax VA

Virginia's Eastern Shore - lake with grass around
Virginia’s Eastern Shore | Credit: FuninFairfaxVA

From Pennsylvania to New York’s Thousand Islands

A road trip to New York State’s Thousand Islands is full of wonderful on and around-water adventures, from physical or cultural activities to food and wine.  I’d suggest spending two weeks on this loop drive from Eastern Pennsylvania to Thousand Islands and back.

A cultural must-see is the incredible Corning Museum, 4 hours north of Pennsylvania, with fascinating sculptural and scientific exhibits, and a chance to try glass blowing. Enjoy hiking at nearby Watkins Glen State Park which showcases 19 gorgeous waterfalls, and eat outdoors at the Harbour Hotel overlooking the lake, or explore the Seneca Lake Food and Wine Trail.

Thousand Islands is 2.5 hours north. Discover its mainland of Alexander Bay, Clayton, Henderson Harbor, Oswego, Sackett’s Harbor, and the beautiful state parks – Keewaydin, Cedar Pointe, Grasse Pointe, and Dewolf. Wellesley Island State Park in the middle of the St. Lawrence Seaway is a great starting place to explore historic areas, waterways, and natural beauty. 

Spend a day in a rental boat cruising the St. Lawrence where there are 1500+ small islands.  Scenic boat tours are a must – Singer Castle, Boldt Castle on Heart Island, or sunset dinner cruising. Don’t miss the Antique Boat Museum, the largest North American collection of antique and classic boats.

Heading 2.5 hours south, visit Cayuga Lake, the longest Finger Lake near Ithaca, NY. Hike, walk, drive to the 150+ waterfalls. Explore beautiful Taughannock Falls State Park and enjoy the fruits of the area on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, have homemade ice cream, and stop at the cheese farm to end your road trip.

By Wendy, Adventurous Retirement

The St. Lawrence Seaway - Thousand Islands New York Road Trip
The St. Lawrence Seaway – Thousand Islands New York Road Trip | Credit: Adventurous Retirement

New York to Jamestown

The busy city life of New York through to the sleepy towns of the south and the origins of modern day USA are there for all to see on this fantastic road trip. You’ll need around two weeks to see the sites properly and have time to stop off along the route.

Begin in New York – packed full of great attractions, museums and fun and there are some wonderful family hotels in New York to make it a really comfortable stay. Next stop is Philadelphia which is a wonderful city to explore from its iconic Art Museum to Reading Terminal Market to try the local food, it’s another city to enjoy for as long as you can.

Moving on, stopping briefly in Baltimore at the National Aquarium which shouldn’t be missed before heading in to Washington DC. This is another great stop off with the fantastic museums of the Smithsonian taking up the lion share of your time.

Finish off this road trip at the historic sites of Williamsburg and Jamestown to find out about the origins of the USA and the hardships of the early settlers. This is a road trip full of variety and great history, and one of the best east coast road trips you can get!

By Nichola, Family Hotel Expert

New York high rises
New York – A Great Place to Start an East Coast Road Trip | Credit: familyhotelexpert

New York to Boston

Those looking for a quick and fairly manageable road trip will love the drive from New York City to Boston. You’ll get to see two of the East Coast’s major cities as well as the beautiful coastline along the way.

Make sure to do this road trip during summer when temperatures are warm and ideal for sightseeing. Alternatively, this area of the US is especially beautiful during the fall when the forests are tinted orange and make a great photo subject.

With just over 200 miles this road trip takes around 3,5 hours one way although you could drive for slightly longer and take the scenic road through Providence. Definitely make a stop in New Haven for some fantastic museums and beautiful architecture. This is the perfect weekend road trip although you could also spend up to a week if you want to see more of Boston and New York City.

Victoria, Guide Your Travel

Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market - Part of the Freedom Trail in Boston
Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market – Part of the Freedom Trail in Boston

Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Maine

If you’re looking for a fabulous New England road trip, consider a one-way road trip from Boston to Portland, Maine.

While only about 112 miles divide the two coastal cities, a large percentage of the region’s treasures lie between them– many of which are located either right on Interstate-95 or a short detour away. You could easily extend this road trip up to 5 days, or squeeze many of the sights into a long weekend.

After you’ve explored everything Boston has to offer, you can start your trek by stopping in the nearby historic towns of Salem, where the infamous Salem Witch Trials took place and Plymouth, home to the Plymouth Rock.

Other quaint places to visit along the route include Newburyport, Rockport, and Ipswich, which all have breath-taking views of the rocky coastline and splendid First Period architecture. Be sure to grab a bite at regional legend Ipswich Clam Box.

Crossing into New Hampshire, you can take a detour to its capital, Concord, or continue north to Portsmouth, an adorable city on the border with Kittery, Maine.

Once you cross into Maine, be sure to stop at one or two of Maine’s quintessential beach towns like York or Ogunquit, and as you enter Portland, don’t miss the Portland Head Light lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth and indulge in some authentic Maine lobster at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights nearby.

By Tegan & Alex, Why Not Walk Travel Guides

The Witch House in Salem
The Witch House in Salem

Portland Maine to Bar Harbor

The 170-mile drive from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor is a gem. Right after leaving Portland, you can discover the town of Freeport which offered great shopping, not only at the headquarters of the famous LLBean clothing maker, but also at the tourist duty-free shops around town.

And then there is the city of Bangor which used to be a timber hub, although now is probably most famous for being the home of novelist Stephen King.  Horror fans might like to visit his house, and although you can’t go inside, you can admire the wrought-iron gates decorated with bats and spiders.

Next, visit the quaint town of Bar Harbor with its romantic tall ships and waterfront places for delicious lobster meals.  Bar Harbor guards the entry to Acadia National Park, the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. Its top attractions Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, and the highest headlands called Otter Cliff were all worth the drive!

The whole drive can take less than three hours, but as with any road trip the joy is in taking your time and exploring the stops along the way.  

By Carol, Cruising Past Seventy

View of Bar Harbor bay with fall colored trees- East Coast Road Trip Itineraries
Bar Harbor – East Coast Road Trip Itineraries

Vermont Road Trip

A road trip the length of Vermont is full of charming villages and scenic beauty. Starting in the south in Battleboro, see the nearly West Dummerston Covered Bridge, one of over 100 covered bridges in Vermont.

Next head up Route 100 through the heart of the Green Mountains, stopping at picturesque villages along the way. Stowe, a famous ski town, is delightful in the warmer seasons too. Take a gondola ride for marvelous views of Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont.

The next stop is Burlington with its vibrant foodie scene and craft breweries. Don’t miss a gorgeous sunset across Lake Champlain from Waterfront Park.

The final leg of the trip is through the bucolic Champlain Islands. Search for the roadside miniature stone castles of South Hero Island ad enjoy the area’s agrotourism and fine wineries.  Take a full three days to enjoy this approximately 200-mile route.

By Karen, Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Sunset over Lake Champlain from Burlington
Sunset over Lake Champlain from Burlington | Credit: Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Fall Foliage Road Trip in New England

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York are must visit for the fall, and combining them in a fall foliage road trip is ideal. Fall colors change North to South, so start as far North as you can. Every year the leaves change at different times but in general it’s best to plan this trip from the last week of September, through the first few weeks of October.  One to two weeks is recommended to make the most of the area.

Start in Maine and explore Acadia National Park. Drive through the park or get out and hike. Next head to New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, stop by Dixville Notch State Park and from there head to the White Mountains and drive along Kancamagus Highway. There are stops and hiking trails along the entire drive that take you through some of the most vibrant fall colors in New England.

From New Hampshire, head to Vermont, which looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. Woodstock, VT is full of photogenic farms to take photos of. Woodstock is also a cute town to explore and there are several restaurants and shops to enjoy wandering through.

In New York, head to the Adirondack Mountains. Lake Placid is a great town to stop in and there are beautiful hiking trails throughout these mountains. There are also beautiful places to take photos to take right off the side of the road if you don’t feel like hiking.

By Jenny, Limitless Hiker

Beautiful Fall Foliage in New England
Beautiful Fall Foliage in New England | Credit: Limitless Hiker

I hope these gorgeous east coast road trips have given you some inspiration for your American road trip itinerary – I have certainly added a lot more to my USA bucket list!  If you are planning a road trip do let me know, I love being out on the open road!

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Text in centre: The Best East Coast Road Trips to do This Year, with 4 images of road trips and cars. Text in centre: 16 of the Best Road Trips on the East Coast, with top image of woman looking out of the window of a car, bottom image of the view of a lake road from inside a car.

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Last updated: February 26, 2021

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