Planning to take an east coast USA road trip but not sure where you want to go?
We adore taking road trips in the United States, and for as long as I can remember, road tripping the east coast has been my travel comfort zone.
As a child, I was shuttled from Orlando to North Carolina to visit family at least a couple of times a year for the better part of a decade, and a few years later, my family spent a couple of months taking an east coast road trip all the way from North Carolina to Maine.
In my early twenties, I made some truly special memories taking road trips throughout the south with my mom and Grammy.
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Fast forward a few years, and Jeremy and I have put our dent in east coast USA road trips as well, touring both parts of New England and the south by car.
We haven’t been able to get everywhere (yet), though, so for this post, we’ve teamed up with several other travel bloggers to recommend some of the absolute best east coast USA road trip routes… and added a couple of new destinations to our bucket list in the process.
From the southernmost point in the continental USA to the rocky beaches of Maine, here’s where to go on your next USA road trip.
Table of Contents
Southeast USA Road Trip Routes
Miami to Key West Road Trip
From Sarah of Travels of Sarah Fay
The best way to see the beauty of Florida is a drive from the art deco-clad roads of Miami, to the beaches of Key West. Also, there is something very satisfying about reaching the end of the Route 1 highway in Key West.
It is so iconic that it is popular to take a photo at the last highway marker for Route 1 in Key West.
This iconic overseas highway crosses 42 bridges that take you to a few destinations not to be missed including Key Largo, Islamorada, Bahia Honda State Park, and the famous Key West.
Top things to do in Key Largo include taking a glass-bottom boat tour or snorkeling to see one of the world’s best reefs. The John Pennekamp State Park offers snorkeling tours that will show you the colorful wonders of the reef.
Before making your way to Key West, stop at Robbie’s to not only eat but feed the Tarpon off the pier and maybe see a shark. Then as you make your way down south, why not stop at the Florida Keys Brewing Company in Islamorada.
Along this drive, you will find one of the best beaches in the world at Bahia Honda State Park located on Marathon Key. The endless expanse of pearly white sand and turquoise waters and a little hike on one of the original bridges constructed from Miami to Key West is the perfect way to relax before getting to the party in Key West.
Finally, in Key West, you can have a slice of the famous Key Lime Pie, take a picture at the southernmost point of the continental USA, and party on Duval Street because you have completed this epic east coast USA road trip.
If you are feeling really adventurous you could also try and check out the Everglades, which is just a short detour off of Route 1 when leaving Miami.
Recommended Trip Length
You can drive from Miami to Key West in about 4 hours if you go straight through. With a couple of days to explore, you’ll be able to see plenty of sights along the way, making this an excellent weekend road trip!
St. Augustine to Charleston Road Trip
For a mix of relaxing coastal vibes and delightful southern charm, plan an east coast USA road trip leading from St. Augustine, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina!
This road trip has its fair share of beaches and natural beauty, while also covering some of the best East Coast cities to visit.
Start your trip in St. Augustine, which happens to be the oldest city in the USA: founded by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine is packed with history.
Be sure not to miss visiting the Castillo de San Marcos for a rare chance to visit a castle in the USA, the Lightner Museum, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Once you’ve had your fill of history for the day, kick back and enjoy some of Florida’s legendary beaches.
From St. Augustine, head to Savannah to admire what is arguably the most beautiful city in the south.
Stroll through the 22 town squares, wander down famous Jones Street to peek at one of the most beautiful streets in the USA, visit Forsyth Park, tour some house museums, hit up City Market, and, if you’re up for a scare, head out on a ghost tour.
After visiting Savannah and possibly stopping at nearby Tybee Island for a little more beach time, make your way to Charleston for the final stop on this east coast USA road trip.
In Charleston, be sure to snap photos at famous Rainbow Row and Folly Beach, visit Fort Sumter, check out the Charleston City Market, and visit the stunning 1500-year-old Angel Tree.
Those interested in military history will also enjoy a visit to Patriot’s Point, and food lovers can’t go wrong with a food tour in order to taste some of the best Lowcountry food around.
Recommended Trip Length
We suggest spending at least 5 days on this east coast road trip, but by slowing down and potentially adding other side stops like Tybee Island or Hilton Head, you could easily make this into a 7-10 day vacation!
Blue Ridge Parkway
From Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel
One of America’s most iconic road trips, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs nearly 500 miles through North Carolina and Virginia, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks.
Construction of the route began back in 1935, and it has been the United States National Park System’s most visited attraction almost every year since the mid-1940s.
The route begins on U.S. Route 441 at Oconaluftee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, North Carolina. It ends at the southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia at Rockfish Gap.
Once you take this jaw-droppingly beautiful drive for yourself, you’ll see why. With stunning scenery, historic landmarks, and thousands of different wildlife species along the way (birds, bears, deer, and more), the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a taste of unspoiled Americana at its finest.
There are way too many highlights of this route to adequately summarize here, but I’d definitely recommend spending a few days in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and exploring the area in and around Asheville.
Heading north, there are great hiking and fishing in both the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, as well as charming little mountain towns such as Boone and Blowing Rock, NC.
Virginia’s must-sees include Roanoke, George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, and of course Shenandoah National Park.
Our favorite time to explore this region is autumn. The crowds are smaller, the weather is cooler, and the stunning color of the leaves turn the Blue Ridge Mountain scenery into something magical.
Recommended Trip Length
We suggest exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway over 3-5 days.
Mid-Atlantic Road Trip Routes
The Adirondacks Road Trip
From Jim of Uncovering New York
The Adirondack Mountains of northern New York are one of the most beautiful and remote regions of the east coast of the United States. While there are faster routes between Lake George and Lake Placid, this road trip route will take you through some of the region’s most beautiful small towns and past some of its best attractions.
Start in Lake George. While here, consider taking a boat cruise on the Minne Ha Ha and touring Fort William Henry.
From here, head north out of town on Route 9 before picking up NY-28 south and then NY-8 south.
Route 8 passes along the southern reaches of the Adirondack Park and past many great waterfalls and hiking trails. One to make sure not to miss is the 70-foot Auger Falls. Shortly after Auger Falls, take NY-30 north, making sure not to miss the beautiful shores of Indian Lake and the hike to Ok Slip Falls.
In the town of Blue Mountain Lake, the Adirondack Experience is a can’t-miss museum that tells the story of the Adirondack Park and people that call it home. This is a truly fantastic museum and is worth saving a few hours to experience. While in town, you can also explore local art at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts.
Continue on the journey enjoying the incredible scenery of the Adirondacks as you pass by spots like Long Lake and Tupper Lake. Veer off onto NY-3 east for your final stop for the evening in Saranac Lake, New York.
The next day, explore the history of this community at the Saranac Laboratory Museum and learn how the community was built by tuberculous patients. You can also visit the former home of author Robert Louis Stevenson.
Finally, take NY-86 the short distance to Lake Placid, home to two Winter Olympics. While in town, tour the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, High Falls Gorge, and enjoy shopping in this quaint town. End your weekend road trip with a climb up Cobble Hill for great views of Lake Placid.
Recommended Trip Length
While you certainly spend a full week or even longer exploring this route and the communities along it, this is a great two-day road trip that’s perfect for any nature lover.
New England Road Trip Routes
New Hampshire Road Trip
From Micki of The Barefoot Nomad
New Hampshire’s fiery fall foliage, mountain passes, serene lakes, and rugged coastline make for a picturesque east coast USA road trip. The state is a dream destination for nature lovers, with ample opportunities for hiking, kayaking, swimming, and outdoor winter sports.
One of the state’s highlights is the charming seaside town of Portsmouth, where you can enjoy craft ale and fresh seafood among jewel-box colonial buildings.
Odiorne State Park is a short 10-minute drive from downtown Portsmouth, and home to rugged coastal views, the educational Seacoast Science Center, and the remains of Fort Dearborn.
From Portsmouth, make your way to the Kancamagus Highway, which is rightly touted as one of the USA’s most scenic drives. The Kancamagus twists through the White Mountains and offers stunning views of fall foliage and plenty of hiking and camping.
From the Kancamagus, continue on to Franconia State Park to see the Flume Gorge, a natural gorge that runs for about 800 feet at the foot of Mount Liberty. The 1886 Pemigewasset covered bridge at Franconia Notch State Park is well worth a stop.
From there, it’s a short 10-minute drive from the Flume Gorge to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, an 80-passenger cable car that reaches the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain. There’s a short hiking trail at the summit that offers views of the mountains of New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Maine and even the Canadian province of Quebec.
Next up, a stop at idyllic Lake Winnipesaukee offers a change from the mountains. While some areas around the lake (like Weirs Beach in Laconia) are packed with tourists in summer, Winnipesaukee’s 183 miles of coastline, and more than 300 islands means that secluded spots aren’t hard to find.
While you can take this trip in any season, many mountain passes, like the Kancamagus Highway, are closed during heavy snowfalls. However, winter is a great time to try snowshoeing or skiing at any of the state’s 19 ski resorts. In autumn, North Conway, Kancamagus Highway, and Franconia boast incredible fall foliage.
Start and end this trip by flying into Boston, Massachusetts, heading north through Portsmouth, Odiorne State Park, Kancamagus Highway, Franconia State Park, Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, Lake Winnipesaukee, and ending your loop in Boston.
Recommended Trip Length
Four days is plenty for this drive, though you’ll have to limit your time in a few locations. You’ll be on the road for about 7 and a half hours during this east coast road trip.
Portland to Bar Harbor Road Trip
From Kaisa of Glam Granola Travel
The Maine stretch of US-1, also known as the Coastal Highway, is a classic New England-style east coast road trip. While you could drive this iconic seaside road in a day, there are so many things to do in Portland, Acadia, and everywhere in between, it’s best appreciated leisurely over several days. You can start at either end, but starting in Portland and heading north provides increasingly beautiful scenery. There are plenty of campsites and B&Bs along the way in Maine’s many state parks and harbor towns.
Portland is famous for potato donuts, breweries, and quirky local charm. Allagash and Bissell Brothers are two award-winning breweries; the former often has food trucks, while the latter shares space with a great local café. The Old Port area near the water is full of cool shops, including one of the best Portland donut shops The Holy Donut. A picnic in the Eastern Promenade park overlooking the water is a particularly peaceful way to spend the afternoon.
Heading north of Portland, one encounters more and more of what Maine does best—natural beauty and seafood. There are three unique state parks to choose from on this route, from south to north: Popham Beach State Park (Phippsburg), Camden Hills State Park (Cambden), and Moose Point State Park (Searsport).
Popham Beach State Park is known for its perfect sandy beach, rare along Maine’s rocky coastline, and picturesque lighthouses. Camden Hills’ main attraction is the panoramic view of Camden and the ocean from Mt. Megunticook, a moderate day hike. Moose Point has awesome tide pools, which are so much fun to explore and observe critters in.
In Wicasset, between Popham Beach and Camden Hills, Red’s Eats makes one of New England’s most delicious lobster rolls. For a state famous for its lobster rolls, being considered among the best is a massive accomplishment.
Finally, end this east coast USA road trip in Acadia National Park.
Located next to Bar Harbor on Bar Island, it’s a true gem of the National Park system and there is no other park like it. Whale watching trips leave from Bar Harbor every day during the high season and are a definite must-see!
The hiking in Acadia is incredible, as well—don’t miss the Beehive, a short, thrilling (but still family-friendly) climb up rocky cliffs complete with metal bars and manmade bridges between the rocks. The view at the top, of the Atlantic Ocean, harbor, and endless lush hills, is New England at its finest.
Recommended Trip Length
While you can technically complete this US road trip route in a day, we suggest taking a couple of days to savor the sights along the way.
New England Road Trip Loop
From Danielle of Wanderlust While Working
Whether you’re looking for majestic mountains, breathtaking coastal views, photogenic lighthouses, or the excitement of a big city, New England has it all.
For the perfect northeast USA road trip, take an epic road trip through New England starting and ending in Boston.
Enjoy exploring Boston via the Freedom Trail and take in some of America’s oldest historical sites along the 3.5-mile route.
Next, drive southwest to the coast of Newport, RI, home of the extravagant Newport Mansions. After exploring Newport for a day, continue to follow the coast to the quaint seaside town of Mystic, CT, home of historic Mystic Seaport.
Next, cut across Western Massachusetts to the lush Green Mountains in Vermont with a stop in Burlington bordering the beautiful Lake Champlain. Spend the day wandering this cute college town and imbibing in one of the many breweries (Vermont has the largest number of breweries per capita of any state!).
From here, head east through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, home to Mount Washington, the tallest mountain on the East Coast. The last major stop of the loop is Maine’s Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, ME. See all Acadia has to offer whether it’s hiking, biking the famous carriage roads, or exploring the coast by boat for a few days before returning to Boston via Portland, ME.
While there is plenty to do in New England any time of year, visit in summer for the best weather and to enjoy the coastal beaches or in fall for a tour through New England’s famous fall foliage. Along the way don’t forget to try some of the food New England is famous for, including Maine lobsters and New England clam chowder!
Recommended Trip Length
We recommend taking about 10 full days to road trip New England in depth.
4 thoughts on “7 Epic East Coast USA Road Trip Routes”
In 2007 we drove part of one of your routes from Savannah (where we spent three nights) to Charleston (where we also spent a night). I had just read “Midnight In The garden of Good and Evil” (John Berendts) which brought extra meaning to Savannah’s sights. It was such a pretty city that allegedly in 1866 General Sherman refused to torch it as had been his custom in other towns.
On Tybee Island we had a dellicious crab meal at The Crab Shack. Hopefully it’s still there. I loved their novel idea of having a hole in the centre of the table where the food scraps are simply dropped where they fall into a bin.
On the way to Charleston, Beaufort is also a pleasant stop with a delicious chocolate shop and pretty houses.
The ferry to Fort Sumter IMO is a must for history buffs being where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired.
Love that part of the country! Savannah is one of our favorites, I’d like to keep going back forever.
Great blog packed with fantastic ideas for my as yet unplanned US road trips whenever we get back to a new normal for travelling. I’m thinking of combining my chosen road trips with some of the best rail journeys and thought about starting in New York across to San Francisco by Amtrak then drive to my next train and so on. Have you ever done this to get around the US or do you have you any route suggestions? Also, is interchanging between road and rail achievable? I’m looking at staying for no less than two months my idea being to cover many miles by train being far cheaper than renting a car for the whole time. Many thanks.
Hi Kev! Honestly, traveling by rail in the US is, generally speaking, very expensive and very inefficient. You can technically do it, but it’s usually much more about the story of crossing the US by train than the fact that it’s a good way to see the country.
You can combine driving and trains, but again, it would be pricey to do so, especially if you’re consistently dropping your rental cars off at a different location than you pick them up at (many companies charge a fee for that).
That being said, 2 months exploring the US is an incredible trip and you can see a lot in that time!