We just published the Best West Coast Road Trips and thought it only fair to now talk about the Best East Coast Road Trips. For generations, the concept of the “road trip” was stamped into the North American imagination. Packing up the car with your favorite tunes, snacks, and comfy clothes and hitting the open road is something that people look forward to all year. Some people fondly remember hitting the road with their family when they were young, while some others might remember getting their license as a youth, picking up their friends, and driving out to explore the world. No matter how you conceptualize the idea of the “road trip”, the fun of exploring a new path and seeing new things is what makes traveling fun.
While the West Coast has beaches and mountains, the East Coast of the U.S is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Explore the cities of the northeast, the changing colors of the leaves in the autumn, or the Atlantic beach resorts in the summertime. If you’re looking to hit the road, check out these top East Coast road trip ideas.
Boston to Acadia, Maine
At its fastest, this route goes about five hours and spans over 250 miles. But that is contingent on whether or now you’re stopping and since you will be going through one of America’s most historic cities, chances are you’ll be hanging out in Boston for a while. Start your adventure off in Boston and take in the sights of the city. If you’re looking to travel on the cheap, Boston has plenty of free tours and self-guided treks such as the Freedom Trail which will guide you through Boston’s 16 most important historic sites. Stroll through the museums and indulge in some art and culture or better yet, stroll through iconic Little Italy and indulge in some cannolis. Have a picnic in Boston Commons or check out the harborside and have some legendary clam chowder.
Traveling north from Boston, you’ll end up passing through some gorgeous spots like the Mystic River, several historic buildings, and lighthouses. The road continues through historic Salem, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and finally Maine. Once in Maine, you’ll head past Portland, Augusta, and Bar Harbor. Portland is a great little city to spend a day or two exploring and spending time by the coast until you’re ready to head to Acadia National Park where you can surround yourself with the beauty of a New England forest.
New York to Newport
The road from Manhattan to Newport, Rhode Island encompasses both the thrill and excitement of spending some time in the big city followed by hitting the road and enjoying the calm and peacefulness of Newport. Starting your adventure in New York, there are an obvious plethora of things to do in the city. You probably don’t need a guide to tell you to grab a bagel, stroll through Central Park, check out the MoMA, and go shopping in Brooklyn. Seeing as this is a road trip, once you’re in New York, you should actually ditch the whole driving thing entirely because New York City is notorious for being awful to drive in.
Once you’re ready to hit the road, head out going north on FDR Drive and take in the sights of the East River towards the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge over the Harlem River. The highway runs northeast and into Westchester County where you can enjoy some less urban views and a more tree-filled green landscape. Along the way, you’ll pass through Long Island along the shoreline and into Connecticut and New Haven. If you’re looking for a pit stop along the way, check out the grounds at Yale University. Continue on Interstate 95 and into Rhode Island from route 138. Once in Newport, take it easy and enjoy nights by the shore, the three-mile-long Cliff Walk, delicious fresh seafood, and the gorgeous old mansions dotting the shore.
Miami to Key West
The amazing road trips along the East Coast aren’t just relegated to the Northeast! For people looking for a short(-ish) trip along some of the most beautiful blue waters in the U.S, check out the Miami to Key West route. Starting in Miami, the trip is about a four-hour drive going along gorgeous coastal scenes and several coral and limestone islets. The key to the Keys is Florida’s Overseas Highway which is a 128-mile long highway where you can admire the views of the coast and the water. There are several interesting points of interest along the way where you can swim, kayak, or simply just admire the view. Conch Reef in Tavernier has a preservation area filled with tropical fish coral reefs that allow for some shallow snorkeling.
Once you hit the Seven-mile bridge you’ll really feel like you’re somewhere magical. Driving along the narrow and long bridge will make it feel like you’re gliding along the water. Once you hit Key West, you’ll feel like you’re somewhere else entirely. Stroll along the beaches and work on your tan. Admire the sunsets over the water or enjoy a couple of slices of Key Lime pie.
Be aware though. Key West can be fun, but over crowded with tourists. Many times the best part is the actual trip itself. And if there is an accident on 7 mile bridge, that can ruin an otherwise great road adventure.
Washington D.C to Coastal North Carolina
D.C has a lot to see. The nation’s capital is absolutely loaded with some of the best museums, restaurants, and hotels that you can easily spend a few days here taking it all in. The trip from Washington D.C to the North Carolina coast is another trip that offers both a little of the city and culture and ends with nature and relaxation. Once you’ve spent enough time exploring the streets and hotspot of Washington, hit the road heading south on Interstate 395. The trip is about 280-mile southbound and offers a very scenic 6-hour drive.
Driving south from D.C you’ll pass the Jefferson Memorial then onwards over the Potomac and into Virginia. Driving through Virginia will be a treat as you’ll pass by small towns and interesting places like Fredericksburg and past the Rappahannock River. Go onto Route 17 and you’ll end up crossing the York and James Rivers and then route 168 into North Carolina. The highway meets with route 158 and from there the narrow road leads into a peninsula and you’ll reach the final destination at Nags Head. Hang out along the sand dunes, go swimming in the ocean or check out the beautiful old lighthouses along the shore. Book an accommodation overlooking the water and wake up in the morning to the sounds of sea birds and waves hitting the shore.
Wilmington to Savannah
Get a little taste of the south or make it a part of the large road trip experience by extending your trip from D.C. Spend a few days checking out the cool and historic city of Wilmington. The mile-long Riverwalk is a great place to spend an afternoon or romantic evening checking out the bars and restaurants followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride through the old quarter. If that’s not for you, Wilmington also has some pretty good beaches.
When it is time to head out towards Savannah, there are several options you can take. The fastest will be on Interstate 95 and runs about five hours and 300 miles but the more scenic way on route 17 will have you passing through some quaint small towns and picturesque scenery. Stop by and grab a snack or picnic on the beach before heading out further west. Cross the Cape Fear River and you’ll be driving inland for a while before heading back to the Atlantic shore for most of the drive there. The outer banks area makes for a perfect summer stop with its beaches and beachside towns or keep heading south and stop by the beautiful and popular Myrtle Beach. If the beach isn’t your thing, continuing into historic Charleston is an option. From there it is about two more hours until you reach Savannah. Savannah is a quintessential southern city with lots of old-world charm that you’ll love. Gorgeous and green public squares, plenty of parks, and a riverfront walk make it an excellent little city to spend a few days in.
For people looking to head out on shorter trips, there’s almost nowhere as scenic as the beautiful Cape Cod Peninsula. Heading to the area via the U.S route 6, the Cape Cod tour is one that you can do with the family and one that adults will also love. Stop by the wineries and tour the grounds while you sample a few local specialties or hop on a boat and take part in one of the oldest pastimes of the area – whale watching.
The little towns on the coast are the real charm of coastal New England and places like New Bedford and Fall River offer the quaint maritime charm the region is known for. Provincetown is a bit more snazzy and the Truro Vineyards nearby are a must-see for wine lovers and gin aficionados as they distill their own spirits made from juniper berries grown on-site. When it comes to eating, the name of the game here is seafood. Don’t hesitate on the New England clam chowder or lobster rolls.
The Ultimate East Coast
If you’ve got some time on your hands to explore all the biggest hot spots on the East Coast, why not dedicate half a month to the ultimate trek. Starting from Maine at the tip of the coast in Portland and stretching all the way down to the Florida Keys, you’ll see everything. The biggest cities, the dense colorful forests, the coasts, the mountains, and finally the beaches. The trip takes about two to three weeks but all of that can be altered as needed if you want to take more or less time.
Start your journey in Portland, Maine, and check out one of the oldest towns in the area. Enjoy the legendary Old Port district and take in all the history along with rugged beachside cliffs, towering lighthouses, and all the maritime culture Maine has to offer. Afterward, heading down towards Salem, Massachusetts you can take a step back in time and check out the infamous Witch House followed by a day or two in Boston which is a short drive away.
If spending a day in Boston wasn’t enough big city vibes for you, your next stop is the Big Apple. While you can spend days and weeks in New York and still not see it all, your best bet is to spend a day or two and plan out some museum visiting, cheap food eating, and maybe some shopping. For those looking to extend their trip, the city of brotherly love can be your next stop. Admire old Philadelphia’s cobblestone streets, grab a cheesesteak, and maybe even climb up the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and have your own Rocky moment.
Baltimore and Washington D.C are the next stops south. Enjoy the music and food in Maryland or check out the museums and tourist attractions in Washington like the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian. Heading down further south towards the Carolinas, you can be sure to enjoy a day in Charlotte or soak up some southern charm in old Charlestown. Heading out from there, stop by Savannah, Georgia for even more southern hospitality before the final leg of the tour in Florida.
If you’re traveling with the family, maybe you will want to hit up Disney or Universal Studios (we are not big Disney fans) or tour through the Everglades. If beaches and suntans are more your style, you can end your trek in Miami and enjoy South Beach, or head even further into the Florida Keys where fishing, sunning, and rum cocktails await.
Our Final Word
We have explored over 60 countries in the world, but for me there is nothing like a road trip. I try to get into the car as often as possible and head out. Whether it is just a few hours away or across the country, I truly love it. While pulling a camper, we traveled over 7000 miles in one trip. It was incredible. There is never ending adventure and secrets on the road. And I want to know them all.