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13 Best East Coast USA Road Trip Ideas

Charlotte Bailey

Many American East Coast road trips are among the world’s most beautiful routes, and rightly so because the journeys lead travelers through stunning beaches, vibrant cities, and numerous historic sites.

Choosing the best route can be challenging due to the variety; however, you’ll find in this article only the best East Coast road trips for you and your family. 

A road trip along the American East Coast is an unbeatable experience, allowing you to experience untouched and historical communities and travel far off the usual beaten track and numerous natural wonders. 

13 Best East Coast Road Trips

Here are our favorite East Coast road trips in no particular order. Enjoy! 

1. Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway is by far one of the best East Coast road trips
Blue Ridge Parkway is by far one of the best East Coast road trips

Location: Virginia and North Carolina
Distance: 469 miles

Blue Ridge Parkway’s circular 469 miles has its northern entrance and exit in this USA road trip’s cultural hub, Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Home to one of only eleven cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in America, Charlottesville sees you off on a southern-drawl pace and welcomes you back at the drop of a hat.

The winding parkway has been one of our country’s must-ride routes since its 1935 opening, firmly making it one of the best US road trips. 

The road trip’s green plateaus, Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains’ gentle-hilled meadows land a point for the journey over the destination matchup. 

Even the speed limit hardly reaches over 45 mph, directing you casually through stutter-inducing mountain vistas.

Between Shenandoah National Park from northern Virginia’s Rockfish Gap and Smoky Mountains Nation Park at Cherokee, you’re sure to glimpse some deer, black bears, or other animals leisurely going about the plentiful and season-dependent flora. 

The road trip might not be sprawling, but you can get an idea of the wonders on offer through just a few of the possible stops that you can make. 

Stretch your legs on a walking tour of the quaint Henry River Mill Village that now includes a cinematic depiction of District 12 in the Hunger Games film franchise in its rich lore.

Stretch your lungs with fresh air and a short hike in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina/Tennessee. Remember to capture a memory at Clingman Dome, Tennessee’s accredited highest peak, and the tall limestone arch at Natural Bridge.

Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke and the Mile High Swinging Bridge overlooking Grandfather Mountain are some other stops that’ll make your road trip one always to remember.

Hands down, this is one of the best road trips on the USA East Coast!

2. New England Loop

Newport is one of the cool USA bucket list destinations

Location: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine
Distance: at least 180 miles, but as long as you want

Most of us have been on a road trip at some point during our lives; however, a road trip vacation is something we must experience at least a few times.

The New England Loop is one of the most spectacular and highly rated East Coast road trips you could take, with the enormous and tightly packed region covering more than 72,000 miles in total.

To cover the entire New England Loop, you’d have to cover an average of 130 miles per day for two or three weeks, traveling more than 1,200 miles. 

However, you could also take a quick drive through each state, totaling 180 miles, which would take less than a day to cover by road. 

New England is one of the most beautiful places in the world, offering stunning coastal views, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, and numerous Instagram-worthy lighthouses. 

While many routes are available throughout New England, we recommend taking a loop that starts and ends in Boston. 

Starting in Boston, we recommend immediately traveling southwest to Newport’s coast (only after having a clam chowder, of course!). 

Newport is a must-see during this road trip, especially the Newport Mansion, which is a sight to behold. Next, travel along the coast until you reach the historically significant site known as Mystic Seaport. 

After you have fully experienced what the quaint town of Mystic has to offer, we recommend you travel in the direction of Western Massachusetts, stopping off at Burlington, Lake Champlain, the striking, beautiful White Mountains, and Mount Washington. 

Finally, it would be best to explore the unparalleled Acadia National Park in Maine before taking a scenic drive back up the coast until you reach Boston again. 

While the New England Loop will require an enormous amount of time to properly experience, its unmatched beauty, variety, and historical significance make it one of the best East Coast road trips despite intense competition.

3. Miami to Key West

Miami, Florida is one of the most romantic getaways in the United States

Location: Florida
Distance: 159 miles

The route from Miami to Key West is one of the most mesmerizing road trips in Florida, let alone in the south (yes, it’s one of the best Southern USA road trips).

This scenic drive will take you from bustling Miami to the splendid Florida Keys, all while offering you secluded beaches, palm trees, historic sites, and fabulous state parks throughout. 

You will literally find something worth seeing every mile of the way as you drive south along this part of the Sunshine State. 

Begin your adventure in Miami, where you can enjoy its sandy beaches, restaurants, and shopping scene.

Outdoor lovers can head to Oleta River State Park for hiking, biking, kayaking, or detaching in the Everglades to search for alligators. 

Whatever you decide, we recommend staying in town for at least two or three nights so you can enjoy the city and its natural surroundings.

Once you start driving south on Highway 1, you’ll find numerous attractions on the way, so you’ll have plenty of reasons to make stops to stretch your legs out as you make your way from the mainland to Key West.

You’ll drive past beautiful beaches and unique state parks like the underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Bahia Honda State Park, Rain Barrel Artisan Village, Dolphin Research Center, Turtle Hospital, and plenty more!

Pssst: Take the 2.5-hour ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park and experience some of Key West’s best beaches! (And one of the best national parks in Florida!) 

4. Acadia National Park Loop – a short but enjoyable East Coast road trip

Bridge along Park Loop Road in fall. Acadia National Park in foliage season.

Location: Maine
Distance: 27 miles

The 27-mile Park Loop Road bends around the east part of Mount Desert Island and joins Acadia National Park’s shimmering lakes, rocky cliffs, mountains, and gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

You can easily access some of the park’s best destinations: Sieur de Mohns, Otter Point, Jordan Pond, Cadillac Mountain, and Sand Beach. 

There’s never a dull moment when you drive Park Loop Road as dusk and dawn can see an increase in wildlife merrily crossing this section of one of the best East Coast road trip roads. 

Start your drive at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center before moving 3-miles south on Paradise Hill Road to start the loop. 

The Sieur de Mohns start is a one-way driving direction, so check signs to avoid any “You shall not pass!” moments.

Also, be sure to go on a hike or two in Acadia because you won’t regret it.

5. Outer Banks Road Trip

Outer banks at nags head, North Carolina

Location: North Carolina

Distance: about 130 miles

The Outer Banks is one of the shorter East Coast road trips you can take; however, it is often thought of as being one of the most scenic and majestic imaginable.

The Outer Banks Road trip is 130 miles long and should take between four and five hours to experience properly. 

However, the road trip can last up to seven hours if you want to take a ferry ride of two, further enhancing your experience. 

The best time to explore the Outer Banks, known as one of the most highly rated East Coast USA road trips, is during fall or spring, as there are fewer people to contend with while the temperatures are far more moderate. 

While you can travel through the Outer Banks in a few hours to fully experience the road trip’s unparalleled beauty, we recommend taking a two-day adventure. 

Along the Outer Banks Road Trip, we recommend you stop at a few must-see locations. 

The historically significant site known as The Wright Brothers National Memorial should be your first stop, followed by the Elizabethan Gardens, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Nags Head Beach, and Hatteras Island Beach, before finishing off at Pea Island. 

While the Outer Banks Road trip along the American East Coast is relatively short, its majestic scenery and historical significance make it one of the best options possible.

6. Providence, RI To Provincetown MA

Awesome view of Provincetown, Massachusets

Location: Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Distance: about 120 miles

The road trip between Providence, Rhode Island, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, is a beautiful yet quick road trip taking 3 hours to complete while covering just over 120 miles.

While the road trip is on the shorter side regarding the American East Coast, the route between Providence, Rhode Island, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, is an unmissable experience. 

There are many different cities and historical sites to see; however, we recommend starting at Newport and finishing at the eastern tip of Sandwich to obtain the best experience possible. 

Newport is a highly recommended location and has become a must-see for anyone traveling along one of the East Coast USA road trips. After stopping at Newport, continue to Plymouth, best known for hosting the Pilgrim Memorial State Park. 

Experiencing everything Plymouth offers should take a few hours, with Falmouth being the next essential stop.

Falmouth is famed for its stunning beaches, extravagant estates, and contemporary art forms. However, do not get stuck at Falmouth for too long, as the next stop, Sandwich, is the most historically significant and oldest town in Massachusetts.

Moreover, Sandwich is located within Barnstable County, making it one of Cape Cod’s and the American East Coast’s most unmissable experiences.

7. Portland To Bar Harbor

Interesting boat docked at the harbor at Bar Harbor, Maine
Rocky coast and view of boats in the harbor at Bar Harbor, Maine

Location: Maine

Distance: about 180 miles

The distance between Portland and Bar Harbor is just under 180 miles, with most agreeing that it is one of the most beautiful road trips on the East Coast, if not the entire country.

The road between Portland and Bar Harbor is awe-inspiring, with more than 100 miles of untouched and dramatic scenery. 

The unparalleled dramatic scenery is perfectly combined with the friendliest people imaginable, outstanding fresh seafood, beautiful lighthouses, and numerous detours are just a few reasons this route is a must-see for people of all ages.

It should take just under four hours to complete the road trip between Portland and Bar Harbor without any stops. However, we recommend stopping at a few of the route’s best locations to obtain the full experience.

The first stop should be at Bangor, Maine, best known for the outstanding Discovery Museum. 

After stopping at Bangor, we recommend you visit the Mount Desert Oceanarium, the Paul Bunyan Statue, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, and the Fort Knox Observatory.

While in Bar Habor, be sure to grab a lobster roll, go whale watching, or hike some trails.

Many underrate the unmatched beauty and scenery of the route between Portland and Bar Harbor, although it’s truly a must-see if you are planning an East Coast road trip.

8. Washington, DC to NYC through Philadelphia

Washington is one of the best places to visit in the US

Location: Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York

Distance: about 240 miles

The road trip between Washington DC to Philadelphia, New York City, is just over 240 miles in length, although it will take between 2 and three days to obtain the best experience possible.

While the number of appropriate detours between Washington DC to Philadelphia and New York City is endless, we recommend that your first stop is in the largest city in Maryland, Baltimore, where there are endless shopping, dining, and other activities for the entire family to experience.

After fully experiencing what Horseshoe offers, you should travel to the National Aquarium, Strasburg Rail Road, Oriole Park, and Terrapin Nature Park. 

In addition, we recommend you stop at the Inner Harbor, which is located just inside Baltimore’s state lines. 

The natural beauty and unmatched variety make this one of the most desirable East Coast USA road trips of all time.

Baltimore is one of America’s most underrated and historically significant cities, meaning everyone, especially American citizens, must visit it at least once during their lifetimes. 

Following the stop in Baltimore, commit to stopping in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Annapolis Historic District, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, And Staten Island, New York.

Once you get to NYC, take your time to stretch your legs around Central Park, visit an observation deck, check out the neon signs at Times Square, cruise to Ellis Island, and photograph the Statue of Liberty, which is one of the major attractions in North America.

9. St Augustine, FL To Savannah GA

Elegant fountain in Forsyth Park in Savannah, Gerogia
Forsyth Park Fountain in Savannah, Georgia

Location: Florida and Georgia

Distance: about 170 miles

One of the most stunning East Coast road trips is between St Augustine, Florida, and the historic city of Savannah, Georgia

At just over 170 miles in length, it should take you just over three hours to complete if you don’t stop.

You could visit many different cities, locations, beaches, and national parks during this road trip. 

However, while you can skip some less important stops, we recommend stopping at Fernandina Beach. 

Fernandina Beach is situated just inside Nassau County, with it being accepted as being the most northern city along Florida’s stunning Atlantic coast.

Another location that has become a must-see is Jacksonville, which is also perfectly situated along Florida’s Atlantic coast and is the most densely populated state by area. 

While Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach are essential stops along the way, we recommend stopping a few more times to obtain the most authentic experience.

One of the most highly rated destinations along the way is St John the Baptist’s Cathedral Basilica, an awe-inspiring early 19th-century Roman Catholic Church. 

Moreover, Forsyth Park and Tybee Island Light Museum and Light Station are a must-see for anyone traveling through the region.

10. NYC To Boston Loop

Historically significant Paul Revere Monument along Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts
Paul Revere Monument in Boston, Massachusetts

Location: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

Distance: about 210 miles

The New York City to Boston Loop is one of the most essential and popular road trips on the East Coast. The loop is just over 210 miles and should take 5 hours to complete without stopping.

There are hundreds of unmissable locations along the NYC to Boston Loop; however, we highly recommend multiple stops. 

Your pitstops should always include Providence, the Bronx, Concord, Hartford, Springfield, Flushing, and Worcester.

While you don’t have to stop at all the locations mentioned above, fulfilling at least three to five of them is vital in obtaining the most authentic and best experience possible.

Moreover, hundreds of different activities are waiting for you throughout your road-tripping journey as you obtain a truly unique experience as you watch a baseball game at the Yankee Stadium, visit the Bronx Zoo, check out Fenway Park, and even view the Met Cloisters if you are open to a truly unparalleled experience.

11. Raleigh, NC, To Savannah GA

Savannah is one of the best places in the USA to visit in November

Location: North Carolina and Georgia

Distance: about 320 miles

The road between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, is just over 320 miles long. It should take under six hours to complete without stopping along the way.

However, the unmatched scenery between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, means that you should commit to at least a few stops between the two destinations to obtain the best possible experience. 

Most locals and tourists agree that the route is one of the most untouched road trips on the East Coast.

Fayetteville and Beaufort are the highest-rated places to visit along this road trio, which includes some of the most pristine, stunning, and awe-inspiring scenery imaginable.

In addition, Gregory Vineyards, the Ava Gardner Museum, and the Carolina Premium Outlets are locations you must visit to obtain the best and most authentic experience possible.

12. Wilmington, NC, To Jacksonville, FL

City Skyline of Jacksonville in Florida

Location: North Carolina and Florida

Distance: about 450 miles

The road between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Jacksonville is just over 450 miles and should take just over 7 hours to complete without stopping once along the way.

While you can travel between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Jacksonville in under eight hours, we recommend a few stops along the way, allowing you to obtain an unmatched and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The road trip route between Wilmington and Jacksonville is relatively far compared to other top American East Coast road trips; however, it is also one of the most enjoyable, scenic, and spectacular. 

While there are thousands of high-quality and desirable locations along the way, we highly recommend stopping at Beaufort, Savannah (Forrest Gump, anyone?), and Amelia Island.

Moreover, other highly rated locations along the way, such as Holden Beach, Gillis Hill Farm, and the Moores Creek National Battlefield, are highly recommended. 

While it may take a little more than a day trip or two days to fully account for all the different locations offered along this route, it is well worth taking the extra time as it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone who has not been there before.

13. St Augustine To Miami

Miami is one of the best places to visit in November in the USA

Location: Florida

Distance: about 310 miles

While it is indisputable that the East Coast of the United States is a part of the world you must travel through, many people underrate the unparalleled beauty of the route between St Augustine and Miami.

St Augustine, Florida, and Miami distance are just over 310 miles long, taking just over five and a half hours to complete without stopping, with many considering the route to be one of the most beautiful East Coast road trips.

While you don’t have to stop on the road trip between St Augustine and Miami to encounter significant beauty and awe-inspiring mountain ranges, we recommend committing to a few stops to obtain the most thorough experience possible.

Despite thousands of high-quality and desirable locations along the 300-mile journey, we highly recommend stopping at Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Kennedy Space Center, and the Aventura Mall. 

You cannot say you had one of the purest East Coast road trips experience without fully experiencing the three stops mentioned above.

Of course, don’t forget South Beach, the best part of Miami Beach and one of the best East Coast beaches. No East Coast road trip itinerary is complete without a stop here.

However, many other locations, such as the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Stetson Mansion, may be more suitable for younger people, young couples, and young families. 

While there are thousands of suitable activities and locations for people of all ages, visiting as many as possible will allow you to obtain multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

More East Coast USA Road Trips Worth Checking Out 

Charleston, South Carolina (don’t miss Kiawah Island and Folly Beach), to Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Jekyll Island to Atlanta, Georgia

Washington D.C. to Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

We hope you enjoyed these East Coast road trip ideas! Be sure to share it with your friends!