Skip to Content

11 BEST Southern USA Road Trip Ideas

Victoria Green

Unfamiliar destinations are often on most peoples’ bucket lists, but right at home, the best Southern USA road trips can rival them for sheer pleasure.

There are beautiful sights to see on our doorstep, and road trips are a fantastic way to explore them. Each mile of landscape unfolds in front of you without you having to focus purely on the destination.

In this post, I’m going to whet your appetite, encourage you to pack the essentials in the trunk, and set off on a south US road trip, on your own, with your partner, with a friend, or with the whole family, to discover with your own eyes incredible places to visit in America.

11 Best Southern USA Road Trips

Here are some of our favorite road trips in the southern USA in no particular order. For more American road trips, check out our country-wide guide.

Road Trip 1 – Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway

Cotton in the Arkansas delta

The “Sunken Lands” was created by the New Madrid earthquakes over three months from December 1811 to February 1812. The land dropped by over 50 feet, forming huge lakes such as Big Lake in Arkansas.

Only 52 miles long, the Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway has fascinating stops all along its route and is a favorite cycling path through the Arkansas Delta. 

But then, who says a road trip must be made by car? The roadway is a loop off the Great River Road National Scenic Byway and starts close to the town of Tyronza with its Tenant Farmers Museum. Some of the “must-see” stops along the way include:

The Marked Tree Delta Area Museum in Marked Tree is a general history museum with artifacts and memorabilia reflecting 2000 years of Arkansas Delta history. (History buffs will love it!)

You’ll find quaint replica stores and buildings in Lepanto, creating a real-life portrait of Delta history. Also, in Lepanto, you can see the original Painted House used in the John Grisham movie of the same name.

Hampson Museum State Park shouldn’t be missed, with its excavated ruins of a Nodena tribal village dating back 600 years.

Parker Pioneer Homestead. is a rebuilt 19th-century Pioneer Village just south of Harrisburg, Arkansas, with more than 20 buildings and artifacts from the past. You will probably find an event underway that you can enjoy, as they run all year round. 

Lake Poinsett State Park – a peaceful retreat on the banks of the lake, with camping and RV facilities, great for fishing, boating, or relaxing.

Road Trip 2 – Mississippi Gulf Coast Scenic Byway

Fishing pier at Gulf Port, Harrison County Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico

The Mississippi Scenic Byways Program (MSBP) has identified fourteen scenic byways it is developing and marketing, but I will take you on just one South US road trip.

The Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is the 18-mile stretch of Highway 90, beginning at Bay St. Louis and passing through the three southern cities of Pass Christian, Long Beach, and Gulfport. 

The byway is the main access road for these downtown areas, containing the cities’ history and culture. 

In addition, there are over 13 miles of Gulf shores and 30 miles of walks to enjoy, so there are plenty of sights to enjoy on a road trip along this byway.

In Bay St. Louis, the pristine white beach is the main attraction, but there are some excellent restaurants, and Creole cuisine is not to be missed. 

If you’re into culture and history, make sure you get to the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum, which is dedicated to understanding the work of the folk artist and painter Alice Moseley. 

In Biloxi, visit Beauvoir, the retirement home, library, and museum of Thomas Jefferson, or take a tour around another “must-see,” the Biloxi Lighthouse. The Grammy Museum Mississippi is a definite for lovers of the country music and blues of the Mississippi Delta. 

And then there are the famous pristine beaches of Ship Island, only 11 miles off the coast. 

In Long Beach, Mississippi – of course, the beach! Voted a “Can’t-Miss” beach on the East Coast by CNN, the beautiful white sand and warm sea make this a definite stop on your deep south US road trip.

All this and so much more packed into an 18-mile coastal road trip in the southern USA – you could do it in a day or take a week. The Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is a definite winner.

Road Trip 3 – Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina

A large North Carolina Outer Banks area forms a part of a National Park called the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is hands down one of the best places to visit in the South.

Covering over 70 miles of coastline and with 30,000 acres of beaches, it became the first proclaimed national seashore in 1953 and has since become a “go-to” tourist destination and a favorite southern USA road trip. 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was created to protect parts of three barrier islands: Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island. 

All three islands provide hiking trails, beaches, and sightseeing opportunities. The long, hot summers and short, mild winters attract thousands of tourists, making it a popular road trip in the southern USA.

Top sights in Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras has won several awards as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the United States by Forbes, CNN, and the Travel Channel. 

Battered by hurricanes and strong winds in season, Cape Hatteras nevertheless offers you an exciting south US road trip, and it’s the closest you’ll get to Bermuda without flying there!

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum has no shortage of artifacts, with over 600 wrecks off Hatteras Island providing a fascinating source of the material.

Climbing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a “must-do” if you’re up to the 200-step climb to the top of the tallest lighthouse in the US – the view is worth it! (It’s allowed all year except winter)

Not many southern USA road trips allow you to put your car on a ferry for a free ride to an island, but it’s a worthwhile and novel chance to visit Ocracoke Island and explore its quaint stores and galleries.

There are lots more to see and do, but hopefully, I’ve managed to whet your appetite for this unique South US road trip.

Road Trip 4 – Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely one of the best Southern USA road trips
Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely one of the best Southern USA road trips

This Southern USA road trip is America’s favorite, and for a good reason – Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park—two excellent East Coast national parks that are true landmarks in America.

Winding 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, this is the longest road trip in the southern USA and will take 12 to 13 hours to drive if you do it non-stop. 

You should give yourself seven days to take in the best Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.

Natural Bridge At Milepost 61.6

This impressive limestone archway spans 90 feet, is 200 feet high, and was carved out of the landscape over centuries by water flowing through the valley. 

Stop here and enjoy the majestic views of forests, mountain peaks, and green meadows. 

Apple Orchard Mountain At Milepost 76.5

This is a “must stop” moment because it’s the highest point on the parkway. There are no apple trees, but there is a short hike to the beautiful Apple Orchard Falls if you have some time to spare.

Mabry Mill At Milepost 176.1

The most picturesque setting makes the old mill and blacksmith shop the most photographed site on this Southern USA road trip. 

Local history, Appalachian culture, and an excellent restaurant make this an enriching break in your journey. 

Blue Ridge Music Center At Milepost 213

Combining a museum and an outdoor amphitheater, the Blue Ridge Music Center hosts midday music sessions featuring bluegrass, blues, and country music for road trippers and those who love the fiddle and banjo. 

The Blowing Rock At Milepost 291

The Blowing Rock is a fascinating natural phenomenon and the oldest attraction in North Carolina. 

It’s a rock formation at the height of 4,000 feet that causes air to shoot up, forming plume-like clouds and, in winter, forcing snow to fall upwards. 

The town of Blowing Rock is called The Crown of the Blue Ridge, is picturesque, and boasts an art and history museum and a memorial park with a preserved country estate and mansion.

The magnificent Linville Falls, Rough Ridge, and the iconic Biltmore Estate are also essential stops on this, the most popular of all Southern USA road trips.

Road Trip 5 – Alabama Black Belt

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama

A road trip in the southern USA that’s uniquely interesting, not so much for the scenery but for its rich and sometimes complicated history and some of the best food in the country – that’s what the Alabama Black Belt offers. 

About 160 miles of driving will take you from Tuscaloosa in the west to Auburn in the east, with some interesting stops along the way. 

Montgomery And The Rosa Parks Museum

The state capital and where the famous year-long protest against segregation on busses, Montgomery, houses the Rosa Parks Museum honoring the woman who led the protests and was arrested as a result.

The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Dexter Parsonage Museum

The restored church building where Martin Luther King Jnr preached, and the home he shared with Coretta Scott King is open to visitors and gives the background to their struggle for civil rights and against institutional segregation.

The Hank Williams Museum

Also in Montgomery, the Hank Williams Museum is based in the home of the famous musician of the 1940s and ’50s, who is considered the father of modern country music. 

This exhibition includes many artifacts, his music, and his favorite blue Cadillac. 

Selma And The Edmund Pettus Bridge

Spend some time in Selma, on the banks of the Alabama River, and the site of the Bloody Sunday attack on civil rights protesters, which occurred on March 7th, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus bridge. 

This resulted in the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25th, with 25,000 protesters, a historic turning point for the civil rights movement. This famous bridge is now a designated National Heritage site. 

Camden And The Arts Center

About an hour from Selma, the small town of Camden is the home of the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center, where you will find exhibitions of the work of local artists like the well-known Charlie Lucas and quilter Mary Margaret Pettway. 

Road Trip 6 – Charleston to Savannah

The Regency-styled mansion The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters in Savannah, Georgia
The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters – Rachael Martin/ Shutterstock

Both Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, are delightful cities to spend some time in, so plan to spend a couple of days in each at the beginning and end of your journey. 

Two hours and 108 miles separate these two major cities. A day can quickly be filled with a memorable South USA road trip, with some fascinating stops along the route.

Fort Sumter National Park – This island fort in Charleston Bay is reached via ferry and is a “must do” on this road trip. Fort Sumter was where the first shots were fired in the American Civil War and has a rich military history.

Hilton Head Island requires a brief detour, but it’s well worth it. Apart from the beautiful beaches and famous golf courses, “must-sees” on this part of your road trip in the Southern USA include the Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum and the Coastal Discovery Museum, which features heritage buildings and lovely themed gardens.

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor – learn about the history and culture of the Gullah Geechee people, enslaved West and Central Africans. 

The corridor is not a single site but comprises several places of cultural significance that can be visited on your south US road trip from Charleston to Savannah. 

These include Phillip Simmons House and Museum, Charleston, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, and the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.

Tybee Island – this barrier island and small city near Savannah is known for its wide, sandy beaches, including South Beach, with a pier and pavilion. 

In the island’s north, Fort Screven has 19th-century concrete gun batteries and the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. The still-functioning 18th-century lighthouse has been rebuilt many times. 

Road Trip 7 – Cajun Country

Jungle Gardens in Avery Island, Louisiana

Louisiana is so much more than Mardi Gras! Like many Southern USA road trips, a 150-mile adventure through Louisiana’s Cajun Country is an adventure into history and unique cultures. 

Also known as Acadiana, the region is the historical home of many French-speaking Canadians who were expelled by the British in the mid-18th century and settled in this part of Louisiana.

The name “Cajun” is derived from “Acadien,” and the cuisine and culture associated with the word still have powerful French connections. 

From Lafayette, there are many exciting stops where one can delve into the past, enjoy Cajun cuisine and southern classics, listen to music, and soak up the culture.

Vermilionville in Lafayette is a faithful recreation of an 18th-century Cajun village built along the bayou, which gives an insight into what life was like for the Canadian exiles who settled there. Sample Cajun cuisine at the Vermilionville Cafe

St. Martinville, a historic small town in Louisiana filled with beautiful old homes and buildings, is considered the mother city of Cajun culture. 

The St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church stands in the center of the town, surrounded by majestic oak trees and picturesque houses. There is also an Acadian Museum that’s well worth a visit.

Avery Island is a few miles south and is known as the home of Tabasco Sauce. A fascinating tour covers the Tabasco experience, including tasting and Cajun cooking at Restaurant 1868 and a walk through Jungle Gardens. 

Road Trip 8 – Chattahoochee And Oconee National Forests

Helen to Brasstown Bald is one of the best Southern USA road trips
Helen to Brasstown Bald is one of the best Southern USA road trips – Sean Pavone /

These two forests are the only designated national forests in Georgia and cover 867,000 acres north of the state. 

A southern USA road trip on the scenic byways in the forests will reward you with some dramatic scenery and a glimpse at the rich history and culture of the area. 

While some of the roads are paved or well-surfaced, there are occasions when you need a vehicle with high clearance, so ensure that you’re driving a car that can negotiate some somewhat tricky terrain.

One drive I can recommend is from Helen, a small former sawmill town with strong Bavarian roots up to the point of Georgia’s highest peak, Brasstown Bald

This 40-mile loop leads you past the Unicoi State Park, the Anna Ruby Falls, Helton Creek Falls, and Lake Winfield Scott, and the scenery is spectacular. 

Suppose you have time on this South US road trip to do some hiking. In that case, there are some genuinely remarkable trails, some moderately difficult but most straightforward, and camping, fishing, and swimming facilities at many stops.

Road Trip 9 – Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg is one of the best places in the US
Church in Fredericksburg, TX – ShengYing Lin /

When they tell you everything is bigger and better in Texas, you better believe it! 

You’ll need at least four days to make this Southern USA road trip, and even that will give you only a taste of what Texas Hill Country has to offer. 

All we can do is give you an idea of some places you should not miss and some of the most enjoyable ways of spending your time. The Hill Country is in central and south Texas, west of Austin and north of San Antonio.

Marble Falls – nestled right in the center of Hill Country, this small city makes an ideal base for your 4-day road-tripping but also has a lot to offer from fishing, boating, and swimming on Lake Marble Falls, shopping or dining in the historic downtown precinct.

Visit one or more State Parks – Colorado Bend, Longhorn Cavern, or Inks Lake – each park is unique in its own way.

Krause Springs – 32 springs feeding into an artificial pool, a butterfly garden, and a perfect family stopover on your road trip in the southern USA.

Despite its name, Iron Wolf Ranch and Distillery is a great family venue, with a kid’s playground, live music, food trucks, and the handcrafted spirits they produce here.

Fredericksburg Wine RouteWith over 50 wineries in the area, there’s no shortage of wine-tasting venues in the Texas Wine Country, including the Wine Garage, which combines an acceptable range of wines with a superb classic car collection. Wine tours here.

Road Trip 10 – Washington DC to Anna Maria Island

Aerial view of the beautiful Bean Point beach in Florida
Bean Point Beach in Anna Maria Island- Noah Densmore / Shutterstock

The ultimate Southern USA road trip itinerary – just under 1,000 miles from DC to Anna Maria Island in Florida.

I’d suggest making the journey in three days, but it can be done comfortably with only one overnight stop if time is at a premium for you.

Day One – From Washington to North Carolina

I suggest a stopover in Outer Banks, North Carolina, after a 306-mile drive from Washington, DC, which should take about 6 hours. 

Alternatively, stay over in Raleigh if you don’t fancy the road to the Outer Banks (some people find the dunes and sand a bit of a problem). 

Day Two – North Carolina to Savannah Georgia

Another similar distance of around 270 miles will get you to the historic city of Savannah, where you can explore the historic district, stroll through the manicured parks (like Forsyth Park and Chippewa Square from Forrest Gump), and eat at excellent riverside restaurants. 

Savannah is also known for being one of the most haunted cities in the US, so be sure to go on a ghost tour in town.

Day Three – Georgia to Anna Maria Island

Three hundred and eighty-two miles and just over six hours of driving will take you from Savannah to the Gulf Coast beaches and blue seas of one of Florida’s prime resorts, Anna Maria Island.

But the excellent beaches, restaurants, and vacation rentals on Anna Maria Island will make everything well worth the trip.

Suggested Stops Along The Way

Richmond, Virginia – one of the oldest cities in the US and steeped in history. Stop over to explore the American Civil War Museum or Battlefield Park.

Jekyll Island – It is one of the Sea Islands and one of the Golden Isles of Georgia barrier islands. The island is owned by the State of Georgia and run by a self-sustaining, self-governing body. 

Jacksonville – it’s one of our favorite cities on the banks of the New River, with a historic downtown area, a short stop over here is well worth the time.

Fayetteville – The home of Fort Bragg, a city with a great deal of history, situated on the Cape Fear River with its beautiful botanical garden.

Road Trip 11 – Natchez Trace Parkway

Elvis Presley singles Recorded in RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee
RCA Studio B – jejim/ Shutterstock

Natchez Trace Parkway’s 444-mile stretch of three beautiful states tracing the same route bison would follow north for their salt licks.

Please educate the USA road trip-loving community if there’s any better way to cruise from Mississippi’s Natchez to Nashville in Tennessee

The beauty and nod to simpler times of the rural southeast are great to posture you for a more kicked-back vacation

Make your way through the hallowed grounds of RCA Studio B, which should remind you of the contributors to making Nashville the capital of country music. 

Although the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is great fun for the whole family, the studio has a leg-up on a variety of sorts. 

It once had the sliding feet of Elvis Presley recording “Now or Never,” so go the day you get there because the following day might be too late—wink. 

Who doesn’t love some guuuud fixin of southern barbeque to whup their tastebuds into shape? Bless your heart; the complaint line is down to the left. Visit the Pig Out Inn BBQ for good wood-fired BBQ served over the counter.

Another must-see for the military and history buffs is the Vicksburg National Military Park to see the USS Cairo, one of the few remaining first American ironclad warships.

More Road Trips in South USA You Should Check Out

Here are some other Deep South road trip ideas:

Nashville to Atlanta – two beautiful cities with lots of attractions and things to offer

Houston to Baton Rouge and New Orleans (so you can stroll around the French Quarter, hang out at Bourbon Street, and enjoy the southern hospitality)

Charlotte to Nashville (Music City) through Asheville, with a day trip to Pigeon Forge (and Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park) and Knoxville

Oklahoma to Amarillo (Route 66) – a short but enjoyable Southern road trip

Tampa to Miami – one of the best road trips in Florida! Besides, you can make a stop at the fantastic Everglades National Park (one of the best Florida national parks!)

Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Memphis (former home of Elvis Presley) and Nashville

Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain/Rock City and Tennessee Aquarium, anyone?) to Asheville

Did you enjoy this article about road trips in the southern USA? Then share it with your friends!