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With its history, culture, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of fun along the way, the list of reasons why you should take an East Coast road trip never seems to end. Offering access to some of America’s most breathtaking road trips, this part of the United States doesn’t hold back with its views. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll see stunning vistas and landscapes along the way. And then there are the historical sights, like colonial settlements and the birthplaces of famous Americans, as well as the vibrant cities, interesting people, and incredible stories you’ll experience en route.
Not sure which part of the East Coast to hit up first? We’ve rounded up all of the best road trips.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic East Coast drives. It stretches 469 miles (755 km) through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. An iconic road trip you’ll always remember, it offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, vibrant foliage in the fall, and a variety of fun outdoor activities to try your hand at en route. Pop by Shenandoah National Park for hiking trails, waterfalls, and colorful wildlife sightings, or check out Linville Falls in North Carolina. You’ll also go past Asheville, a vibrant city in North Carolina with more than a few reasons to pull over. Check out its variety of cultural and culinary experiences that will keep you fed, watered, and entertained on the drive.
Charming fishing villages, lighthouses, and rocky beaches are just some of the sights you’ll view while driving the Maine Coast. Offering some of New England’s most picturesque views and charming small towns, this is a road trip for those who want to cover all bases. Check out Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor if you’re a keen hiker or head to Portland for art galleries, museums, and historical landmarks. Stop by the coastal town of Kennebunkport to admire the Walker’s Point estate, the summer home of former President George H.W. Bush, or visit Boothbay Harbor to dig into lobster and go on a scenic boat tour.
This road trip takes you through the tropical paradise of the Florida Keys, with miles of white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and colorful coral reefs. Not only is this drive a hotspot for scuba divers who want to explore the state’s underwater world as well as what’s above ground, but it’s also a sunshine-hued one that promises great vibes and a good tan by the time you’re finished. Stop by Key Largo for kayaking and snorkeling or step things up a notch at Islamorada, known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” It’s also a great place for fishing charters and outdoor activities, as well as access to the Theater of the Sea, a marine park with dolphin and sea lion shows.
This drive takes you along the largest estuary in the United States, with scenic views of waterways, historic towns, and wildlife. It’s a great option if your dream road trip includes history and culture with a dash of beautiful scenery thrown in for good measure. En route, admire Annapolis, the capital city of Maryland, a charming and historic place with plenty of great restaurants, shopping opportunities, and things to do. You’ll also go past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the historic waterfront town of St. Michaels and Virginia Beach, located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and a popular place to stop off for a swim.
Venture through the beautiful barrier islands of North Carolina during your East Coast road trip, famed for its miles of pristine beaches, historic lighthouses, and wild horses. A wonderful option for nature lovers, it covers a few prominent points like Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a long stretch of undeveloped beaches, dunes, and marshes with sea turtles and shorebirds, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home to the tallest natural sand dune system on the East Coast. Here, try your hand at hang-gliding or kite-flying, or just relax and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding landscape. If you’ve got extra time, pop by Hatteras Island for some fishing.
This spectacular drive takes you through the picturesque countryside of New York’s Hudson Valley, with stunning views of the Catskill Mountains. One of the best places to visit in New York, The Hudson River Valley is widely appreciated for being one of America’s most important scenic, cultural, economic, and historical regions and makes a wonderful road trip route. Visit during fall to have your drives accompanied by an endless array of warm-toned leaves. A place where you’ll be spoiled with views from start to finish, you’ll pass the Hudson River in the heart of the valley as well as a number of historic homes and estates like the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, the Olana State Historic Site, and Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate.
An unmissable East Coast road trip if you’re someone who appreciates beautiful nature, this trip covers the breathtaking landscapes of Acadia National Park in Maine, one of America’s most road trip-worthy national parks, with its rugged coastlines, pristine forests, and mountain vistas along the way. You can’t complete this road trip without spending some time at Acadia National Park, with its tranquil forests, mountains, and lakes providing a gorgeous contrast to the open road. This loop also passes through several picturesque coastal towns and villages like Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and Northeast Harbor. While road trip costs can add up, nature is free, and you’ll see plenty of it during this drive! Keep an eye out for moose, black bears, and bald eagles as you drive along.
Strap yourself in and prepare for a serious cultural drive. This East Coast route carries you through Virginia’s historic triangle, with stops at colonial-era sites like Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. The most eye-opening stop along the way has to be Colonial Williamsburg, a living museum that recreates the 18th-century colonial capital of Virginia. Here, you can explore historic buildings, try a range of local activities and learn more about its history from its costumed staff. See recreated 17th-century buildings and ships at Jamestown Settlement or learn about the lives of the colonists and the Powhatan Indians while venturing through this part of the United States.
Cape Cod might be a popular New England beach vacation spot, but it makes for a great road trip adventure, too! The Cape Cod Road Trip is a classic East Coast road trip that takes you through picturesque towns and villages and offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Art lovers will definitely want to stop by Provincetown, a cute town at the tip of Cape Cod that’s known for its vibrant arts scene, historic architecture, and beautiful beaches. Venture onwards to Wellfleet for fresh seafood and beautiful beach days, or head to Hyannis to check out the popular Main Street, which is lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries.
The scenic Green Mountains of Vermont offer a real treat for all kinds of road trippers and offer the chance to see covered bridges, maple syrup farms, and charming New England towns. A trip that’s equally as delicious as it is interesting, this East Coast road trip is a beautiful route that takes you through unique small towns, rolling hills, and majestic mountains. On the way, stop by Wilmington to see its art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants, or venture to Manchester for a spot of outlet shopping. Killington is home to the Killington Ski Resort, one of the largest and best ski resorts in the eastern United States, adding a whole new dimension to your road trip!
It might be the U.S.’s smallest state, but that doesn’t mean Rhode Island doesn’t have something to offer when it comes to the best East Coast road trips. A great option for a shorter drive when you’re traveling against the clock, the Rhode Island Coastal Drive is about 60 miles long and can be completed in a day, but there are plenty of sights and attractions to explore along the way. Stop by Newport’s charming downtown area and scenic waterfront or Narragansett, home to some of Rhode Island’s most popular beaches, including Narragansett Town Beach and Scarborough State Beach.
A popular choice that doesn’t require too much time on the open road but offers plenty of incredible sights along the way, The New Hampshire White Mountains Road Trip carries you through the beautiful mountain landscapes of northern New Hampshire and is about 100 miles long. The star of the show here, as you may have guessed, is the White Mountain National Forest, which spans 750,000 acres and is home to a diverse array of wildlife and natural landmarks, not to mention some of the best hiking trails in the U.S. Spend a day exploring or bring a tent and set up camp overnight. During your drive, you’ll also cover Kancamagus Highway, with unbeatable views of the region’s natural beauty.
Okay, so this one might involve crossing the border! But if you’ve had your fill of the United States’ East Coast and want to venture upwards, The Cabot Trail is a top choice. This scenic road trip takes you through the stunning landscapes of Cape Breton Island, passing by Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada. The park is home to many hiking trails and scenic drives, as well as the Skyline Trail, one of the most popular hiking trails in the park with hard-to-top views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Cabot Trail below. You’ll also spot quaint fishing villages along the trail that offer a glimpse into the region’s maritime heritage, like Ingonish, Cheticamp, and Baddeck.