Planning a road trip can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you, curating four of the best road trips in the US.
For Adventure Junkies: Mount Washington Valley [Northern New Hampshire]
Major Roads: Route 16 and Route 302
Key Towns: Conway, North Conway, Jackson, Pinkham Notch
Overview: Tucked in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, the Mount Washington Valley is a favored destination for its multiple mountain ranges, vast network of meticulously maintained hiking trails, and the unbeatable fall foliage. Edged with quaint ski towns, historic bridges, and scenic waterfalls, the route’s crown jewel, however, is Mount Washington, a towering giant that rises 6,288 feet and is home to New England’s gnarliest weather.
Stop 1: The Local Swimming Hole
Just off the beaten path in North Conway, on a hot summer day, you’ll likely pass a gaggle of teenagers taking turns leaping off First Bridge into the Saco River. Pull over into the parking lot to have a picnic, and take a dip in the crisp, clean river. Such pastimes are a quintessential rite of passage in New England, and there may not be a prettier spot than First Bridge.
Stop 2: The Million-Dollar View
Just a few miles north of North Conway, you’ll come to the Scenic Overlook in Intervale, which offers one of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Mount Washington Valley (late into the spring, you might even still be able to catch a glimpse of snow atop of Mount Washington). Pull out your camera – this shot is Instagram gold.
Stop 3: The Mount Washington Auto Road
Mount Washington, which towers over the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is known for three things: being the highest peak in the Northeast, insane wind speeds, and the Mount Washington Auto Road. The 7.6-mile ascent up the steep, narrow mountain road is not for the faint of heart – with no guardrails and an average grade of 12 percent, America’s oldest man-made attraction is a heart-pounding opportunity to see the White Mountains from the highest peak in the Northeast. Along the way, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the White Mountains around nearly every curve – but those views will pale in comparison to the 360-degree panorama at the top.
For Beach Bums and Ocean Addicts: Overseas Highway [Florida Keys]
Major Roads: US-1 South
Key Towns: Key Largo, Plantation Key, Islamorada, Marathon, Key West
Overview: Too often on Florida’s Overseas Highway, travelers make a beeline straight for Key West, but – though plenty of fun and mischief await you in the southernmost outpost – there are several attractions well worth a detour. The pot of gold at the end of the journey? A stay at The Inn at Key West, a hip, funky Conch Republic oasis for those ready to relax after a long road trip.
Stop 1: Florida’s Sanctuary for Turtles
It sounds kitschy, and because it sits right on the highway, The Turtle Hospital has a bit of a dubious look. But don’t let that deter you. From its home in the repurposed Hidden Harbor Motel on Marathon Key, the hospital rehabilitates numerous turtles from injuries of all sorts and has successfully treated and released more than 1,500 sea turtles since its founding in 1986. On a tour of the grounds, you’ll see tanks that range in size from 150 to 800 gallons. But the most notable one is a 100,000-gallon saltwater pool – formerly the motel’s swimming pool – that is now home to a number of massive sea turtles who have become permanent residents.
Stop 2: The Beaches of Bahia Honda State Park
The beaches of Bahia Honda State Park, with their soft, white sands, azure waters, and palm trees, feel like they should be on a faraway Caribbean island instead of just off the Overseas Highway. But Calusa Beach, adjacent to the Bahia Honda Bridge, and the mile-long Sandspur Beach are award-winning stretches of sand solidly on US soil. The park concession operates daily hour-and-a-half snorkeling tours to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, where you can get a firsthand look at one of Florida’s most spectacular reefs. Grab a homemade sub and hand-dipped ice cream cone from the park’s concession stand for a picnic lunch.
Stop 3: National Key Deer Refuge
On the western tip of Big Pine Key, a short jaunt off the Overseas Highway, you’ll find a place where miniature deer frolic and leap. The endangered Key deer is the smallest subspecies of North American white-tailed deer, with males standing about three feet tall. Because of the small size and adorable nature, people often feed the deer, so don’t be surprised if they come looking for a handout – but keep them healthy and wild by resisting the urge to feed them. Your best bet to catch a glimpse of a Key deer is on the Nature Trails, just off Key Deer Boulevard.
The Inn at Key West
For Gone with the Wind Romantics: A Tour of Low Country [Coastal South Carolina & Georgia]
Major Roads: US-17, US-21, SC-170
Key Towns: Charleston, SC; Hunting Island, SC; Savannah, GA
Overview: The Low Country, a 200-mile stretch of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, is rich with history, culture, natural beauty, and regional delicacies. From the haunting silhouettes of live oak trees shrouded in Spanish moss to the rich, salty aroma that emanates from the area’s “pluff” mud, the area evokes southern nostalgia like nowhere else on earth. Kick off this road trip in Charleston, South Carolina, and end in Savannah, Georgia, with excursions to a few of the islands off the coast, and you’ll get an in-depth sense of the region’s enduring allure.
Stop 1: Historic St. Helena Island
On this island sits the 50-acre campus of the Penn Center, the country’s first school for African-Americans, which is now preserved as a National Historic Landmark. Visit the small museum to see photos, letters, and Gullah artwork, before heading up the road to Gullah Grub to feast on she-crab soup and sweet potato pie.
Stop 2: A Bird’s-Eye View on Hunting Island
The 5,000-acre Hunting Island State Park is where you’ll find a three-mile long beach and a lighthouse that dates back to 1875. Take a walk on the beach and then climb the 167 steps up the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse for a bird’s-eye view of the marshes, the sand, and the Atlantic. Stretch your legs, soak up some sun, and get your toes in the Atlantic Ocean.
Stop 3: Dockside Dinner by the Creek
Hailed as one of the restaurants shaking up Savannah’s restaurant scene, The Wyld perches on the banks of Country Club Creek, overlooking the tidal marshes at Savannah’s outer limits. Before eating on the waterfront deck, enjoy a few quiet moments in backyard-like grounds of the made-over marina, swinging in a hammock, playing a round or two of bocce, or relaxing by the fire pit. The informal menu pairs simple, albeit spectacularly prepared, entrées, like fish tacos and burgers with innovative and unexpected sides, like a Mexican street-style roasted corn smothered with a brown sugar aioli. The cocktail list includes modern renditions of old Southern classics, like the bacon-infused rye old-fashioned with maple bitters.
For the Refined City Loving Road Tripper: Pacific Coast Highway [Coastal California]
Major Roads: California Route 1 South
Key Towns: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach
Overview: The Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH in local-speak, is one of America’s most iconic road trips – and for good reason. Sweeping views of the rugged California coastline and Pacific Ocean beyond are interspersed with stops in some of California’s liveliest, most entertaining cities. To kick it off, we recommend you book a room San Francisco’s Argonaut Hotel, which sits on the edge of the bay, nestled up against the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf, then bookend with a stay at The Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach. It’s an appropriate end cap, given the hotel’s glamorous history as the final destination of the Cannonball Run, a pedal-to-the-metal, cross-country-sprint car race from New York to Los Angeles. But for the sake of your driving record, try keep your speedometer in the territory of legal.
Stop 1: Fisherman’s Wharf for Cold Brew Coffee
A coffee for the road is a must. Head down the block from the Argonaut into the San Francisco Ferry Building and straight to Blue Bottle Coffee. The main coffee bar is right out front, but there’s a “secret” second location tucked around the corner through a side entrance. Be sure to order the caramelized Belgian waffles – it takes a lot of energy to road trip right, and this will do the trick.
Stop 2: Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Bixby Creek Bridge is perhaps one of the most Instagrammed spots along the Big Sur coastline, thanks to several turnoffs. The concrete span towers 260 feet above steep canyon walls, overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific. If you happen to be cruising by at sunset, pull over into the turnoff at the south end of the bridge. There may be other stopped cars aiming for the perfect shot, but trust us, it’s a photo worth taking.
Stop 3: Art and Architecture at The Getty
For lovers of art and architecture, The Getty is a must-see stop on the way down the Pacific Coast Highway. At The Getty, one of the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organizations dedicated to the visual arts, visitors are wowed by exceptional European and American artwork on view; modern architecture, open spaces, and spectacular views; and gardens that are constantly evolving.
Argonaut Hotel // The Portofino Hotel & Marina