5 Best East Coast Road Trips for Adventure Travelers

Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.

Explore the best of the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trips from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast and more.

准备好出去探索自然beauty of the East Coast? One of the best ways to do that is by car with an East Coast road trip. In comparison to the spectacular and exciting adventures of the West Coast, the East Coast can sometimes be overlooked. However, it’s got impressive mountain ranges, thousands of miles of trails, and beautiful wildlife – like herds of wild ponies – that aren’t worth missing out on.

Here are 5 East Coast road trips for adventure travelers to inspire your next trip.

Best East Coast Road Trips

Finger Lakes Road Trip, New York

Start your East Coast road trip in the vibrant college town ofIthaca卡尤加族湖,位于最南端。This city is home to the Ivy League school of Cornell University and the equally as brainy Ithaca College, so the downtown is full of fun, science-driven, and interactive attractions that are worth visiting. Ithaca is proud of its hippie vibe, so definitely don’t skip the vegan restaurants or the shops full of unique, handmade goods. Go during the warmer months so that you can enjoy the area with fewer layers.

From Ithaca, head northwest to theFinger Lakes National Forest. These are public lands that offer hundreds of miles worth of hiking and camping with gorgeous panoramic views and pastoral farms. There aren’t any permits or passes needed, but for just $15 a night (as of October 2021) you can snag one of the nine campsites at theBlueberry Patch Campground. The campsites have short trails that connect to the long and winding Interloken Trail which runs through farmland, rolling hills, and the stunning National Forest. Spend a day or two exploring the area and enjoying this spacious campsite.

Watkins Glen State Park // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.

After a day or two in the Finger Lakes National Forest travel 15 minutes west toWatkins Glen State Park. The area is well-known for the gorges and waterfalls, and Watkins Glen does not disappoint. Explore its 19 waterfalls, caverns, 200-foot cliffs, and hike up 832 stone steps to the top. As a bonus, leashed dogs are allowed (except on the Gorge Trail), so you don’t have to leave your pup in the car.

For your final destination on the road trip, visitSeneca Lake, the largest of the glacial Finger Lakes. From fishing to kayaks and canoes to an afternoon of swimming, you really can’t go wrong with any spot along this beautiful body of water. Good news for wine-lovers, the Finger Lakes region is also known as the wine country of New York with over 100 wineries and vineyards in the area. So, swing by one to sample a few sips!

Watkins Glen State Park // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.
Watkins Glen State Park
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Assateague & Chincoteague Island Road Trip, Maryland

Begin this East Coast road trip at theChesapeake Bay马里兰州安纳波利斯附近,你会开车/ the iconic 4.3 mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It’s this view and the experience of seeing nothing but water on both sides of you for miles that makes it truly one-of-a-kind. Make sure you stop at one of the many seafood restaurants serving fresh Maryland crab.

Once you get off the bridge, you’ll drive through the lower peninsula of Maryland and all the way out toChincoteague Island National Seashore. Since both Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are solely owned and operated by the National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife, and the Maryland State Parks, camping is limited to officially designated campsites. If you plan ahead and snag a spot, that’s the best way to explore this area.

If not, spend the day exploring the marsh, bay, and beautiful beaches ofAssateague Island.The highlight of your trip will be spotting the herd of wild ponies that inhabit the island. They do in fact wander the beaches, islands, and pine forests, so be sure to keep your distance and admire them safely from afar (AND don’t leave food sitting out on the picnic tables).

Assateague Island // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.

Go south to enterChincoteague, which is over the state line in Virginia and has a bustling town center, shops, restaurants, plus campgrounds and other places to stay. Pitch a tent at thePine Grove Campground, which is a no-frills campground not far from the beach and right near a waterfowl sanctuary. It’s open from April to December and accommodates tent campers with fire pits, picnic tables and RVs have the option for electric, water, and sewer hookups. There’s also a camp store on-site that sells food and firewood, plus any other basic amenities in case you forgot something.

Call to reserve a campsite and get pricing information. At Chincoteague, you can spend a day at the beach or rent kayaks and get out on the water to spot some dolphins (click here to read our beginners kayaking guide). The island is also famous for its crabs, oysters, clams, and fishing, so you can grab some gear and head out to one of the piers to catch dinner before you head out of town.

Assateague Island // Explore the best of the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trips from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast and more.

Maine & Acadia National Park Road Trip

Begin your trek around coastal Maine in the city ofPortland. Here, your time is best spenthikingor sampling the local brew with big names like Allagash Brewing and Shipyard Brewing, plus over 80 microbreweries with unique, handcrafted beer.

Head 3 hours north to the town ofBar Harbor缅因州,你可以探索鹅卵石streets, indulge in those famous lobster rolls, and even head out on a ship for some prime whale watching. The best time to see some of the ocean’s most magnificent inhabitants are from mid-April through October. Keep in mind that the spring in Maine can still be a bit chilly and even rainy, so plan accordingly.

The 47,000 acres of land inAcadia National Parkis a great place to spend the last few days of your trip. Full of woodland, rocky beaches, and granite peaks carved out by glaciers, the park is mainly located on Mount Desert Island. You can stay on one of the 3 main campgrounds in Acadia,Blackwoods, Seawall,orSchoodic Woodswhich are open from May to September (except Blackwoods which is open year-round). Before you go, make sure you have already made reservations online to secure your spot.

Acadia National Park // Explore the best of the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trips from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast and more.

While you’re there get out and explore! ClimbCadillac Mountain, go rock climbing on the cliffs, or even get out on a boat for a tour of the island to catch a beautiful sunset and different perspectives before you leave.

End this East Coast road trip by driving 4 hours north toBaxter State Parkin Central Maine. Get a taste of the Maine backcountry and spend a day hiking any of their 200+ trails. Make sure you bring a camera andkeep an eye out for moosewhile you’re photographing the picturesque ponds and mountain landscapes.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse // Explore the best of the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trips from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast and more.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park

North Carolina Road Trip

Start this East Coast road trip at the north entrance of theBlue Ridge Parkwayin Afton, Virginia, and drive an hour south along the truck-free road for about 61 miles until you come uponThe Natural Bridge Park. This astonishing, rocky formation is a popular destination point because of its massive size. The naturally occurring arch is twenty stories high and offers easy access to theCedar Creek Trail, which visitors can walk alongside while they visit.

The Blue Ridgeway Parkway is one of the best east coast road trips.

After you leave The Natural Bridge, hop back on the parkway and head down toThe Blue Ridge Music Centernear Galax, Virginia. This area of the US is known for being the roots of American music like bluegrass, gospel, and blues which you can learn more about at the local museum. If you’re lucky you can catch a concert while you’re there, so be sure to check the schedule before you leave and if not, enjoy a short hike on the museum grounds like Fisher Peak Loop or High Meadow Trail.

Crossover the Virginia state line at mile 216.9 into North Carolina and go toCraggy Gardensin the Pisgah National Forest — not far from the hip town of Asheville, North Carolina. Craggy Gardens has plenty of easy, sloping two-mile hikes that are perfect for leisurely taking in the surrounding vistas and garden views. However, if you’re up for a bigger hike, summitMount Mitchell, a challenging climb that’s known for being the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Then, since you’ll be in the perfect spot for a craft beer, visit one of the area’s many craft breweries like Wicked Weed Brewing, Innovation Brewing, or Lazy Hiker Brewing Co for a cold one.

On your final stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway, don’t miss the highest point of the drive atRichland Balsam. If you opt to just enjoy the vista at theHaywood-Jackson Overlookat milepost 431 bring a picnic lunch (and a leftover beer if you’ve got any!) and enjoy the views of the balsam firs and even a bit of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Or, take a short mile-long loop through the forest that starts and ends at Haywood-Jackson Overlook.

Blue Ridge Parkway // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.
Blue Ridge Parkway sunset

Florida Road Trip

Begin your road trip atSanibel Island, one of Florida’s less crowded island getaways. It’s located on the east coast and has a handful of small, secluded beaches and wildlife refuges likeJ.N. Darling Wildlife Refugethat has a diverse ecosystem including endangered manatees. Spend a whole day here or stay the night at one of the local hotels or find an Airbnb.

A quick 2-hour drive south will bring you to theEverglades National Parkwhere you can easily spend 2 days exploring the park in its entirety. Check out all the natural beauty and diversity that the Gulf Coastline has to offer and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and flamingos while you’re here! If you’re interested in visiting more of Florida’s National Parks check out our7 day Florida National Park Roadtrip Itinerary.

Florida Everglades // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.
Florida Everglades

Don’t miss out on theFlorida Keyswhile you are down south. Give yourself at least a day to check out all of the islands and drive from Key Largo down to Key West all the way out at the end. Stop by the local eateries, pubs, and breweries along the way and enjoy the miles of ocean views all the way out and back in again.

The best way to wrap up your Florida road trip is inMiami. Sample the local fare, see the colorful street art, and take in the vibrant culture that this exciting city has to offer. Definitely visitLittle Havana, an area of the city with great food, people, and plenty of unique shops. Spend your last day here or get a hotel in the city and spend the night! During the high season from December through April, the weather is perfect but room rates are high. So, if you’re road tripping on a budget then this might be a great day trip.

Florida // Explore the East Coast with these 5 adventurous road trip ideas from Maine to North Carolina to the Florida coast.

What East Coast road trips are on your bucket list? Got any must-see destinations? We want to know! Share them with us in the comments below.

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  1. Thanks for this post on east coast driving trips. For the Virginia/North Carolina trip, May I suggest staying on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Roanoke all the way to Asheville. First, don’t forget to stop in downtown Roanoke – I love their daily farmer’s market and shops. Blowing Rock, a few hours from Roanoke just off the Parkway, is one of the best small mountain towns in America. I have a vacation house several miles from Blowing Rock off the parkway. The Town Tavern serves great bar food and has good outside seating. Friday nights in the summer is free outdoor music at The Inn at Ragged Gardens, monthly Art in the Park and Concert Series. Back on the parkway, don’t forget Linville Falls. At this point you could drop down to I-40 to Asheville or just stay on the parkway. Love Asheville and the Baltimore. Staying on the parkway gives everyone a beautiful drive with awesome mountain vistas and plenty of hiking trails.

      1. Hi Mary, The Blue Ridge Parkway is open year round except for sections that may be closed due to ice and snow. Weather-related closures can change quickly during the winter, so be sure to check road conditions online before you travel.

    1. Thanks so much, Karen, for reaching out to us! This is very kind of you. I hope visitors to the area reach out to you.

    1. 每个国家森林都有不同的露营边条tions and even within the same National Forest, there are different types of camping available (free and paid). It’s best to check the US Forest Service website for information about each National Forest you plan on visiting.

  2. While your on the Florida (SW Florida) road trip, be sure to stop in Ochopee and see Clyde Butcher’s amazing fine-art photography studio. He specializes in large-format (think in terms of feet, not inches) black and white nature photography. More info at clydebutcher.com