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East Coast Road Trip Planner: Travel Ideas

Updated on November 7, 2014

East Coast Road Trip Destinations - Travel From Maine to Florida

The east coast has some of the most popular sightseeing destinations in the USA, with major cities along Interstates I-95 like Portland, Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Miami. Nearby, you can also find Cape Cod, Acadia National Park, the Jersey Shore, Outer Banks, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head Island. If you're heading out on the open road in the US, an east coast road trip is the perfect well rounded experience for its beaches, historical sites, major cities, and beautiful scenery!

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park


Acadia National Park, Portland, and Maine's Big Sur

You'll either begin or end your east coast road trip in the state of Maine, if you are traveling the east coast of the USA in its entirety. Maine is a very diverse state, and has the distinction of being the only state on the east coast with mountains along the shoreline. In fact, it's the only piece of coastline that has a mountain this high within 25 miles all the way down to the Yucatan Peninsula!

If you're visiting Maine, you'll want to make sure you visit Acadia National Park. Home to Cadillac Mountain, where the first sunrise of the east coast is claimed to be visible every day, Acadia National Park is adjacent to the small coastal town of Bar Harbor. The park also has a beautiful loop drive and scenic outlooks around every bend.

Further north, you'll find West Quoddy Head Lighthouse on the Maine-Canada border. This striped lighthouse is a photographer's favorite for its eyecatching horizontal red and white nautical stripes. From Quoddy Head, you'll be able to take scenic Route 191 south to Bar Harbor and more of the Maine coast. The rugged coastline along 191, 187, and Route 1 have been dubbed Maine's Big Sur for its dramatic, steep cliffsides and breathtaking views. The other Big Sur on the Pacific Coast is over 3600 miles away to the west (that's nearly 3 days straight of driving).

South of Bar Harbor, you'll find quaint coastal towns like Bath, as well as the largest city in all of Maine, Portland. The best route through southern Maine and into New Hampshire and Mass is I-95, which will bypass much of the congestion of the coastal route.

New Hampshire fall foliage
New Hampshire fall foliage

New Hampshire

Spectacular mountain scenery in the Granite State

New Hampshire is dubbed the "live free or die" state, however, expect to pay some tolls along the major routes! New Hampshire is inland for the most part, with a small piece of coastline between Massachusetts and Maine. The state has just a few major routes. I-93, I-89, I-91, and I-95 are the main interstates (though I-91 is just over the Vermont border and runs up the state border).

In between these interstates, you'll find the White Mountains, which are known for their granite faced sides and craggy mountaintops. The most impressive part of the White Mountains, which also has some of the best fall foliage, can be found just north of Concord to near Pittsburg.

To find the best sightseeing in New Hampshire, take scenic highways like the Kancamagus Highway or Route 123, both of which pass through beautiful mountain ranges and small towns.

boston massachusetts
boston massachusetts


The best travel destinations the hub of New England has to offer

Boston is the central hub of New England, with a population of over 1/2 million and another 4 million within 50 miles of the city. As the capital of Massachusetts and the largest city in the six New England states, Boston has great food, museums, sports events, shopping, and even offshore cruises of the Boston Harbor Islands.

The state of Massachusetts has plenty of great sightseeing opportunities and historical sites, from the beautiful South Shore to the rolling sand dunes of Provincetown.

The main routes of Massachusetts are I-93, I-95, I-495, Route 6, and I-90. Of these routes, none are all that scenic except portions of Route 6. To see the best sites in the state, consider taking 127 to Cape Ann's Rockport and Gloucester region, Route 228 up Nantasket Ave in Hull, Atlantic Ave in Cohasset, Hatherly Rd in Scituate, and Route 6A on Cape Cod.

The western part of the state is in stark contrast with the more thickly settled eastern part. Unlike the east, there is no coast, but in place of beaches are the towering purple Berkshires, the low valleys of the Connecticut River, and hairpin turns on scenic backroads in towns like Williamstown.

Learn more about Massachusetts road trip destinations:

Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge

Rhode Island

Newport, Providence, and ocean scenery on the east coast

While the state of Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States at just 1214 square miles, it's jam packed with some of New England's best stretches of coastline and small towns. On the southern coast, you'll find the city of Newport and the Newport Rhode Island Mansions, and the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. Further north, there's the city of Providence, which is a great stopping point along I-95.

Read more about the state of Rhode Island here, along with some of the top destinations in the state.

New Haven Lighthouse
New Haven Lighthouse


Wine country, lighthouses, and historic seaports in Connecticut

Between Rhode Island and the state of New York you'll find some of the most beautiful towns in New England, as well as historical cities like Greenwich, New Haven, and New London. The state has its own wine trail, great cities, and lighthouses along the coast. Its main route through is I-95. Avoid this road on weekends if possible heading into New York City. It can get very congested, with hours long backups being very common. I-91 also heads north to Hartford and into the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Read more about the state of Connecticut here.

New York City
New York City

New York

Major travel destinations in the state of New York

The state of New York needs no introduction. A road trip to New York is a trip in itself, and will take quite some time to finish. The city of New York is a distance of over 7 hours from Niagara Falls, and 4.5 hours to the Adironadack region. Even the end of Long Island is 2.5 hours from the city with no traffic (and that never happens). In other words, there's plenty to see in this state, but you'll need plenty of time to see them.

New York City

The five boroughs, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, and Brooklyn, offer the most things to do, places to eat, and places to visit of any US city. View the Empire State Building, get something to eat in Little Italy, or take a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Niagara Falls

The world's best known waterfalls, Niagara Falls is a city and also the attraction itself. Pictures can't describe the wondrous beauty of the falls, which cover both sides of the US-Canada border.

Hudson River Valley

Once the home to some of the best known American painters of the 1800's, the Hudson River Artists, the valley along the Hudson between the Tappan Zee Bridge and Albany has some of the east coast's most beautiful mountain scenery. Follow Route 9 along both sides of the river to view the sites.

Long Island

Long Island is a collection of towns and counties between the city of New York stretching to Montauk, NY. The best beaches in New York and beautiful small towns can be seen in the Hamptons region, with Montauk's sand dunes capping off the drive out to Long Island.

Delaware Water Gap
Delaware Water Gap

New Jersey

Sites and attractions in New Jersey - the Garden State

New Jersey is famous for a little bit more than being home to the cast of Jersey Shore and also being the worst state ever. From the north along I-95, you can catch some stunning panoramas of the city of New York from the highway, and also from Jersey City's shoreline. The state of New Jersey is very commercial along the New Jersey Turnpike, but head to the coast, and you'll find some beautiful beaches and attractions. The Jersey Shore area begins in the Sandy Hook area, heading south to Seaside Heights, Tom's River, and Atlantic City. Further south, you'll find the isolated, quaint town of Cape May. To see the best that this state has to offer, don't take I-95 -- take the Garden State Parkway.

Delaware Memorial Bridge
Delaware Memorial Bridge


The First State - what to see in Delaware

Just across the Delaware River from Cape May, you'll find the state of Delaware. This small sliver of coastline is sandwiched between Maryland and New Jersey, and has some beautiful beaches. It is the second smallest state in the country. Be prepared to pay a hefty toll when you pass over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is a beautiful double span suspension bridge over the Delaware River. The town of Rehobeth is the state's best known beach town, which also has abundant shopping and restaurants.

USS Constellation Baltimore Maryland
USS Constellation Baltimore Maryland


Things to do in Maryland - Washington DC

Baltimore, Ocean City, and Annapolis are the state's best known cities, but the real beauty of this state lies in its history. The state was the seventh of the 13 states to ratify the Constitution, and has some must-see historical US attractions. Like Delaware, the state is very small, only 12,000 square miles roughly.

The Best Places to See in Washington DC

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: USA - A road trip essential for finding great stuff!

When you're looking for the very best things to do and see on the east coast and throughout the rest of the USA, this guide will give you all of the recommendations that you'll ever need! With cross section maps, beautiful illustrations, and recommendations for National Parks, cities, restaurants, museums, and activities in the area, this will become your new travel companion. It's just the right size for travel, and is easy to flip-to on the go to find what you need.

USA (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
USA (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

* 800 pages

* Beautiful illustrations and tips

* Just the right size for travel

* Durable cover and easy flip to format

Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
Jefferson Memorial Washington DC


Hampton Roads, DC, and Virginia Attractions

The state of Virginia is a true welcome to the southern United States. With warmer weather, sparser population, and a more laid back lifestyle, Virginia has plenty of things to do and places to see. The main routes through the state are I-95, I-64, And I-85. Northern Virginia contains metropolitan DC cities like Alexandria and Arlington. To the south along the coast, there's Newport News, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and the entire Hampton Roads area.

If you're a road trip lover, be sure to take the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, a 23 mile long series of interconnected bridges, tunnels, and causeways crossing the Chesapeake Bay.

North Carolina has some of the east coast's most well known and best beaches. The Outer Banks, which runs from the northeastern coast of North Carolina south to Ocrakoke Island, is a series of interconnected sand spits and barrier islands protecting the coast of the state. It's high sand dunes and many lighthouses like Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are a huge attraction for tourists and beach goers.

Inland, the state has many other attractions. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain National Park can be found on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, with the historic town of Asheville just around the corner.

myrtle beach sunset
myrtle beach sunset

South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Hilton Head Island

The state of South Carolina is where the real heat seems to kick in down south. Its coastline is its major attraction, though the main interstate, I-95, runs much further inland. To see the seaside attractions in South Carolina, take I-17 starting with Myrtle Beach. This town has swaying palmettos, gorgeous sandy beaches, and a lot of fun things to do in the form of amusements.

South along I-17, you'll find the city of Charleston. This historic city experienced some noteworthy battles of the American Civil War, with war forts like Fort Sumter still intact today. Cobblestone streets, open air markets, and beautiful southern architecture make this one of the best places to see in the state. Also not to miss in nearby Seabrook Island, about 25 miles away and teeming with wildlife.

Just to the north of the city of Savannah, you'll find the resort area of Hilton Head Island. This island is known for its golf resorts, but also for its exclusivity. To stay here, book your reservations in advance to ensure a stay, especially in the summer months.

Florida Keys
Florida Keys


Everglades, Miami, and Florida Road Trips

What's there to say about the state of Florida? It's the most traveled to state on the east coast, not just for its beaches and cities, but for its world famous amusement park, Walt Disney World.

Learn more about the destinations of Florida here:

East Coast Road Trip Routes

Major Interstates on the east coast of the USA

The major routes of the east coast are as follows:


This Interstate stretches the entire east coast of the United States, from Maine to Florida. The road is set inland for the most part, and away from the real seaside destinations.

Route 1

Route 1 is an on-off highway that runs along the eastern coast. Sections you should try to drive are in Maine, and the entire coast of Florida down to Key West.

Top Five Best Road Trip Routes in America

Visit five of the top road trip destinations across the USA, including the East Coast, West Coast, and memorable routes all over America.

What's Your Favorite Road Trip Destination on the East Coast? - Tell us about your trip or favorite east coast spot!

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    • Tia Miller23 profile image

      Tia Miller 

      4 months ago from Arkansas

      I've always wanted to visit New York and I plan on going sometime next year!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Where does North Carolina fit into all this?

    • Kiwisoutback profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      @sdmary: Sounds like a great trip!

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Only traveled within NC along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smoky Mountains and around Cape Hatteras on occasional visits. Blessed.

    • iijuan12 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      We spent a couple days in Delaware for a wedding and got to visit Philadelphia. There was so much to see that we barely scraped the surface. I'd love to go back someday!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm partial to NYC and Washington, DC. There are so many great sights to see.

    • Simplesimone profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a great lens. I love the East Coast with all the lighthouses and beaches.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The Newport Mansions in Rhode Island are excellent, they are a "must see" when in New England. Be sure to check out the cliff walk as well

    • WaleedMohammed LM profile image

      WaleedMohammed LM 

      7 years ago

      This look like so much fun!! Might do this next year!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      America is such a vast country, it is great to see that someone has taken the time to propose some road trips suggestions. Great lens, thank you

    • OrlandoTipster profile image


      7 years ago

      It's got to be Orlando where I'm just up the road from the mouse house.

      Thanks for highlighting some of the stops along the eastern coast road trip.

    • tcorbs profile image


      7 years ago

      I've been to New Jersey a few times..but there are some others you posted that look great!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We are traveling from Charleston to Annapplis, MD

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Washington D.C. down through Virginia to the Outer Banks, and then down to Charleston SC -- with a final destination of Savannah GA and Tybee Island!

    • rt8ca profile image


      7 years ago

      Would love to visit the East Coast one day. We live on the West Coast of Canada, so it would be an entirely different experience! Great lens and write up on each State. Thanks

    • ChenB profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic lens! I particularly enjoyed how you broke it down to the individual states.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hmm, Interesting information. I liked them. Thank you for sharing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely intro picture! Quite eye catching. I'd like to visit more of the East Coast.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'll have to keep this in mind the next time I decide to go on a road trip!

    • Mamaboo LM profile image

      Mamaboo LM 

      8 years ago

      Very nice. Lots of diversity on the coast. Consider yourself blessed

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      North Carolina is always an excellent time...the Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Love this. We drive up to NY from Florida every couple of years. I have seen a lot on this lens but some I have not! Will have to save for our next trip!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! My favorite destination is Dewey Beach!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice photos!

    • NanaPoppins LM profile image

      NanaPoppins LM 

      8 years ago

      I've made the trip from Atlanta to DC too many times!! Ocean City MD is one of my favorite places! Nice lens :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Your road trip pages are such fun! Thank you for the squidangel blessing on Seabrook Island, SC!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i haven't been to the east coast yet. adding you to my blog roll for niagara ontario canada photos and videos of fun places to visit too :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I used to visit New England in the summer months. It was so beautiful.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      9 years ago

      This strongly appeals to me. I keep wanting to move to the East Coast for some reason, maybe to Connecticut or Mass... not sure. Great lens!

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      9 years ago

      This is a great road trip. I can't pick just one favorite. I love Newport RI, Cape May NJ, and both Myrtle Beach and Charleston SC.


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