In America, there are 95,471 miles of shoreline, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). These include outer coast, offshore islands, sounds, bays, rivers and creeks.
You can’t possibly drive through all (some are not drivable), but you can certainly enjoy these five spectacular coast drives.
1. Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West
Go ‘island hopping’ in the southernmost part of Florida – the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys is a chain of 800 islands. It is divided into the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.
It is 160 miles from Miami to Key West, and the Overseas Highway scenic drive starts just after Florida City. Your drive on Overseas Highway, the U.S.1 southernmost route takes you through beautiful views of tropical landscapes and crystal clear blue and green waters. Besides island-inspired souvenirs, this route is also dotted with seafood restaurants, burger joints, dive shops, resorts and scenic lookouts. This 113-mile roadway has 42 bridges including the Seven-Mile Bridge at Marathon, located 48 miles from Key West.
The three most famous destinations in the Florida Keys are Key Largo, Islamorada, and Key West. Some activities listed by VisitFlorida.com, Florida’s official tourism website are:
- diving to explore the shipwreck
- fishing including sport fishing
- swimming with dolphins
- visiting museums and art galleries
- feasting on fresh seafood at fine restaurants
- hanging out with locals in a hammock
The Keys’ top islands to visit are Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West.
2. Oregon Coast Highway 101 from Astoria to Brookings
It is 338 miles from Astoria to Brookings. According to TravelOregon.com, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway on Highway 101 takes about a minimum of 10 to 12 hours to drive. And the best time is winter through summer. Spring and early summer is the rainy season there.
Start your drive at Astoria, a town 96 miles from Portland. It is better to start your journey from the north to the south since it is easier to stop at the scenic stops.
Some highlights along the way:
- Tillamook Cheese Factory
- Depoe Bay – the smallest navigable harbor in the world
- Heceta Head Lighthouse
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
- Coos Bay
- Port Orford Heads State Park
For more details read Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
3. The Outer Banks Scenic Byway
Another fabulous waterfront whirl worth your time and money is a drive on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, on North Carolina’s barrier islands. This trip will take you on 138 driving miles and 25 ferry miles (yes, you and your car will go on two ferries for about 3.5 hours).
Start the drive at Whalebone Junction in Dare County and end in Beaufort in Carteret County. Whalebone Junction is 365 miles from Charlotte and 93 miles from Virginia Beach. There are 21 coastal villages along this route and be sure to check out these major attractions:
- Bodie Island Lighthouse
- Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
- Chicamocomico Lifesaving Station Historic Site and Museum
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Bankers ponies on Shackleford Banks south of Beaufort
- Ocracoke Island Lighthouse
- Portsmouth Island
- Cape Lookout Lighthouse
Read more on Outer Banks Scenic Byway
4. California Highway One Classic from San Diego to San Francisco
No list of American coastal road trips would be complete without including the Pacific Coast Highway 1- between Monterey and Morro Bay. Best known as the All-American Road, this 123-mile drive offers fascinating stops and lookout points. Here are some to watch out for:
- Carmel-on-the-Sea village
- Big Sur
- Old Coast Road
- Bixby Bridge
But to venture further than just this 123-mile stretch, we recommend taking it all the way from San Francisco to San Diego.
5. Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park
The Park Loop Road scenic drive in Acadia National Park won’t take you many hours or extended days. With just 27 miles beginning at Hulls Cove Visitor Center, it is perfect for those who wants to enjoy scenic views and get a chance to take short hikes. Visitors have opportunities to pull off to view or take photographs of scenic lookout points and access to short trails. This route also gives visitors access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain.
Read more about Park Loop Road.
Note: Park Loop Road is closed during winter months (December 1- April 14).