I’ve traveled up and down the east coast, from Massachusetts to Florida and back, many times. There are many different places to stop along the coast whichever route you take. Here are some stops worth making in each state along the coast, whichever way you are driving.
From Florida to Maine:
There are SO many different stops you could make along the coast of Florida, let alone the stops you could make in the state itself. It also depends where you start, or where you are ending. You could start all the way at the keys or at the top near Jacksonville. Keep in mind, Florida is a BIG state and it takes hours to drive through (especially if you hit the panhandle). If you are making quick stops and sticking to the coast, here are the few stops I recommend.
Daytona is tourist central during spring break and over the summer, so keep an eye on the time you stop by. The beach is beautiful at any time of day. Swim, tan, play volleyball at the nets or hit the board walk. The Daytona boardwalk has many different shops you can pop into and LOTS of places to eat. I recommend eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp at an outside table. Or eat over the ocean at Joe’s Crab Shack, just a short walk to the end of the pier. There is a small board walk you can check out, day or night.
St. Augustine is known for its history, and the cobble stone streets and old preserved buildings are remaining proof of that. The history here is worth checking out if you are a history buff. They have lots of museums and tours you could join in on to learn more.
This old coastal town is perfect for a quick stop (and if you want to really see it I’d say spend the day). Stroll along the harbor, stop into the old medicine shop and check out the forts from long ago. Be sure to walk around town and check out all the shops. They have lots of stores that sell wacky things and many more that sell stereotypical Florida items. Each one is fun to go into and check out.
The state of Georgia is absolutely beautiful, and Savannah is one of those towns that supports that fact. It is also another historic town filled with mansions and museums. Even if you simply drive through you can witness the beauty as you drive under the large oak trees whose branches reach out over the streets, covered in Spanish moss.
Magnolia Plantation (Charleston)
Charleston is a beautiful town and there is lots to do there, especially in the summer. I recommend taking a plantation tour. When picking which plantation think about what you really want to see. Are you looking for history tours? Do you want to see the building itself? Are you more into seeing a beautifully kept landscape and garden?
If you are looking for history tours and to take a walk through well-kept gardens, I recommend seeing Magnolia Plantation. Here you can take a tour of the old slaves quarters and learn their history and stories. You can tour the house and gardens. Or you can stroll through the gardens by yourself. Whichever you choose, it should take you about half the day (unless you are really into history). Don’t forget to look up prices as all plantations you need to pay to get in.
South of the Boarder
If you are taking 95, stop for gas at South of the Boarder. It is on the boarder between North and South Carolina. It is a very strange and random place to be honest with you and I’d say worth the stop. You will see road signs counting down how close you are from almost 100 miles back. When I say you will see them, I mean there will be a sign about every 10 miles.
It is supposed to be a Mexican Themed park- though it seems very run down. You can grab food, buy trinkets or go up to the sombrero shaped observation tower. I do not recommend buying anything from the convenience stores. Most of their stuff is stale. I bought a candy bar that was rock solid when I opened it and my mom bought a water bottle that was expired…yeah you read that right, EXPIRED WATER… I didn’t think water was supposed to expire but the expiration date said otherwise, and the taste supported that fact.
The Outer Banks
The Outer Banks are right along the coast of NC, and they are absolutely beautiful. Here you can swim in the ocean, lay on the beach, take a walk through a state park and more. They have a handful of great restaurants and activities you can participate in such as kayaking, fishing, windsurfing and much more. It’s a place that you could not only vacation but buy a summer home there.
I have never actually stopped in Virginia, I have always driven through. However, I have always wanted to go to:
Here is where the wild horses roam! Or so I have read. My friends who have been have told me that it is a beach where the wild horses all but sunbathe with you! I have also been told it is a bit dirty. However, it’s still on my list- if you head there let me know what you thought!
This is by no means a quick stop, but it would be wrong if I didn’t tell you to stop here. Washington DC could take a week to really see everything, but if you have time stop by and see something!
The area is extremely clean, the subways are super easy and there is SO much to see. If you only have a short time, try to stop by the following places: Stop into any of the Smithsonian Museums and see anything from mummies to gems, to airplanes and pop culture memorabilia. Take a walk over to the white house- even if you are not into politics or history it is a sight you will want to say you saw. See the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
Of course, there is much more to see and do, but in my opinion those would be the first things I would want to see again (or at all if I had never been before).
If you are going to Maryland you have to go to Baltimore. You could see a game if you are into baseball, just be careful what you say in regards to any sports team- the people of Baltimore are very patriotic when it comes to their state.
See Edgar Allen Poe’s grave stone. You can walk to the old run down cemetery, Poe’s final resting place, from the harbor. Or just drive there if you can find a parking spot. The cemetery is nestled up against an old building known as Westminster Hall. It is a small, rundown cemetery that isn’t even ¼ the size of a football field. When you step inside the gate it feels as though you were transported to back in time to England in the 1800’s.
After the grave, head to the harbor! You can check out the shops and ships and have lunch on the water. Wherever you eat, make sure you order Baltimore’s famous blue crab, with old bay seasoning. (To be honest, and I apologize to all my friends who live in Baltimore, I was not a fan of the seasoning. Being from New England, I have to say that our crab is better.)
Philadelphia (the Liberty Bell)
If you are going to hit Pennsylvania, you need to go to Philly. First and foremost, see the Liberty bell! It is a tourist and history buff must. Fair warning, the line to see the bell is long. It is also not always in the shade, so bring a hat and a water bottle to stay hydrated. We waited in line for about an hour, which isn’t too bad but the sun makes it feel longer. You can also take a quick stop across the street to Liberty Hall.
Keep an eye on the architecture while you are walking around or driving through the city. The buildings are built beautifully and many are very old. There is art everywhere you look and lots to marvel at. Also, don’t forget to get a Philly cheese steak sandwich from one of the food trucks. You know what they say… when in Philadelphia.
Atlantic City Board Walk
Head closer to the coast and over to New Jersey’s Atlantic City board walk! If you want to hit the beach grab your swim suite and towel and hit the water! That is, if it is sunny when you are there. If not there is lots more to do! Stroll the board walk and head down to the pier. You can ride the ferries wheel or play lots of carnival games. Check out all the crazy and fried foods they have for sale. From giant hot dogs to pizza with French fried on top, New Jersey has tons of crazy foods to try.
New York City
Are you at all surprised that this made the list? While you could spend weeks in NY, NY in order to see everything, when driving by you should at least stop for the day. Hit Times Square! There is lots to see on Times Square that could keep you busy for the day. If you’ve been there already, take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, stroll through central park or take a ferry to Elise Island to see the statue of liberty.
Mystic, Connecticut is yet another beautiful town close to the sea. If you are looking for the sea, swing down to the harbor and watch the ships sail in and out. If you want more of an activity head over the mystic aquarium. Nearby is old mystic village, lined with old fashion stores that will give you that tourist in a small town feel. Or, for a more new age feel, head downtown to shop, dine and take in the sea.
Out of all the coastal towns I have been to, Newport will always be one of my favorites. There Is lots to see and do here in this small little town by the sea. You could hit the beach, walk the cobble streets, attempt some extreme sports or try all the amazing seafood. Definitely stop into the candy stores for some fudge or real salt water tafey.
Another easy one that you cannot miss is Boston. Being an hour away from Boston it seems like such a normal place to go. I mean, all my school field trips were to the Boston Science Museum or the Aquarium (both I recommend seeing). However, if you are not from MA it is a city to check off your bucket list.
You could probably spend a weekend in Boston and see everything you want to see. Watch a game at Fenway Park, walk the freedom trail, check out Faneuil Hall and watch for street performers. This is another town where the seafood is divine! Well, you are in New England after all.
Portsmouth is a great town to explore and it has a mix of everything. If you are looking to spend the day and are looking for some fun, head to the water park, Water Country! The prices are not too crazy compared to some. You can spend the day by the pool or splashing down water slides- just beware that is gets overcrowded during the summer. If the water park is not for you, take a boat tour or go wine/beer tasting.
If you do not want to spend money, you can walk around market square and window shop. Take a stroll around the parks or have a picnic. Portsmouth is a comfy town with enough around to keep you busy for the day.
The last stop on our route- or first depending where you start – is Portland, Maine. Portland is a very hipster town. Fastened right along the harbor there are many hills that take you up and down different shops filled with food, souvenirs and tasty treats. Check out the Coastal Maine Popcorn shop and try free samples of the craziest flavored popcorn (s’mores, buffalo wing, dill pickle, ect..) and stop by Gorgeous Gelato for gelato that taste like it’s from Italy (or, in my opinion better than some of the gelato I had while in Italy). There are a ton of great places to eat and beautiful ocean views.
If you start from Maine and end in Florida, or start in Florida and end in Maine, there are many places to stop along the east coast route. The foods differ greatly from the north to the south and so do the people and environment. However much time you have to spend, and wherever you stop, you will always find the east coast to be a great road trip!