With summer just approaching, now is the perfect time to start planning your family or friends’ vacation. If you want a unique and memorable experience this year, consider taking a coastal road trip! Coastline drives offer beautiful scenery and exciting attractions to make your journey memorable. Whether you plan to go along the rugged coasts of Maine or cruise down California’s famous Highway 1, plenty of incredible stops and activities await you on your coastal adventure.
Pacific Coast Highway (California)
This iconic route stretches along the California coast, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, coastal towns, and attractions like Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Barbara.
You can see iconic landmarks like the Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls in Big Sur along the way. Santa Barbara and Monterey provide opportunities to explore sandy beaches, indulge in delicious seafood, and immerse oneself in the laid-back coastal culture. You can also visit attractions like Hearst Castle, a magnificent mansion overlooking the ocean, and the famous Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.
Highway 1 (California, Oregon, and Washington)
While the Pacific Coast Highway is a popular section, Highway 1 continues north from there, offering stunning coastal views, picturesque towns, and attractions like the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Olympic National Park in Washington.
In Oregon, travelers will encounter gorgeous coastal landscapes, including rugged cliffs, old lighthouses, and beaches. The iconic Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and the charming town of Astoria are among the highlights. As the route extends into Washington, the scenic drive showcases dramatic coastal scenery, with rocky shorelines, forests, and charming seaside towns like Long Beach and Ocean Shores. Travelers can explore the scenic beauty of Olympic National Park, which features old-growth forests and snow-capped mountains.
U.S. Route 1 (Maine)
Known as the “Coastal Highway,” this road trip takes you along the rugged coastline of Maine, offering picturesque lighthouses, rocky shores, charming fishing villages like Kennebunkport, and the stunning Acadia National Park.
Traveling south from Fort Kent on U.S. Route 1 in Maine, you’ll witness Aroostook County’s rugged beauty, famous for its potato fields and charming towns. Take advantage of Acadia National Park, where you can hike scenic trails, admire coastal views, and visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Explore Camden’s harbor, boutique shops, and seafood scene. In Portland, savor culinary delights, explore art galleries, and wander the vibrant Old Port district. Discover coastal charm in Kennebunkport’s communities and stately mansions. Finally, reach Kittery, the route’s southernmost point, for tax-free shopping at Kittery Outlets.
Cape Cod Scenic Highway (Massachusetts)
This road trip takes you to Cape Cod, a popular summer destination in Massachusetts. Enjoy beautiful beaches, quaint towns like Provincetown and Chatham, and fresh seafood.
Starting from the iconic Bourne Bridge, explore the charming town of Sandwich, known for its beautiful landscapes and historic sites like the Sandwich Glass Museum. Continuing along the highway, stop in the vibrant town of Hyannis, where you can visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and enjoy the waterfront. As you drive further, the quaint villages of Chatham and Orleans await, offering coastal charm, beaches, and seafood. Take advantage of the opportunity to visit the captivating Cape Cod National Seashore, which spans miles of beaches, dunes, and nature trails. The road trip concludes with a visit to Provincetown, a vibrant and artistic town located at the tip of Cape Cod.
Highway 1A (New Hampshire and Massachusetts)
This coastal drive takes you through the picturesque towns of New Hampshire’s seacoast and Massachusetts’ North Shore, offering scenic views, charming seaside villages, and historic sites like Salem.
Explore Rye with its scenic beaches and historic Rye Harbor State Park. Continue south through Hampton and North Hampton, offering beautiful beachfront views. Cross into Massachusetts for Salisbury Beach State Reservation’s sandy shores and recreational activities. Discover Newburyport’s vibrant city with historic charm, boutique shops, and excellent dining. Further along, explore enchanting Plum Island’s wildlife refuges and serene beaches.
Outer Banks Scenic Byway (North Carolina)
This road trip takes you along the barrier islands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, offering stunning beaches, wild horses, historic lighthouses like Cape Hatteras, and the unique landscape of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Start in Corolla with wild horses and beautiful beaches. Continue to charming coastal towns like Duck and Kitty Hawk, with stunning views and historical attractions. Nags Head impresses with dunes, fishing piers, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Journey to Hatteras Island for the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, guiding ships. Ocracoke Island charms with a quaint village, picturesque landscapes, and the historic Ocracoke Lighthouse.
Overseas Highway (Florida Keys)
This road trip along the Overseas Highway connects the Florida Keys islands. Enjoy driving over the ocean, experiencing stunning sunsets, snorkeling, and visiting attractions like Key Largo and Key West.
Starting in Key Largo, explore the underwater wonders of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park or enjoy fresh seafood at local restaurants. Islamorada has beautiful beaches, world-class fishing, and charming art galleries. In Marathon, the Turtle Hospital provides a unique opportunity to learn about sea turtle conservation efforts. As the journey progresses, the iconic Seven Mile Bridge offers breathtaking views, and Big Pine Key offers encounters with the adorable endangered Key deer. Finally, reaching Key West, travelers can immerse themselves in the vibrant culture, visit Ernest Hemingway’s Home, and witness the spectacular sunset celebrations at Mallory Square.
Scenic Highway 30A (Florida)
Located along the Gulf Coast of Florida’s Panhandle, this road trip takes you through beautiful beach communities like Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Grayton Beach, with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and charming coastal architecture.
Explore white sand beaches and unique architecture in the iconic beach town of Seaside. Continuing along the highway, the charming towns of WaterColor and Grayton Beach beckon with their natural beauty and laid-back coastal atmosphere. As you drive further, the artsy community of Alys Beach captivates with its striking white architecture and upscale vibe. Rosemary Beach awaits with its charming shops, gourmet restaurants, and beautiful beachfront properties. Finally, Seagrove Beach is known for its tranquil ambiance and beautiful Deer Lake State Park access.
U.S. Coastal Road Trips
Taking a summer coastal road trip is the perfect way to embrace the sun, sand, and sea. Whether you explore the Pacific Coast’s rugged beauty or the East Coast’s charming beaches, a coastal road trip promises endless adventures. With each mile, you’ll discover hidden gems, breathtaking landscapes, and the laid-back vibes of coastal communities. Enjoy your summer adventures!
This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfectv acation destination.