The East Coast of the United States is packed with charming coastal towns, historic cities, and spectacular beaches, making it a must-see destination for any traveler. A road trip is a perfect way to soak up the endless opportunities this coastline has to offer! No matter if you have days, weeks, or months, or want to stay in just one state or visit several, there is something to suit all travelers. Here are some of the best places to stop along the way, from a quaint coastal town up in Maine to a historical city down in Florida and many beautiful places in between!
10 Bar Harbor, Maine
Up on Mount Desert Island in beautiful Maine, Bar Harbor is a charming gateway town to Acadia National Park and a destination in its own right. The town is filled with historic homes, cutesy stores, and quaint ice-cream vendors, making it one of the most charming destinations on the east coast. One of the most popular activities is to walk across a sandbar to Bar Island for views of the little town. Acadia National Park is just a mile away and offers visitors the chance to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and explore the breathtaking Maine coastline.
9 Boston, Massachusetts
A little further south, historic Boston should be high-up on any east coast road trip itinerary. As the capital and largest city in Massachusetts, Boston is one of the oldest and most historically significant cities in the US. One of the most popular activities is to follow the Freedom Trail, which takes visitors around many important Boston landmarks, including the Paul Revere House and Boston Common. Other free activities include exploring the beautiful university campuses at Harvard and MIT, as well as the unique Massachusetts State Capital Building.
8 Newport, Rhode Island
In the next state down, Newport, known as the City by the Sea, makes a wonderful change from the city. The spectacular 3.5-mile cliff walk offers panoramic views of the sparkling ocean and Gilded Age mansions. There are miles of beaches and nearby hiking trails to explore, and the city has a vibrant art scene and excellent restaurants to enjoy.
7 New Haven, Connecticut
Down in Connecticut, New Haven makes an excellent stop on any east coast road trip. With a whopping 20% green or open space, New Haven is a wonderful mix of city and nature. It is also home to renowned Yale University, and visitors can explore its beautiful campus or enjoy the programs, concerts, and events held at the university. New Haven also has several beautiful churches to explore. Just out of the city, Lighthouse Point Park has stunning coastal views.
6 Atlantic City, New Jersey
Another coastal city that has a very different vibe but is also an excellent stop on an east coast road trip is Atlantic City. This resort town is bursting with glitzy stage shows, world-class restaurants, and endless sandy beaches. It is widely known as the ‘Las Vegas of the East because of its plethora of casinos and evening activities, but it is also a wonderful daytime destination with activities such as surfing and sailing. Atlantic City is a firm favorite for many east coasters, but it is definitely a love-it or hate-it kind of place; whichever it is, it’s worth the experience!
5 Virginia Beach, Virginia
Another resort town found along the east coast is Virginia Beach, found in southeastern Virginia. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the city with the world’s longest pleasure beach, which warrants a road trip stop all on its own! But, despite the name, there is more to Virginia Beach than just the beach. There is a multitude of museums and aquariums, parks, and amusement parks. Just out of the town itself is First Landing State Park, the most visited park in Virginia and one of the most important historical locations for the US as it is where English colonists first landed back in 1607. As well as history, First Landing State Park has more than 20 miles of hiking trails, sandy beaches, bald cypress swamps, and peaceful lagoons to explore.
4 Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
For a very different beach experience, add Ocracoke Island to your east coast bucket list. The island is only accessible by air or water, and the most common way over is by the ferries that carry passengers from the mainland or from the northern island of Hatteras. Ocracoke Island is famous for the 16 miles of pristine, undeveloped beaches, which are often rated as some of the best in the country (even beating some in Florida, California, and Hawaii). The little village has places to try the local cuisine, and there are nature trails, the Ocracoke Lighthouse, and Springer’s Point Nature Preserve for visitors to enjoy if they can tear themselves from the spectacular coastline! For those wanting to extend this part of the trip, travel down more of the Outer Banks Islands before reaching Ocracoke.
3 Charleston, South Carolina
With its colorful antebellum buildings draped in Spanish moss, it is difficult not to fall in love with Charleston. Whilst not the capital city of South Carolina (that title goes to college-town Columbia), Charleston is the biggest city in the state and is constantly ranked among the best cities in the US. History buffs will enjoy a visit to nearby Fort Sumter and the nearby historic plantations such as Magnolia Plantation or Drayton Hall. If you somehow tire yourself of this charming city, the beautiful beaches at Isle of Palms or Folly Beach are close to the city.
2 Savannah, Georgia
Along with Charleston, Savannah is another city that oozes southern charm with its cobblestone streets and Spanish-moss-laden oaks. Forsyth Park is a 30-acre green landscape right in downtown Savannah and is home to a huge fountain which is one of the most photographed spots in all of Savannah. The historic district of the city is one of the most beautiful and preserved in the US, but there are also lots of options for excellent shopping, dining, and nightlife throughout the city.
1 St Augustine, Florida
Further south of Savannah lies equally historic and beautiful St Augustine. It is America’s oldest city and has so much spectacular architecture for visitors to explore. Some examples are the Lightner Museum in the Hotel Alcazar lies in downtown St Augustine and is on the National Register of Historic Places and the impressive Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. If you get tired of the colorful streets, there are also 42 miles of beaches around St Augustine for visitors to enjoy the Florida sunshine!