Guide to an Atlantic Coast Road Trip

Atlantic Coast Boardwalk

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The Eastern Seabord of the United States is one of the most culturally and geographically diverse regions of the country, and there's no better way to explore this rich area than jumping in a vehicle and driving from one end to the other. Experience everything from New England foliage to the tropical islands of the Florida Keys, plus everything in between.

This expansive road trip stretches for over 1,600 miles (more than 2,500 kilometers) and drives through 10 states plus the District of Columbia. The route below primarily follows the coast for scenic views while you drive, but at many points, you could cut over to I-95 for easier driving and less time on the road. You could also add even more pitstops or detours if you want to see more. Use this journey as a guide to design your own perfect Atlantic Coast road trip.

The entire Eastern Seaboard can be pretty miserable during the heat of summer, regardless of how far north you are. That’s why it’s recommended to take this road trip when temperatures are a little cooler. Spring or early fall is the ideal time for making this drive, but avoid the humid months of July and August if you can. Winter can also cause major delays and closed roads due to snowstorms, especially in the northern states.

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First Stop: Boston

Statue of Paul Revere on horse in center of Paul Revere Mall leading to Old North Church along Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts
Anna Gorin / Getty Images

New England is one of the most iconic areas of the Atlantic Coast and this road trip begins in the region's biggest city of Boston. You can experience all four seasons in the Massachusetts capital and what you do varies by the time of year you're visiting. Fall is the most magical time to be in the city so you can enjoy the bright autumn colors that New England is famous for. When the weather is warm enough to walk around, the Freedom Trail is a guided route that covers the most important historical landmarks around the city from the American Revolution. One thing you can count on during a coastal road trip is high-quality seafood, so start the trip off right with two local specialties: lobster rolls and clam chowder.

Where to Stay

From stylish boutique hotels like the Newbury Guesthouse to romantic getaways for a couple's road trip like XV Beacon, a major city like Boston has plenty of options for those who want to stay in the city. If you're looking for a more rustic experience along the coast, Ellis Haven is a campground in Plymouth (about 30 minutes outside of Boston) with full hookup sites for RVs as well as spaces for tents. Not only are you close to Boston, but Plymouth is also the gateway for exploring the gorgeous beaches of Cape Cod.

Distance to New York City: 4 hours; 233 miles (375 kilometers)

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02 of 08

Second Stop: New York City

High angle view of midtown Manhattan and Empire State Building, New York, USA

Henglein and Steets / Getty Images

You could spend weeks exploring all there is to do in New York City, the second stop on your Atlantic Coast road trip. From iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the 9/11 Memorial to just taking a casual stroll in one of the city's many parks—Central Park isn't the only one worth visiting—a first-time visitor to NYC has plenty to keep busy. In between sightseeing, make sure to stay energized by trying local specialties and wind down in one of New York's best bars.

Where to Stay

Staying in New York City can be pricey, especially in Manhattan and the waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But in a city this large, there are options for all tastes and budgets. City Rooms NYC in Chelsea is a hostel with private bedrooms but shared common areas, while the Library Hotel in Midtown is glitzier but centrally located and with luxurious amenities.

If staying in New York City is too exorbitant, look for options across the Hudson River in New Jersey. The Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott has clean rooms and is right next to Newark Airport, which has a direct and easy connection to Penn Station in New York. You'll save a lot of money but still have all the best parts of the city easily accessible.

Traveling with an RV inside New York City would be a major headache for any driver, so RV travelers should look into Liberty Harbor RV Park in New Jersey. It's right across the river and is conveniently located next to Liberty Harbor, which has direct ferry service to Wall Street in downtown Manhattan. This urban park offers all the major amenities for RVers including full hookups, dump station, hot showers, and Wi-Fi.

Distance to Atlantic City: 2 hours, 30 minutes; 129 miles (208 kilometers)

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03 of 08

Third Stop: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City coastline with hotels

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Atlantic City is the East Coast version of Las Vegas, with its vibrant casinos, live entertainment, and fine dining all along the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk. Popular attractions in Atlantic City include Caesars Atlantic City and the Borgata Casino, as well as live entertainment at the Boardwalk Hall. But Atlantic City isn't just a play place for adults. Kids can have a blast too at one of the Jersey Shore beaches or at the Boardwalk theme park with thrill rides, carnival games, and fried snacks.

Where to Stay

Many of the big-name resorts you may have seen in Las Vegas, such as Harrah's, Cesar's, and the Hard Rock, can also be found in Atlantic City. Book a night at any one of Atlantic City's best hotels if you want to stay in the heart of the East Coast version of Sin City. Harrah's Resort is ideal for families with its kid-friendly pool, arcade, and spacious room floorplans. If you want to forgo the big-name resorts, the Chelsea Pub and Inn is a family-run bed and breakfast with lots of charm, but it's better suited for families with older children since guests under age 12 are not allowed.

The highly-rated Ponoma RV Park includes shaded sites outfitted with utility hookups as well as fire pits to go along with the complimentary cable and Wi-Fi access. Showers and laundry facilities keep you nice and clean and you can stock up on supplies at the camp store. Other amenities and features at Pomona include propane refill, hot tubs, a swimming pool, playground, and campground games like horseshoes. 

Distance to Hatteras Island: 8 hours; 375 miles (604 kilometers)

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Fourth Stop: Hatteras Island, North Carolina

Wooden boardwalk to beach, Hatteras, Outer Banks

Dennis K. Johnson / Getty Images

You have the entire Outer Banks of North Carolina to explore when staying on Hatteras Island. Some of the more popular areas include Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, and the Wright Brothers Memorial. If you want to get out on the water, try some good old fashioned surfing or kitesurfing and, of course, you can’t forget about the many lighthouses that dot the shores of the Outer Banks. However you look at it, Hatteras Island is a fun beachside locale for the whole family.

Where to Stay

Staying outside is the ideal way to enjoy the natural beauty of Hatteras, and the Camp Hatteras RV Resort and Campground is one of the best ways to do just that. RV sites are decked out with full utility hookups, private patios, and even cable and wireless internet access. The premium spots are adjacent to the beach, so you can enjoy an evening campfire with views of the Atlantic Ocean. If you want an RV camping experience but don't have an RV, you can even rent a vehicle just to sleep in and spend the night.

Distance to Myrtle Beach: 7 hours; 360 miles (579 kilometers)

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05 of 08

Fifth Stop: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Tourists walking on Myrtle Beach past hotels.

Dennis K. Johnson / Getty Images

After leaving Hatteras, you'll have to cut back inland before continuing south to Myrtle Beach. The biggest draw to this seaside resort town is its wide and scenic beaches. But this city also offers so much more, including world-class golf courses and outlet shopping. Kids can enjoy a number of activities, including the Broadway Grand Prix go-kart park, the Ripley's Aquarium, and the Boardwalk amusement park.

Where to Stay

To fully enjoy Myrtle Beach, try booking a room in one of the oceanside hotels for views of the water and easy access to the beach. SeaGlass Tower has some of the best views in town plus floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy them. Dunes Village Resort is unbeatable for travelers with kids since the hotel has a full waterpark on the premises.

If you have an RV, you're likely familiar with the national KOA chain of PV parks, and the Myrtle Beach KOA has all the amenities and facilities you would expect from an RV institution—full hookups, cable TV, wireless internet, sparking clean showers, laundry facilities, and more. You also get extras that make this lush park feel more like a resort such as onsite fishing, group pavilions, a pool, outdoor theater, and wagon rides. If you like a park with a lot going on, you’ll love Myrtle Beach. 

Distance to Savannah: 4 hours; 211 miles (340 kilometers)

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Sixth Stop: Savannah, Georgia

Azaleas blooming at Historic Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Savannah, Georgia, is a town that just oozes with Southern charm. Enjoy some neat attractions and architecture in the city center such as the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Bonaventure Cemetery, or Forsyth Park. You can take guided city tours, a trolley tour, or even guided ghost tours to get a peek at the spooky history of the city of Savannah. If you want simplicity, just take a stroll through the Savannah Historic District. Nature lovers can head out of the city to Skidaway Island State Park or the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge for biking and hiking trails, wildlife viewing, ranger-guided tours, and geocaching.

Where to Stay

Savannah has all types of major hotel chains if you're looking for family-friendly amenities or recognizable names, but the city's accommodations really shine in the homey bed and breakfasts and downtown inns, such as The Gastonian with its 19th-century architecture.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better campground in all of Georgia than Skidaway Island State Park, located in the local forests and scenic salt marshes. This public park boasts 87 sites for RV parking or camping, all with water and electric hookups and some even with RV sewer hookups. The park also houses clean restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities, a dump station, a playground, and picnic tables.

Distance to Miami: 7 hours; 485 miles (780 kilometers)

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Seventh Stop: Miami

Lummus Park, Miami

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

Miami is an extremely vibrant community with loads to do and appeals to everyone from partygoers and beach lovers to art connoisseurs and foodies. If you like outdoor adventure, you can try hikes and guided tours through nearby Everglades National Park or Lummus Park Beach for something a little more intimate. Families will enjoy Safari Adventure or Zoo Miami to get the kids out and about after long hours sitting in the car. You also can’t forget about the world-famous nightclubs, restaurants, and the party-famous South Beach. Whatever your interests are, Miami has it covered.

Where to Stay

In Miami, the neighborhood you stay in is just as important as the location itself. The hip Wynwood neighborhood is perfect for those who want to be in the city's up-and-coming cool zone, while those who want nightlife may be happiest around South Beach, such as at the Delano South Beach Hotel. Whichever area you decide on, there are plenty of hotel options available.

Larry and Penny Thompson Park is a publicly run RV park and campground that has fabulous reviews. The unique layout allows you to park your RV in “pods” with plenty of personal space as well as the use of full utility hookups. The park is large with 240 sites but you shouldn’t have too much trouble with facilities as there are four distinct large restrooms, shower, and laundry facility buildings. You also have your own freshwater lake, jogging and bike trail, water slide, and camp store.

Distance to Key West: 3 hours, 30 minutes; 166 miles (267 kilometers)

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Final Stop: Key West, Florida

Elevated town view from the Key West Lighthouse

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Like Miami, Key West is a town ready to party—and you’re invited. Popular activities include sport fishing and more on-the-water fun such as boat tours of the Bay. The great outdoor adventure begins with Dry Tortugas National Park where you can scuba dive, snorkel, or just stroll around and enjoy its natural beauty. Popular landmarks and attractions include the Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Duval Street is the main strip in town and around here you'll find all of the best restaurants, bars, and shopping that Key West has to offer. It's truly an out-of-this-world way to finish off your Atlantic Coast road trip.

Where to Stay

It's hard to believe that the same trip that started in New England is ending in this tropical paradise, and the Key West hotels only elevate the sense of being in a far-off land. Almost every building in the city has a view of the ocean, so you can enjoy beautiful landscapes while celebrating the end of your trip no matter where you stay. The Southernmost Beach Resort is one of the standouts for its private beach and a pier for lounging that juts into the ocean. Santa Maria Suites is a hit with families since the poolside happy hour applies to all ages—cocktails for adults and smoothies and ice cream for the kids.

Bluewater Key RV Resort is set in Key West with the perfect background of blue waters. RVers will be pampered with individually owned private sites outfitted with full utility hookups, cable TV, and wireless internet while surrounded by lush landscaping. Bluewater Key also has all the practical amenities and facilities you would ever need including hot showers, washrooms, and laundry facilities while also hosting a temperature-controlled pool, direct water access, a camp store, and a dog park.