Pack the van … we’re headed out on an East Coast road trip. This adventure is designed for those who love the water.
You’ll have the chance to dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean more than once, visit some of the most iconic cities on the coast and stop at a few lesser-known spots that might just make you want to call the whole road trip off, find a spot to live and put down roots.
In this journey, we’ll head to:
Key West – Everglades National Park – St. Augustine – Jekyll Island – Southern Soul Barbecue – Savannah – Edisto Beach State Park – Charleston – Bodie Island Light Station – Jockeys Ridge State Park – Nags Head – Ocean City Fishing Pier – Indian River Inlet – Cape Henlopen State Park
Stop 1: Key West
Start your road trip in Key West and take to the skies with the team at Air Adventures. You’ll get a chance to see the area from above and with a little luck you might be able to spot a shark (we saw two).
Stop 2: Everglades National Park
Leaving Key West and its crystal blue waters is never easy, however, point your vehicle toward Everglades National Park and experience the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators, snakes, turtles and herons and see if you can talk yourself into going on a slough slog with a ranger.
Stop 3: Ride a bike on the beach in St. Augustine
The sand is hard-packed and the beach is wide in St. Augustine, which makes a spin along the shoreline a must-do. Bring your own bike or rent one from Drifters Beach and Bike Rentals. They’ve got several bikes with classic lines to choose from and the best part is that they will deliver them right to you.
Stop 4: Jekyll Island
Choose your own adventure on Jekyll Island. The possibilities for fun range from standup paddleboarding to hiking, exploring the beach, visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, taking a tour of the island, playing golf, kayaking … you could spend a few days here and that still might not be enough.
Stop 5: Southern Soul Barbeque
Post-adventuring on Jekyll Island there’s only one place to go: Southern Soul Barbeque. The food there is nothing short of magic. And it just might be the only thing that’ll convince you to leave the island.
Stop 6: Savannah, Georgia
As you make your way up the east coast be sure to stop in Savannah, Georgia. We recommend caffeinating at Foxy Loxy Cafe and then stretching your legs in this picturesque city before hopping back in your car. You’ll find everything from historic cobblestone streets to beautifully manicured parks (there are 22 squares – how many can you run to?) as well as endless options for getting great food.
Stop 7: Edisto Beach State Park
This 1,255-acre park has 120 campsites (some with electricity) as well as 4 miles of trails made of hard packed sand and seashells that are open to both hikers, wheelchairs and bikes. Surf-fishing is allowed in this park but no lights are allowed on the beach from May to October (turtle season) because the park is home to nesting loggerhead sea turtles.
Stop 8: Downtown Charleston
There’s a ton of fun things to do in this city but we recommend exploring it on bike. Be sure to check out a recent story we wrote about some of the best bike rides in the area. If you’re not up for a spin around the city on two wheels, you can still cover a lot of ground on foot. There’s often live music on days when the weather is nice and there are seemingly endless amount of spots to liven up your Instagram feed.
Stop 9: Bodie Island Light Station
This lighthouse is worth visiting especially if you can time it so that you can climb up into it and see down below. (It’s open from the third Friday in April up until early October.) Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children.
Stop 10: Jockeys Ridge State Park
If you have a bit longer, consider signing up for a hang gliding class with Kitty Hawk Kites.
Stop 11: The beach at Nags Head
Nags Head is one of the most popular spots in the Outer Banks and has some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast. Unlike a lot of places, it’s also dog friendly year-round. The only requirement to bringing your pup onto the sand is that it has to be on a leash that’s 10 feet or shorter. (Bonus: Beer is allowed on the beach.)
Stop 12: Ocean City Fishing Pier
The Ocean City Fishing Pier is a great spot for fishing in the Atlantic (you don’t need a license and you can rent gear right there) or even just catching a sunrise or a sunset. The pier connects to the boardwalk which gives you access to all kinds of food, games, shops and rides.
Stop 13: Indian River Inlet
The inlet gets super packed in the summer with everyone and everything imaginable in the water. Be prepared for heavy crowds and tons of people of all abilities in the lineup including SUP’s, kayaks, kids on rafts and even kiteboarders. It can be a difficult place to get a wave in June and July so keep your expectations realistic … or just visit in the offseason.
Stop 14: Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park opens daily at 8 a.m. and closes at sunset. It’s got great access to the water, several trails and a newly renovated Nature Center. There’s also a great campground at the park that includes cabins as well as hookups for RV’s. The park also has a free “Borrow-A-Bike” program that’ll allow you to explore the area on two wheels.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are based in Asheville, North Carolina, but are currently traveling the country in their van. You can follow along with their adventures at Authentic Asheville.
All Photos By Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley.
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