I drive the country whenever I have a chance. My drives take me from Washington D.C. to Flint, Michigan at least fives times a year. When I’m not taking the turnpikes from the East Coast to the Midwest, I also love to explore the little side roads and scenic highways available throughout America.
Here’s a look at my five favorite drives in different parts of the country.
The South: The Skyline Drive, Virginia
Winding through Shenandoah National Park in north-central Virginia is the long, well-maintained Skyline Drive. Accessible from I-66, a full drive from north to south would take one through Front Royal to I-64.
There are nice stops at the aptly-named Big Meadows with its visitor center, and at mile 24 Elkwallow Wayside will get you anything you could need for a picnic at one of the scenic pull offs.
Be prepared to take it slow. It’s only 35 miles per hour on the Skyline drive. But if you’re racing through the drive, you’re missing the point and the opportunity to see, as I have, a black bear and other animals. Also of interest is the Maine to Georgia Appalachian Trail which runs alongside the length of the drive..
The East Coast: Coastal Highway Drive, Delaware
On the somewhat isolated Delmarva peninsula, just east of Washington D.C. and Baltimore and south of Philadelphia, there are a strip of beach towns starting at Lewes Beach, Delaware on Route 9, jogging a few miles south to Delaware 1, and down the coastal highway eventually leading to Virginia. Along the way, you can stop at Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, and Fenwick Island in Delaware.
There’s plenty to do and see at the seaside towns, with many restaurants, hotels, and beaches along the way. There are also stretches of marshy, reedy scenery, in particular once one is south of Rehoboth Beach.
It costs a bit of money to do this trip, and the rates seem to go up every year, but America’s oldest turnpike is one of the prettiest drives on the East Coast. Starting a Breezewood, it’s a roughly two hour drive to Pittsburgh or three hours to the Ohio border and perfect for a scenic fall drive..
The roads are winding, but extremely well-taken care of and there are many stops for food and fuel along the way. Kids may get a kick out of the long Allegheny Tunnel just before Somerset.
The Midwest: U.S. Route 31, Michigan
My home state of Michigan is known for its trees and lakes, and the best way to take those in is to take Route 31 from Traverse City to the Mackinac Bridge. Allowing access between Mackinaw City on the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula, it also leads ferries leading to the car-free Mackinac Island, a favorite Michigan tourist destination.
The West Coast: State Route 1, California
To allow me to really appreciate the ocean on my first trip to California, I was taken on a drive down to Santa Cruz and we traveled home, where the real trip began, from the oceanside city along Route 1 back to San Francisco. The views along the way are outstanding, with no real development to block your sight line. Along the way, be sure to stop to check out small tidal pools where you can see unique microlife in the rocks.