5 Iconic USA Road Trips

iconic usa road trips

While Europe may be best enjoyed by train and South-East Asia by air, there is no better way to discover North America than by taking the road. Especially in the United States, where car rentals are very affordable and where there is seemingly an attraction every 10 kilometres.

If you are tempted to embark on an epic adventure across the USA this summer, here are five iconic road trips to inspire you.

Orlando to Key West

USA Road Trips

Key Largo

Everyone likes to go to Disney, at any age – that’s a fact. But there is so much more to Florida than princesses and rides! The state boasts some of the most iconic attractions in the country – not to mention the best weather.

Things to do along the way:

  • Marvel at South Beach’s art deco architecture (and swanky hotels)
  • Face the ‘gators in the Everglades
  • Drive the Seven Mile Highway in the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters
  • Scuba dive and snorkel Florida’s top spots, like the labyrinthine cave system of the central coast, the Spiegel Grove wreck off Key Largo or the famous underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Rescue, rehab and release injured sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon

Seattle to Portland

iconic usa road trips

Olympic National Park

Though this road trip is not as long as others on this list, the Seattle to Portland stretch of the I-5 is nonetheless worth a drive – especially when factoring in all the scenic detours along the way. From Seattle’s coffee and indie music scene to Portland’s eco-friendly attitude and adorably quirky residents, this is definitely a ride to remember.

Things to do along the way:

  • Hike the stunning hiking trails along the Pacific coastline in Olympic National Park
  • Stay in Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed tourist town
  • Admire the Painted Hills, which are not only famous for their colourful layers of reds, blacks, and golds, but also for their exceptionally well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals dating back from roughly 45 million years
  • Drive by the region’s infamous giants, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier
  • Discover the exceptional views from Crown Point lookout in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Stay at the iconic Mt Hood Timberline Lodge, where you can either relax at the spa or hike a section of the Pacific Crest national trail

San Francisco to Los Angeles

iconic usa road trips

Pacific Coast Highway

The 616-kilometre long stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is one of America’s most beloved road trips. Rightfully so:  California’s numerous beaches, dramatic coastlines, unobstructed views of the ocean and delicious food is quick to charm even the most reluctant visitor.

Things to do along the way:

  • Grab ice cream on the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
  • Mingle with marine life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Spend the night in a quaint B&B in Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Stop the car and hike one of Big Sur’s many scenic trails
  • Cross the iconic Bixby Bridge
  • Marvel at the mission-style architecture in laid-back Santa Barbara
  • Stop in Ventura for a dose of SoCal surfer culture
  • Go wine tasting (responsibly!) in San Luis Obispo County’s Wine Coast
  • Pretend to be royalty for a day at Hearst Castle
  • Make a day trip at sea on the Catalina Islands

Washington to Savannah

iconic usa road trips

The White House

Although Washington D.C. itself could very well be a holiday destination in its own right, its location in the middle of the country’s East Coast is the perfect starting point for a road trip down south. The American South-East is famous for its earthy cuisine and its wholesome inhabitants, as well as its colonial architecture and beaches. Does that sound like a winning recipe to you?

Things to do along the way:

  • Watch the planes land from up close at Gravelly Point Park
  • Pay your respects at the Arlington Military cemetery
  • Walk in George Washington’s footsteps at Mount Vernon
  • Go back in time in colonial Williamsburg
  • Go wine tasting in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay
  • Hike among the open grassy savannahs in Francis Marion National Forest
  • Stay in an antebellum plantation home like the Rhett House Inn
  • Tour the wildlife refuges and historic lighthouses of the Outer Banks
  • Visit the 22 historic squares of Savannah

Nashville to New Orleans

iconic usa road trips

New Orleans

Only the (musically and agriculturally) fertile Mississippi Delta could father such an intriguing and lively culture, one that is so heavily associated with Gospel music, rib shacks and elegant plantations. This laid-back 650-kilometre drive, which provides an intimate look on all that is southern, is guaranteed to be epic.

Things to do along the way:

  • Take in the Civil War history in Franklin
  • Stay in one of Vicksburg’s historic Civil War-era inns
  • Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame in hip Nashville
  • Drive the slow but scenic Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Take a detour to the bayous, swamps and jambalaya shacks in French Cajun Country
  • Admire the spectacularly well-preserved plantations houses in the formerly glorious city of Natchez
  • Walk in Elvis’ footsteps in Graceland and Sun Records studios
  • Tour the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg
  • Visit the NASA museum in Huntsville
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About Author

Marie-Eve Vallieres

Marie is a native Montrealer trying to balance a deep love for her hometown and an unquenchable thirst for travel and discovery. She has been to more than 20 countries, lived abroad in both France and the U.K., and is always on the lookout for authentic experiences wherever she travels -- especially if it involves chocolate.

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