Take A Scenic Drive Along The East Coast On This Must-Do US Road Trip Route

One of the beautiful things about exploring the United States is that you can hop in a car and go wherever the wind takes you. A road trip is the perfect way to travel, and driving around the sprawling country has become one of the ultimate expressions of freedom and adventure. The Great American Road Trip has been immortalized time and time again by writers like Steinbeck and Kerouac.

If you've been dreaming about hopping behind the wheel and hitting the open highway, consider planning a trip along the United States East Coast from New York City to Key West, Florida. The scenic drive along the Eastern Seaboard will take you along scenic coastal roads bordering the Atlantic Ocean, with opportunities to stop in some of America's coolest cities and funky beach towns. You'll cover over 1,600 miles with a total driving time of around 33 hours, so it's best to budget a whole week or more for this trip and give yourself plenty of time to stop for sightseeing along the way.

Whether you're a first-time visitor to the United States or a veteran road tripper looking to experience a new region of the country, grab your road atlas, make an epic playlist, and get ready for the ultimate East Coast road trip.

New York City to Atlantic City (The Jersey Shore)

New York City is the perfect place to begin your road trip along the Atlantic Coast. Aside from being an iconic destination all on its own, it's greater metropolitan area has no fewer than three major international airports, so finding a flight from anywhere in the world should be no trouble. If you're renting a car, there are dozens of rental locations in the city.

Driving around New York City can be stressful — there's a lot of congestion on the roads, and parking can be costly. If you're renting a car for your road trip, it's best to wait until you're ready to leave the city. Until then, you can explore New York's unique neighborhoods, museums, nightlife, and food scenes by taking the city's excellent public transportation system. Budget at least a day or two in New York to see  iconic sites like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building. With more time, wander around neighborhoods like Soho, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, and Chelsea. Whatever you do, don't forget to try a slice of pizza before hitting the road.

The drive from New York to Atlantic City on the Jersey Shore takes just over two hours, so it's a nice way to start your road trip. Spend a night in Atlantic City exploring the famous boardwalk and trying your luck at some glittering casinos.

Ocracoke, North Carolina

After the hustle and bustle of New York and Atlantic City, you'll be ready for a change of scenery — and Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina is the perfect off-the-beaten-path beach destination along the Atlantic Coast. The trip from Atlantic City to Ocracoke Island will take around 10 hours, including a one-hour ferry ride to the island. So, if you want to break it up, consider stopping halfway in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Somehow, Ocracoke Island remains one of the best kept secrets on the East Coast. The entire island is only 16 miles long and 3 miles wide and was once a favorite hideout of the notorious pirate Blackbeard and his men in the early 1700s. During your stay; you'll have the opportunity to take in historical landmarks and learn plenty of local legends associated with pirate life. Make sure to visit Springer's Point, which was once the location of unhinged pirate parties but now serves as a beautiful nature preserve.

Ocracoke Village is tiny and picturesque, with a variety of tasty restaurants serving freshly caught seafood and some cute shops with local artisan goods, and many of the local restaurants and bars have live music in the evenings. Locals and tourists alike enjoy spending the days sprawled out on the island's spacious white sand beaches, swimming in the Atlantic, riding bikes, and taking scenic boat rides around the island.

Charleston, South Carolina

After spending a few days enjoying the surf and sun on Ocracoke Island, hop back in the car and drive for about nine hours until you reach Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is one of the most picturesque cities in the southeastern United States, and you should add it to your travel list immediately.

Charleston is known for its historic architecture, cobblestone streets, and laid-back Southern vibes. You can explore art museums and galleries here, catch a theatrical performance, and chow down on delicious Southern cuisine. For excellent shopping and people-watching, stroll down King Street or head to City Market to pick up some souvenirs from local artists and craftspeople. If you're looking for more beach time and less urban exploration, head to nearby Folly Beach, an adorable beach just over 20 minutes from downtown Charleston.

While Charleston is beautiful, it also has a complicated and disturbing history as a former hub of the North American slave trade. There is no denying that the city's wealth and prosperity were due to the exploitation of enslaved Africans and their descendants. While the horrors of that time can never be erased or forgotten, in recent years, the city of Charleston has attempted to preserve Black history with various tours, museum exhibits, and events where you can learn about the many ways African-American culture impacted the city and the American South as a whole.

Savannah, Georgia

After you've enjoyed the city of Charleston and its nearby beaches for a few days, hop back in the car for a short two-hour drive to Savannah, Georgia, which tourists often call the most friendly destination in the U.S.  With streets draped in Spanish moss, beautiful architecture, and a thriving arts scene, Savannah makes an excellent stop along your East Coast road trip.

The city is home to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), one of the top-rated art schools in the United States, so it's no surprise that the city has developed a reputation for artistic expression and creativity. As you explore, you'll find plenty of art galleries, music venues, and theaters scattered among historic buildings and cobblestone streets.

With a day or two to spend in Savannah, you'll have time to experience the city's highlights. To cover the most ground, consider taking a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour, which will take you by all of the significant landmarks. For a spooky and unforgettable evening, book the Ghosts and Gravestones tour offered by Old Town Trolley Tours — Savannah is considered one of the most haunted cities in the United States.

Afterward, walk down its famous River Street, located along the waterfront, and admire the views before enjoying some mouthwatering seafood and a delicious cocktail at one of the many restaurants.

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida, is the southernmost tip of the continental United States, and the drive from Savannah is about 10 hours. If you have time, break up the long stretch in the car with stops in either St. Augustine or West Palm Beach. Key West is one of the most enchanting beach communities in the United States, and there are many adventurous things to do during your visit. The tiny island is made of sand and coral and measures 4 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. To get there, you'll drive along the famous Overseas Highway, a 113-mile stretch with tons of bridges over the ocean and incredible views the entire way.

During your stay in Key West, leave plenty of time to kick back, relax on white sand beaches, and swim in shallow, turquoise waters. If you're an ocean lover, make sure you book one of the snorkeling excursions offered by various tour companies so that you can explore the only barrier reef in the United States. Back in town, you can enjoy excellent seafood restaurants, colorful architecture, and historic sites including the home where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote many of his most iconic books throughout the 1930s.

If you rent a car for your road trip, you can choose to drop it off in Key West or head back to Miami, where you'll find a major international airport with plenty of options for flights home.