Best Coastal Drives

By The Open Road: 50 Best Road Trips in the USA author Jessica Dunham

From cliffside highways overlooking the Pacific to the quaint beach towns of Maine, here are the best scenic drives from coast to coast.

Pacific Coast Highway

Whether it’s a cliff jutting over the ocean in Big Sur or the warm sands of Huntington Beach or San Diego, staring at the deep-blue hue and unruly waves of the Pacific Ocean never gets old. Head to Washington and Oregon for plenty of secluded beaches from which to gaze at the coastal horizon.

Michigan’s Gold Coast

No matter if you’re lunching at a family-owned restaurant or staying at a charming bed-and-breakfast, you’re never far from water views thanks to the route’s 300 miles of coastline.

New England

Stop at Acadia National Park in Maine.
Stop at Acadia National Park in Maine. Photo ©

Lighthouses line the rugged Maine coast, linking quaint towns and lovely beaches, most of which lie dormant in winter only to come alive with the crowds in summer.

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay hugs Maryland’s shoreline. This drive drive hops from yacht-filled marinas and bustling bayside towns to peaceful beaches sometimes populated only by a morning walker and his golden retriever.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks

This drive straddles Pamlico Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Breathe in the sea air, and linger in the coastal villages that line the barrier islands.

O‘ahu Coastal Loop

O‘ahu’s Diamond Head Summit Trail
limb to the top of an extinct volcano on O‘ahu’s Diamond Head Summit Trail. Photo ©

The quiet beaches and pounding surf of the North Shore tempt you to pull over. Make time for frequent stops so you don’t to miss a chance to watch surfers navigate the 30-story waves.

Road To Hana

Hairpin curves wind around Maui’s eastern coastline, where the only thing that stands between you and the view is a palm tree or a banana stand.

Get ready to hit the road!

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