best beach destinations

Coastal Road Trips: The Best Beach Destinations to Drive To

Summer is the perfect time to hit the road and explore some of the most beautiful coastal destinations. Whether you’re dreaming of sandy shores, crashing waves, or quaint seaside towns, a coastal road trip offers the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Here are some of the best beach destinations to drive to, each promising breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.

Best Beach Destinations to Explore From Your Car

best beach destinations

1. Pacific Coast Highway, California

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as California State Route 1, is one of the most iconic coastal drives in the world. Stretching over 600 miles, the PCH offers stunning ocean views, dramatic cliffs, and charming towns. Key stops along the way include:

  • Malibu: Famous for its pristine beaches and celebrity homes, Malibu is a must-visit. Don’t miss Zuma Beach and the Malibu Pier.
  • Santa Barbara: Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara offers beautiful beaches, Spanish architecture, and excellent wineries.
  • Big Sur: With its rugged coastline and redwood forests, Big Sur is perfect for nature lovers. Be sure to stop at McWay Falls and Bixby Creek Bridge.
  • Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea: Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the scenic 17-Mile Drive, and the artsy village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

best beach destinations

2. Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, known for their wild beauty and rich history. This 200-mile stretch is ideal for a laid-back beach road trip. Highlights include:

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Home to some of the East Coast’s most pristine beaches and the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
  • Nags Head: Enjoy sand dunes, fishing piers, and family-friendly beaches.
  • Ocracoke Island: Accessible only by ferry, Ocracoke offers a peaceful escape with beautiful beaches and a charming village.
  • Kill Devil Hills: Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, where the first powered flight took place.

3. Gulf Coast, Florida

Florida’s Gulf Coast is a paradise for beach lovers, with its powdery white sands and turquoise waters. A road trip along this coast promises sun-soaked days and vibrant nightlife. Key stops include:

  • Clearwater Beach: Known for its soft, white sand and clear waters, Clearwater Beach is perfect for families and water sports enthusiasts.
  • Sarasota: Home to Siesta Key Beach, often ranked among the best beaches in the U.S., and the vibrant arts scene in downtown Sarasota.
  • Sanibel Island: Famous for its shell-covered beaches, Sanibel Island is a haven for nature lovers and beachcombers.
  • Naples: Offers upscale dining, shopping, and beautiful beaches like Clam Pass Park and Vanderbilt Beach.

4. Maine Coast

For those who prefer cooler climes, the Maine Coast offers a rugged and picturesque road trip along the East Coast. This stretch is dotted with charming coastal towns, lighthouses, and seafood shacks. Highlights include:

  • Portland: Start your journey in this vibrant city known for its historic Old Port district and foodie scene.
  • Camden: A quintessential New England town with a picturesque harbor and stunning views from Mount Battie.
  • Acadia National Park: Explore the natural beauty of Acadia, with its rocky coastlines, carriage roads, and Cadillac Mountain.
  • Bar Harbor: A gateway to Acadia, Bar Harbor offers charming shops, restaurants, and beautiful coastal views.

5. Great Ocean Road, Australia

While not in the U.S., the Great Ocean Road in Australia deserves an honorable mention for those willing to travel further afield. This 150-mile drive along the southeastern coast of Australia is famous for its stunning ocean views and natural attractions. Highlights include:

  • Twelve Apostles: These iconic limestone stacks rising from the ocean are a must-see.
  • Bells Beach: Known for its world-class surfing, Bells Beach is a great spot to catch some waves.
  • Otway National Park: Explore lush rainforests, waterfalls, and native wildlife.
  • Lorne: A charming seaside town perfect for a relaxing stopover.

Tips for a Successful Coastal Road Trip

  1. Plan Your Route: While spontaneity is part of the fun, having a rough itinerary can help you make the most of your trip.
  2. Pack Smart: Bring essentials like sunscreen, beach towels, and plenty of water. Don’t forget a camera to capture the stunning views.
  3. Stay Flexible: Be open to detours and unplanned stops. Sometimes the best experiences are the ones you stumble upon.
  4. Book Accommodations in Advance: Coastal destinations can get busy in the summer, so it’s wise to book your stays ahead of time.

Whether you’re driving along the rugged cliffs of California or exploring the serene beaches of the Outer Banks, the journey promises breathtaking views and unforgettable memories! Comment below if you have a favorite coastal road trip. We’d love to hear about your experience!

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Linzi Martin
Linzi Martin has worked as a content manager, consultant, and writer for the past six years. She's handled everything from blogs and articles to e-books and social media content. Her work has been featured in various publications including Apartment Guide, The Startup, and Voyage Magazine. Outside of work, Linzi enjoys staying active, frequenting new restaurants around South Florida, and spending time with her family.

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