Southeastern US Road Trip Ideas
National Parks, Trip Ideas & Guides, Winter Road Trips
By Carly Eisley
With camper van rental locations across the United States, it is now a whole lot easier to hit the road and enjoy the diverse locations, landscapes, and culture that the Southeastern US has to offer. Love the beach? Hiking in the mountains? History Buff? Foodie? Beer Snob? We’ve got you covered, and then some, with these Southeastern US road trip ideas.
Not sure where to start? The possibilities are endless! Here are a few ideas to get you out on the road and having some fun.
Head to the Coast
Driving a few hours from Atlanta will take you to numerous destinations on the coast for some sun, sand, and salty air. A great starting point is Savannah, Georgia, a 3 1/2 hour drive from Atlanta. Stroll the streets under moss-covered streets and explore the history and architecture of the city. Continue on to the barrier island of Tybee Island to get your beach day started.
Head north for a true East Coast beaches tour. You can make this a great point to point trip by dropping off your van at the New York camper van rental site. Here are some ideas for some wild and beachy stops along the east coast from Savannah to New York:
- Charleston, South Carolina for some southern hospitality. After taking in all the city has to offer, make your way a little further north to camp and explore in the Francis Marion National Forest.
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Think mini golf, Ferris wheels, and touristy-type fun. Not the place for peace and solitude, but great for some cotton candy and funnel cakes in a carnival-like atmosphere.
- Croatan National Forest. A coastal forest with a campground and dispersed camping available, as well as activities like biking, hiking, and boating.
- Outer Banks North Carolina. A 130 mile stretch of barrier islands with state parks as well as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Quaint towns, secluded beaches, a shipwreck museum, and many camping options from RV parks to NPS. Check out www.outerbanks.org for planning resources. Don’t skip a treat at Duck Donuts on your way out!
- Virginia Beach, Virginia. Leave behind that peace and solitude and hit the boardwalk for some shops, music, restaurants, and – of course – beach time.
- Assateague Island National Seashore. A barrier island composed of national and state park land off the coast of Virginia/Maryland, which has a population of wild horses roaming its shores. Several camping options are available in the Maryland district of the island.
- Jersey Shore – it’s… the Jersey shore. Enough said. But there are some beautiful beaches that aren’t as crowded as you might think if you steer away from the busy, boardwalk, MTV-made-famous areas. RV campgrounds are scattered around, or check out Belleplain State Forest for some camping away from the beaches and bustle.
Head South along the coast for the Florida beaches. Want to make it a one-way venture? Miami is only ~ 700 miles from Atlanta and ~ 500 miles from Savannah. Head south and cut across to head down the Eastern Florida Coast to destinations like Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Cocoa Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale….. beaches galore! Hop inland along the way for stops at Disney and its parks, or some wildlife and serenity in Ocala National Forest and Everglades National Park.
Explore the Mountains
Prefer mountains and trees to sand between your toes? Head North to Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee for some wilderness, waterfalls, and some Smoky Mountain Beauty. From Atlanta, head North to some great destinations like:
- Greenville, South Carolina. A quaint yet happening, very bike and pedestrian-friendly city.
- Brevard, North Carolina. This area truly is a hiking and mountain biking paradise! Visit the Pisgah National Forest, Dupont State Recreational Forest, Gorges State Park, and Nantahala National Forest (just to name a few) for miles and miles of trails with attractions like stunning waterfalls. There are multiple bike shops in the area that offer mountain bike rentals if you aren’t traveling with your own, so don’t worry – you will be fully outfitted and out on the trails in no time! Hit up Oskar Blues brewery location in Brevard for some post-bike brews with fellow riders.
- Lake Lure, NC – a must-see side trip for the die-hard Dirty Dancing Fans out there, this is the site of the iconic movie. Visit in late August for the Dirty Dancing Festival and enter the “lake lift” contest, or the watermelon carry.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway. A 469 mile stretch of scenic road passing through North Carolina and Virginia. Hop on near Brevard and enjoy a scenic drive north to Asheville! **Portions of the parkway close in inclement weather, so check their site for road closure information if there’s any doubt**
- Asheville, North Carolina. They don’t call it Beer City USA for nothing! With more breweries per capita than any other US city, there is something for everyone. Check out the tiny neighborhood microbreweries and bigger establishments like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium for an impressive array of hoppy concoctions. Not into beer? Don’t worry. There are plenty of shops and restaurants if you need a break from the camp kitchen for a meal or two, as well as a vibrant local arts scene. Take a tour of the Biltmore Estate for a step back in time – an 8,000-acre estate with the largest privately owned home in the US (built in the 1890s, and is almost 179,000 square feet!).
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park. America’s most visited National Park boasts miles and miles of scenic hiking and amazing views. Head West from Asheville to enter the park. There are 10 campgrounds in the park; half require reservations, the rest are first-come-first-serve. Head out on a section of the historic Appalachian Trail, which passes through the park on its way from Georgia to Maine. From here, wander south through the National Park and adjacent National Forest lands, or make a quick side trip further west to Pigeon Forge, TN – home of Dolly Parton and her park, Dollywood
- Chattanooga, Tennessee. A phenomenal trail town with tons of outdoor adventure options, as well as a lively art and history scene. From here, it is an approximately 2-hour drive back to Atlanta to complete your loop!
Want to extend your mountain adventures? Head further north into Virginia and check out Shenandoah National Park. Need a little more city and culture? Venture further west into Tennessee to Nashville for music, music, music!
Looking for some other options? Head West into Alabama to explore historic sites central to the Civil Rights Movement, as well as wineries, national forests, and beaches. Check out alabama.travel/road-trips for some great itinerary ideas to get you going.
Interested in some Jazz, Voodoo, Creole culture, historic cemeteries, and food to die for? Head to New Orleans! A ~ 500-mile drive will take you through Alabama to the Big Easy. Soak in the unique sights and culture of New Orleans, and then head east along the Gulf Coast, eventually making your way back north to Atlanta.
I hope this gives you some inspiration to kick-start your Eastern US adventures! You’ll want to make sure you book your campervan in time for the trip. Happy travels!