Filler’ up, strap on your seat belt, crank up the tunes, and hit the road! From the wide open spaces of the historic west to the sultry urban chaos of Miami Beach, the coast-to-coast road trip is the quintessential American adventure. Totaling 3,500 miles – without detours – this is the mother of all road trips. Escapees who undertake this adventure figure out one thing very fast: America is huge! We’ll leave it to the travel blogs to parse and puzzle over which east-west route is best for you and simply pass on a few tips learned from Escapee trailblazers of yore so you can customize your own epic adventure. We’ll start our Cross Country Road Trip – Southern Route itinerary from our Miami Escape Depot and meander west.
Distance: 3,500+ miles (5,633+ km)
Time: 3+ weeks
It’s a long haul from sultry, sandy Miami Beach, Florida, to the jazz-filled streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. Many people cruise through this stretch without stopping and we think you’ll be making a monumental mistake if you do the same.
If you take I-10, it’s a 3-4 hour drive east to west between Pensacola, Florida, and New Orleans, LA. Like most interstates, I-10 takes you the fastest, most direct, and aesthetically unpleasing route to get you from point A to point B. In lieu of this, we recommend taking the coastal road east to west via Highway 90 and Highway 98 instead. Dotted with great beaches, roadside dives, and rusted, forgotten Americana, this is what you’re looking for in the American coastal south.
Dauphin Island, Alabama, is the first truly great beach along this route headed East. Fort Morgan, Alabama, on Highway 180 is a cool spot in its own right and gets you partially away from the madness of Gulf Shores.
This is shrimp and oyster country. You can’t go wrong with any of the local spots you’ll see along the route. Avoid the chain restaurants and make sure you try a shrimp po’ boy and some hush puppies when you stop. Best of all, for just a few bucks you’ll get enough food to share.
The Flora-Bama – Straddling the border of Florida and Alabama, this is not to be missed. Stop in, grab a cold Budweiser, order a basket of boiled shrimp and a dozen oysters and watch the locals parade by. Known as the “Redneck Riviera” to outsiders and locals alike, you might have such a good time that you sleep in the parking lot. We certainly have.
The western section of this drive is pretty lifeless in our opinion, but the eastern portion is wildly interesting. Look out for alligators!
Stick with Highway 90 between Lake Charles and New Orleans. It’s much more interesting than I-10 and the wetland is the most productive shrimping area in the USA. Grab a big bag of boiled shrimp or crawfish (in season) for a couple of bucks and keep driving. Be sure to check out Highway 1 between Golden Meadow and Grand Isle. This 25-mile (40 km) stretch of highway is a “don’t miss” if you happen to find yourself on Highway 90 outside of New Orleans. It sends you right through the center of Louisiana’s wildest protected wetland and will be one of the best side trips of your entire drive. Count on a couple of hours of extra time to do the drive and send us a postcard from Grand Isle to show us how much you appreciate the travel tip.
At the risk of getting into, at best, an extremely heated debate about what defines “best” or, at worst, a fist fight, Escape Campervans states unequivocally that this listing of “Best Music Venues in Austin, Texas,” is in no particular order:
Run a Google search for each to see which bands are in town and make your decision based on what type of artist you’re itching to check out. Each venue has its own history, quirkiness, and vibe, and you really can’t go wrong with any of ‘em. http://www.austin360.com/ is also a great resource for listings in Austin.
If you’re heading through the Austin, Texas, area during the latter part of March, you just might have hit the musical jackpot. The South by Southwest (SXSW to locals) Music, Film & Interaction festival is one of the hippest shows going on these days.
Make sure you check out Barton Hot Springs while you’re in Austin.
Head out through Texas Hill Country on I-10 or several of the other side trips (Hwy 90 is really interesting). We at Escape don’t have much to say about this portion of the trip…you’ll know why once you get out there.
At 800,000 square acres, this Chihuahuan Desert park won’t leave you running out of things to do:
Going the most direct route, it’s a 900-mile (1448 km), 13-hour slog between these two national parks. It takes you through deserts so desolate, you’ll think every plant and animal is out to kill you (there’s a good chance they are). The southwest route bows around Mexico and takes you through Tucson, Phoenix, and the Sonoran Desert, while the northern route takes a more direct path through the middle of nowhere.
We’ll leave the decision to you and provide an overview of some of the way-points in between:
Due to the proximity to Mexico on the Southern Route, keep your passports and travel documents handy as you’re more than likely to get pulled over at a checkpoint by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
Here, we’ll highlight the waypoints and more obscure things to check out between the South Rim and the area around Zion National National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Check out our National Parks Tour page for a full itinerary.
Read about a past renter’s cross country road trip here.