7 Must-Do Road Trips in North America
You hop in the car with your bestie. Put the top down. Crank up the tunes … and drive! You discover iconic spots all across this great land; stop for a bite to eat at diners along the way; chat it up with the locals, and stay at quirky motels - that’s the classic North American summer road trip.
The call of the open road beckons to just about everyone, at some point in their lives, particularly those who are looking for something different to do as the weather warms up. It could be a young couple just starting out together, best friends seeking an adventure, a retired couple with plenty of time on their hands, or maybe a family with kids and dog in tow.
Here are seven of the best road trips in America and Canada….. and if you don’t have a convertible, a Jeep, or other type of fun vehicle, your trusted travel advisor can help you arrange one for your trip.
1. The Cabot Trail (Nova Scotia)
A driver’s dream, the two-lane road hugs the dramatic Gulf of Saint Lawrence coastline, twisting, turning, rising, and falling. Opened in 1932, the 185-mile circular route cuts through the upper part of Cape Breton Island; and it is especially dramatic as it skirts Cape Breton Highlands National Park, home to bald eagles, bears and moose. The road meanders through towns that represent both Scottish and French traditions, so there is a good bit of culture to explore. There is also fresh, delicious seafood all along the way - and plenty of local music. And, hikers can go on foot at places like Skyline Trail. It’s a great trip to do in the summer or fall.
2. Overseas Highway (Florida Keys)
Start in Miami and take Route 1 all the way down to Key West, at the furthermost, bottom tip of Florida. This 150-mile journey is a laid-back trip, meant for stopping at the myriad beaches, little towns, and attractions as you pass from key to key. You will go over the famed Seven-Mile Bridge, and 42 other bridges as you head south. Sometimes you’ll be so close to the water that you’ll feel like you’re floating on top of it. A few standards: try the key lime pie; dine on the fresh catch of the day; dive or snorkel the coral reefs; stop at Hemingway House and see the Sunset Festival in Key West.
3. Pacific Coast Highway (California)
This iconic highway along the California coast covers 655 miles of awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from San Francisco to San Diego. Start at the Golden Gate Bridge (and maybe visit Alcatraz first), and wind through the mountains, with the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur, and some of the most impressive sheer drop-offs to your right. There are so many small towns to stop in for some local culinary treats or a brew. Take a deep breath before driving over Bixby Creek Bridge.
4. Skyline Drive Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia and North Carolina)
This 469-mile stretch of scenic road connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. There are Appalachian crafts and music, Cherokee traditions, history (such as Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville). And, you drive along the renowned Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,243-foot-long, concrete bridge that snakes around Grandfather Mountain in western North Carolina. It’s very beautiful in the fall, too.
5. The Loneliest Road (Nevada)
The Loneliest Road is a 408-mile stretch along Route 50 in Nevada; and it is part of a longer road trip that runs from Ocean City, Maryland, and ends in Sacramento, California - traversing 12 states. It follows the Pony Express route, passing by mining camps and crossing mountain ranges covered with juniper and pine forests. Along the way, there are also hot springs to dip into, the chance to mine garnets, and a burger-eating challenge. But the trip was nicknamed for the section in Nevada, which is largely barren and uninhabited, with miles and miles of sweeping mountains, dusty highways, and only the occasional town.
6. Route 66 (Illinois to California)
No road trip list would be worth it's salt without including this epic, cross-country American trek. Start at Lake Michigan and follow in the footsteps of generations past for 2,500 miles along one of the original U.S. highways. Route 66 crosses eight states, passing through towns that once thrived (and had storied pasts), and revealing dozens of historic sites and just plain fun attractions. There is America’s oldest church, St Joseph’s, in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico; the cool car display at Texas’ Cadillac Ranch; the world’s largest rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri; lots of classic diners and motels; and so much more to grab your attention.
7. Trans-Canada Highway (Montreal to Vancouver)
This is our Northern neighbor’s version of Route 66. At 4,600 miles, it stretches across the country through all 10 provinces and six time zones. Start in Montreal in the east and end up in Vancouver in the west. You will pass by rugged landscapes, flat prairies, fishing villages, desolate stretches, and modern cities - and the cultural diversity is remarkable. Take the time to plan your itinerary and give yourself ample time for this milestone excursion.