A road trip through America is quite often a yearned-for item on the bucket lists of the world’s most adventurous globetrotters. And it’s no wonder why; the country is teeming with networks of long roads that offer jaw-dropping drive-by scenery and myriads of stopping points encompassing history, wildlife, quaint old towns, and modern metropolises. Discovery by vehicle is indeed one of the most breathtaking ways to soak up what the United States has to offer, and is an authentic way to get familiarized with its culture, history, and scenery over a long distance within a short space of time. Vast and explorable the entire nation may be, it’s its southern states that are particularly deserving of focus right now. With the twisting and winding backroads and fun attractions along each route, the southern USA really has this going for it: some of the country’s best road trips perfect for friends and partners to enjoy some quality time together, along with tons of fun stuff to do and see thrown in between. From sensational drive-by sights and mind-boggling terrain to quirky towns and historic sites to stop at on the way, these road trips offer an awesome vacation of exploration and are oh-so-easy to reach on wheels.
10 Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee, Alabama, & Mississippi
The Natchez Trace Parkway takes explorers along the old-time routes of the Old Natchez Trace, which were originally employed by Native American tribes. Stretching more than 400 miles between Nashville, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi, the extensive two-lane road was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In the modern-day, it’s achieved popularity and esteem amongst history-and-culture-obsessed travelers, motorcycle fans, and cycling bunnies, promising various historic landmarks throughout the trip, such as important Civil War battlefields and old Native American settlements.
9 Florida Keys Overseas Highway, Florida
The 125 miles between Miami and Key West is called the Overseas Highway and actually follows a train path created by Henry Flagler. It is undeniably one of the south’s most incredible road trips, showcasing spectacular tropical scenery with bright turquoise water running along both sides of the road. And it’s not just the driving part that provides all the entertainment; worthy attractions abound along the way, including the whimsical Coral Castle, and, get this, kitty fans: the adorable polydactyl cats of the Hemingway House.
8 Alligator Alley, Florida
Alligator Alley is easily one of Florida’s most desolate routes, which does make it sound like an unconventional choice for a road trip. However, given its beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, it’s absolutely irresistible for intrepid trippers – particularly the 100 miles of I-75 that cuts across the state from Fort Lauderdale to Naples. The stretch is home to intense amounts of animals, including Floridian favorites like Florida panthers and alligators. It’s also worth noting that drivers are quite literally accelerating through enormous swatches of the Everglades no matter where they start the route from, meaning they have to be very prepared to drive through a hefty amount of nothing (albeit it is peaceful, stunning nothing). Don’t let that be off-putting though, travelers can enjoy plenty of points in between all the tranquil nothingness. They can even add history to the roster by detouring to Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, where they can learn about the fascinating culture and stories of the native people of Florida. Another point that’s important to consider is this: there are very limited numbers of gas stations along the way, so don’t forget to fuel up amply at each stop and get gas during daylight hours – many stations are closed at night.
7 The Bourbon Trail, Kentucky
Whiskey aficionados descend to Lexington and the surrounding communities for the exclusive opportunity to explore the many bourbon distilleries that make up the namesake Bourbon Trail. The route isn’t overwhelmingly long; it’s only around 80 or so miles, which means it’s ever so easy to visit several distilleries in a single day (make sure one friend drives while the other samples the booze of course). The official Bourbon Trail also serves a shot at acquiring passport stamps with a prize at the end, however, there are a handful of other, unofficial offshoots and sections that aren’t technically part of the route. One of them is the Buffalo Trace, with most others being situated along Bluegrass Parkway and state road 9002 should any trippers wish to steer off the beaten tracks.
6 Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina to Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway
As one of the South’s most famous stretches, Blue Ridge Parkway has rightly earned its place on the list of the region’s top road trips for friends to explore. It spans over 100 miles across almost 11,000 square miles of land from Waynesboro, Virginia, heading into Cherokee, North Carolina. It’s another one of those entertaining routes that not only deliver gorgeous vistas from the comfort of one’s vehicle but also great sights and activities in between at each notable stop. There are charming towns to visit throughout the trip, with many offering music venues, superb restaurants, and interesting museums to check out. The road is also super close to the Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, and Appalachian Trail, making it the perfect road for any BFFs wanting to stretch their legs and inject some hiking between their driving.
5 The Smokies, North Carolina & Tennessee
In all honesty, what road trip could ever be better than that which packs glorious panoramas of the Great Smoky Mountains into the drive-by show? Probably not many, especially those that also offer truckloads of interesting, winding terrain venturing through the captivating countryside. There are arrays of small roads along this particularly special trip that offer different adventures; from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Bryson City, North Carolina, the SR 441 goes 80 miles through the center of the national park and tempts road trippers with a number of dangling carrots to savor in between driving. The diversity of what folks can get up to on this stretch is partially why it’s so highly spoken of; one can explore illustrious hiking trails, enjoy intimate encounters with wildlife, discover moonshine distilleries, dine with a show at various hearty restaurants, and for thrills, there are even the rollercoasters at Dollywood.
4 The Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a long length of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina, and Jack Sparrow-or-Black-Beard wannabees will be fascinated to know that it was once the domain of fearsome pirates. The route, which entails no lack of pretty sandy beaches, runs for more than 100 miles from Corolla to Ocracoke, with some parts requiring drivers to hop on a ferry (sorry, there are no pirate ships left). For the most part, the road consists of two lanes, thus it’s a nice-and-easy route for drivers of all experience levels – although caution and low speed are advised because it’s often frequented by cyclists. There are also myriads of stopping points to consider along the way for a bit of fun between mileage, with plenty of shopping spots, residential areas, and historic landmarks to discover, including the Hatteras Lighthouse, Kitty Hawk, and the Historic Bath.
3 The Great River Road, Louisiana
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is cited as the longest and most important of its kind in the USA and follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. But it’s a specific section spanning 70 miles that’s earned its feature on this list – a stretch running the along curves of its namesake river from the north of Baton Rouge to the confluence in New Orleans. Famed as the home of a significant number of the region’s grand plantations and heritage sites, this route once played a crucial role in trade and the shipping of resources throughout times of the past. Today it’s still visibly industrial in nature with many residences, historic landmarks, and old plantations to visit along the wide, two-lane road. Indeed, the trip feels remote and affords a sense of liberation from the crowds – sensations made even stronger by the lack of restaurants and gas stations along the way (so come prepared).
2 The Coastal Highway 17, Incorporating Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, & Florida
Simultaneously referred to as US Route 17, Coastal Highway 17 consists of more than 1,000 miles of road tripping route and runs parallel to I-95 from Punta Gorda in Florida to Winchester in Virginia. As one of the quieter alternatives to the traffic-laden highways heading south, this stretch is much more picturesque and significantly less stressful than its counterparts, offering a beautiful way to enter the south with plenty of scenery and towns in which to take pause. In a few places, the route is very much small country roads, but its others do see a little more sights and action – as the main stretch in Charleston. Among the many breakpoints to stop at, some of the most intriguing include the elephants of Hardeeville in South Carolina, and “America’s Smallest Church” in South Newport, Georgia.
1 Blues Highway, Mississippi
Aptly nicknamed The Blues Highway, Highway 61 begins from the north just outside Chicago and ventures through St. Louis – a key city that is historically and culturally renowned for its blues music scene. The portion of the route in the South starts in Memphis where a series of blue markers signify the area’s important music history and then passes through a number of small Mississippi Delta towns on the highway. An enriching trip for music lovers, travelers along this almost 250-mile section will relish visiting many laidback musical venues, as well as authentic “juke joints” – of which there aren’t many left in the state. Next: Stunning Winter Road Trips That Are Worth Traveling For
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