Our friends the Globetrotter Girls are planning an East Coast road trip from New York to New Orleans and asked for our recommendations as we have done several East Coast road trips when we lived in the US.
Living in North Carolina gave us easy access to the east coast and places down South which we adored and loved spending time exploring.
If we were still living in Raleigh, we would say you must come and visit us, but we are not so I probably wouldn’t worry. Whilst Raleigh is on our list of 11 Places We Could Live Around the World, it’s not really a traveling destination. But there are many cool things to do in North Carolina.
The Outer Banks, NC
Kitty Hawk is the place where Orville and Wilber Wright flew the very first airplane. The museum is worth a visit for the fascinating insight into the history behind a traveler’s much-needed transportation.
Shackleford island is home to wild horses and definitely worth the short boat trip from Beaufort to spend a few hours. Be sure to take some cold drinks and snacks as there are no stores on the island. And don’t forget your sunhat, camera, and swimmers.
There is nothing on Shackleford Island save beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water and wild horses eating amongst the dunes.
Beaufort is a small fishing town, most noted for one of its most infamous dwellers Captain Blackbeard. My father enjoyed walking the streets to discover one of his childhood pirate heroes buried treasure.
America’s third largest movie and TV production town, Wilmington is a quaint historic town on the banks of the Cape Fear River.
Wilmington was a favorite weekend destination for us. We enjoyed spending the day on Wrightsville beach, and then the evening walking around the town along the river.
We recommend eating at Elijah’s which is located near the end of the boardwalk towards the bridge. You can also take a tour of the Studios while there or visit the North Carolina battleship across the river.
We also loved eating Kilwin’s ice cream down by the waterfront. The smell permeates through the streets enticing you to add on those extra pounds of deliciousness.
Asheville and the Appalachian Mountains
This may be too much of a detour on your road trip from the coast, but just in case you want to experience some mountain adventures, this is worth the visit. Asheville has a somewhat eclectic hippy, alternative lifestyle.
Near Ashville is the Biltmore estate, home to America’s once wealthiest Vanderbilt family and the largest estate in the country. It is really impressive and I loved hearing the stories behind the warm and welcoming family who lived there.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most famous scenic drives along the mountain top and is close by. And a few hours drive further west will bring you to the Smoky Mountains National Park, one of my favorite places to camp, horse ride, hike, explore by bike, and river tube.
Charleston is one of our favorite American cities. It is a fascinating place to visit to learn more about the history of America and the civil war. The best way to do this is by a horse and carriage tour of the city, which we have now done 4 times.
Each time I learnt something new, mostly thanks to the four different routes this tour takes.
Apart from the carriage tour, walk from the main market area around the waterfront to the Battery and back through the tree-lined streets to explore the gorgeous historic homes with their famous Southern piazzas (porches) along the way.
Several of the historic homes are open for a viewing tour for a small fee, so choose which one you want to view wisely. You can tour the gardens for most for free.
Whilst in Charleston you might as well take a tour of a plantation home. There are several in the area to choose from, but we always took our guests to Boone Plantation Hall. You may recognize this from films such as North and South and the Notebook.
It is the most photographed of the Plantation homes and once you see the Avenue of Oaks you’ll understand why.
There is a great display here of the homes the slaves used to live in as well as entertaining Gullah Culture shows daily in the outdoor theatre.
For eating in Charleston we recommend the Noisy Oyster, Sticky Fingers (great ribs), and of course Bubba Gumps..
Beaufort was one of our favorite South Carolina discoveries. Most of the filming for Forest Gump was done in the marshlands and islands of this area. It is beautiful in its natural landscape and the town is cute and charming.
We ate at Luthers along the waterfront which is a great spot for a sunset walk.
Atlanta holds a lot of history, and is worth visiting to get a greater understanding of eras such as the civil war and the Civil rights movement.
I didn’t really like the city much but there were several things we enjoyed and some of the outer suburbs, such as Buckhead are well known for their restaurants and nightlife.
We camped at Stone Mountain Park, which is a theme park with a variety of attractions such as a light show and a cable car that goes up the mountain. Camping is available and well worth it to make your stay cheaper and more enjoyable.
We found the park really beautiful with plenty to explore. Don’t miss a hike to the top of Stone Mountain for some great views of the city.
A highlight of our time in Atlanta was the Martin Luther King tour. It was incredible to learn more about this great man’s life and his fight for equality for all people. You can visit his childhood home and neighborhood on the tour.
We also found the behind the scenes tour of CNN fascinating.
While in Atlanta, why not sample some good old Aussie food. We were excited to discover the Australian Bakery Cafe.
We decided to undo all our hard work climbing up Stone Mountain to sit for a couple of hours gorging on meat pies, sausage rolls and pastries. We were meat eaters back then and it had been a long time since we had eaten some of our Aussie favorites.
There are two stores, one located in Marietta and the other in East Atlanta Village.
We absolutely love this Southern city and it should have been placed on our list of places to live around the world.
I could spend days ambling around the Savannah streets overhanging with Spanish moss, exploring every square, and cycling around the busy, yet strangely slow and quiet streets.
And then there is the cobble stoned river walk where you can find restaurants, bars, peanut shops, artisan stores, markets, buskers and a buzzing atmosphere.
Make sure you eat at Lazy Lizards for lunch or dinner and ask to get the table on the upstairs porch. It is like your private balcony and if you can hunt down an elderly lady walking up and down the strip outside before you go in, she will hand you some coupons for $1 lime margaritas. The perfect place to spend your afternoon watching the world go by.
We also highly recommend taking a tram tour in order to learn the stories behind the city and the famous historic homes. I found it fascinating and informative. Take time to sit on the bench in Chippewa square where Forest Gump sat while he told his tale to passersby.
Take a short drive from Savannah out to Tybee Island. We really enjoyed the low-key, casual atmosphere of this beach town. It had not been destroyed by high rises and flashy resorts, the water is perfect for swimming, and it has a great big pier.
St Augustine holds the claim to being America’s oldest city and is a completely unique Florida experience.
Saint Augustine’s delightful historic district, with its cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, bars, and unique shops is perfect for strolling and exploring the forts and monuments that make this a charming US city,
We loved the long hard expanse of Daytona Beach. If you have a 4wd you can drive your car along it, or if you are into NASCAR racing then the “Days of Thunder” Daytona race track is probably where you want to be.
Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is a definite must see visit.
We learned so much about the history of space exploration and walked out of their with tremendous respect and admiration for astronauts and just how much they have done to help improve all of our lives–at considerable risk.
We really love going to Orlando. Not only does it have the excitement of Disney World and the days of fun you can have there, it is a really buzzing, clean, and well laid out town with plenty to do.
Everyone in Orlando is happy and having a great time, you can really feel this energy in the air. Besides all the theme parks, hit the outlet malls for some great shopping discounts. Also, Pleasure Island offers great dining, shopping and drinking options.
We highly recommend taking a boat tour around the canals of one of America’s wealthiest enclaves. Gaaze open mouth at multi-million dollar mansions, with even bigger yachts parked out front.
Miami Beach really surprised us with how crystal clear and spectacular the beach was. We were not expecting that for a city beach. We only spent a day exploring South Beach but really enjoyed the vibe and people watching.
Tip: If you want to experience eating out at South Beach with all the rich and beautiful people, go out just before 6pm and you will find many great specials at the restaurants such as two for one dinners or free appetizers.
The Florida Keys
We weren’t too fussed on the Keys, but there were some highlights.
A sunset boat tour off Key West is a fantastic way to spend the evening. For the one small price you have all you can drink beer and wine included.
There are plenty of cheap cocktail specials, live music, and pub crawl options along Duval street. This was where I first developed a taste for Mojitos.
We also really enjoyed a snorkeling tour in the keys. Key Largo snorkeling holds claim to the first underwater state park, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There were plenty of fish to be seen out in the reef off the deep waters.
Everglades National Park
We really enjoyed the atmosphere in this city and loved the beaches only a short drive over the bridge. Named America’s Top Beach by TripAdvisor in 2008, Fort De Soto County Park’s pristine North Beach features soft white sand, clear waters and great shelling.
Clearwater beach was also worth a visit and we had one of the most beautiful sunsets to experience.
St Andrew’s State Park
St Andrew’s State Park was the pick of Florida for us. You can camp here and it is a truly wild and natural beach to play at. You can take snorkelling trips to nearby islands and just swimming in the waters off shore is certain to bring you close encounters with dolphins, sting rays and even the odd shark. I swear I saw the shadow of one swimming under my feet.
“Let’s go listen to the music!”
Kalyra had New Orleans figured out pretty quickly. We spent a good amount of our time in New Orleans exploring the French Quarter, stopping to dance to the many buskers and be entertained bythe many artistic performers that can be found on almost every street corner.
The infamous Bourbon Street is where you will find the hedonistic lifestyle. Cheap drinks, bars, live music, strip joints, and wild parties. It is the home of the Mardi Gras and the street that never sleeps.
We found it a little too seedy for our aging interests, but did enjoy small amounts of people watching and cheap $5 hurricanes that would blow your head off.
For cheap hotel stays in the French quarter find a deal using Hotwire. We found a 4 star hotel in the middle of the action for only $50 a night. Bargain.
Take the tram or hire bikes and ride over to The Garden District. You can pick up a walking tour map from the Visitors Center. Amble the streets admiring the Victorian, Italianate, and Greek Revival homes that once house elaborate lawns and gardens, but are now difficult to find.
Plan your East Coast road trip
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Have you taken a road trip along the East Coast of the United States?
What were some of your highlights?