Southern Charm and Spanish Moss: Charleston to Savannah

The most painted bridge in the U.S. It's a landscape artist's dream!
The most painted bridge in the U.S. It's a landscape artist's dream!

This is the eighth and final post in our Summer Road Trip series. We have covered road trippin’ Maine, Maui, Florida, California, the Finger Lakes, Arizona and Route 66.

Recommended Time: 5-8 Days

Postcard Perfect

Postcard Perfect

Let me paint you a picture: Giant live oaks shrouded in Spanish moss tower above a mile-long driveway that leads to a stately plantation set on acres of manicured gardens—and a swamp complete with an alligator or two. It’s enchanting—quintessentially Southern. A road trip from Charleston to Savannah means being encompassed in the elegance of a different era. It includes comfort food, a few ghost stories, and scenes from Forrest Gump. It’s full of history, folklore, and, of course, that famed Southern hospitality.

Begin your road trip in Charleston, consistently ranked the No. 1 small city in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure. It’s friendly. It’s charming. It’s Charleston. The best way to explore it is by horse-drawn carriage with Palmetto Carriage Works. Pass by historic mansions, gardens, and churches in the Holy City, while learning the history that made it what it is today. Make sure to spend some time exploring Charleston City Market for some handcrafted souvenirs, most notably handwoven sweetgrass baskets, a centuries-old tradition in Charleston.

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Every history buff will enjoy a visit to Fort Sumter National Monument, which, on April 12, 1861, was shaken by explosions that signaled the start of the American Civil War. Be sure to venture just 12 miles north of Charleston to visit Middleton Place, a stunning plantation sitting on America’s oldest formally-designed gardens. Spend the day observing the working plantation, taking a house tour, or kayaking down the Ashley River.

Next, it’s time to soak up some sun and sand on Hilton Head Island. This is the perfect mid-way point between Charleston and Savannah, and a beautiful respite from city life. A playground for wealthy retirees, there is no lack of beautiful resorts and world-class golf courses! Spend a day or two strolling along the beautiful beaches or playing a round of tennis before continuing on to Savannah.

Savannah’s 2.2-mile Historic District is full of activities—from art gallery hopping on River Street and strolling through scenic Forsyth Park, to gorging yourself with Paula Deen’s downhome cookin’. Board the Old Town Trolley for an easy hop-on, hop-off tour of the best sights in the city.

But don’t be surprised if the city gives you the creeps. After all, it’s called America’s Most Haunted City—a city built literally upon its dead. With unmarked graves beneath your shoes, it’s no surprise that Savannah is as heavily draped in myth and legend as it is in Spanish moss. Visit Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and be sure to take one of many ghost tours in the city—including one that escorts you in a hearse!

Have you soaked up Charleston and Savannah’s Southern charm?

Places

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC, United States

Places

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head Island, SC, United States

Places

Savannah, GA

Savannah, GA, United States

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC, United States
http://www.charlestoncvb.com/

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head Island, SC, United States
https://www.hiltonheadisland.org/

Savannah, GA

Savannah, GA, United States
http://www.visitsavannah.com/

Route 66: The Classic American Road Trip

Historic Route 66 by Randy Heinitz.
Historic Route 66 by Randy Heinitz.

This is part seven in our Summer Road Trip series. We have already talked about road trippin’ Maine, Maui, Florida, California, the Finger Lakes, and Arizona.

Recommended time: 2 weeks

Get your kicks!

The most classic of all road trips, Route 66 is often referred to as America’s “Mother Road,” connecting 2,400 miles of ribbon-like highway between Chicago and Los Angeles. It’s epic, and something everyone should do once.

Photo: Chuck Coker

This road is the stuff of legend, tread by dreamers, adventurers, and desperados. Taking the journey is like driving through bygone days. Now the slowpoke’s route to the West—and technically not even an official route anymore—it was once a major path for westward migration. It was established in 1926, crossing eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. During the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, people drove along Route 66, stopping at the towns along the way, and subsequently promoting economic growth within them. Today, it’s full of kitsch and nostalgia—a ribbon of road that’s filled with crazy attractions and a whole lot of nothingness.

Start in Chicago by taking your picture next to the “Rout 66 Begin” sign. It’s a mere 60 miles before your first roadside attraction emerges through the cornfields—the 28-foot fiberglass spaceman, Gemini Giant looms over the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant. This stop in Wilmington is your first of many photo ops. Continue on to Springfield where you’ll explore the life of Lincoln through his presidential library and museum, his home, and even his tomb.

Photo: Jasperdo

Next, it’s on to St. Louis where the 630ft-tall Gateway Arch towers over the city.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss Kansas! A mere 13 miles of the road (less than 1%) passes through this state before turning toward its southern neighbor, Oklahoma. Stop at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum to stock up on all your essential memorabilia. Flags from all eight states along the road fly over this attraction in Clinton, OK. Continue 70 miles to Texas and stop at the Devil’s Rope Museum to “get hooked” on barbed wire.

Photo: Kevin

Make one more stop at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, New Mexico, to see real dinosaur bones—including a T-Rex—before moving on to Albuquerque, known for its art and culture. Take a short detour to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

The next bit of the drive takes you through Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. The “trees” are fragmented and fossilized—some with a diameter of more than 6 feet—and all over 225 million years old!

Photo: Ethan Kan

Cross the state and stop in Oatman, where you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped onto a Wild West movie set, complete with daily staged gun fights. Barstow, CA, is your final stop before Santa Monica. Visit the Route 66 Mother Road Museum where you’ll get a glimpse into life in the early 20th century.

Reaching Palisades Park marks the end of your massive journey. Find the Will Rogers Hwy memorial plaque, and take a picture to commemorate your time on the Mother Road. Celebrate your journey with a ride on the 1920s carousel on the Santa Monica Pier.

Photo: Neil Kremer

Although it was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, Route 66 is a pilgrimage for many Americans. It takes us to the very core of our country, and lets us embark upon an epic quest, like so many did before us.

Have you made the journey along Route 66?

Places

Places

Chicago, Illinois

Route 66 Pizza, South Indianapolis Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Places

Gemini Giant

Gemini Giant, South East Street, Wilmington, IL, United States

Places

St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch, Saint Louis, MO, United States

Places

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, West Gary Boulevard, Clinton, OK, United States

Places

Devil's Rope Museum

Devil's Rope Museum, Kingsley Street, McLean, TX, United States

Places

Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari, NM, United States

Places

Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque, NM, United States

Places

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM, United States

Places

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ, United States

Places

Oatman, AZ

Oatman, AZ, United States

Places

Barstow, CA

Barstow, CA, United States

Places

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, United States

Chicago, Illinois

Route 66 Pizza, South Indianapolis Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Gemini Giant

Gemini Giant, South East Street, Wilmington, IL, United States

St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch, Saint Louis, MO, United States

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, West Gary Boulevard, Clinton, OK, United States

Devil's Rope Museum

Devil's Rope Museum, Kingsley Street, McLean, TX, United States

Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari, NM, United States

Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque, NM, United States

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM, United States

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ, United States

Oatman, AZ

Oatman, AZ, United States

Barstow, CA

Barstow, CA, United States

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, United States

From Red Rocks to Slot Canyons: Astounding Arizona

Stunning Sedona.
Stunning Sedona.

Recommended Time: 5-7+ Days

Earlier this year, I got to visit one of my favorite places on earth for the very first time. Arizona is completely and utterly amazing. The week we spent in the desert was one of the most profound of my life. I’d never seen anything like it—the red rocks that seemingly rose out of nowhere. The canyons carved out of the ground by mighty rivers. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful place.

We started our trip by flying into Phoenix International, renting a car, and immediately heading out of the city. We wanted to stop at a few national monuments en route to Sedona. The first was Montezuma Castle, which was pretty remarkable. To think that people chiseled out the side of that mountain centuries ago is pretty amazing. It’s definitely worth a stop, as is nearby Tuzigoot National Monument, offering scenic views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Road winding through the red rocks of Sedona.

But it was the drive from Tuzigoot to Sedona that had me literally gasping at the views. The colors of the earth shift, becoming deeper—richer. The red rocks start to poke out of the ground, reaching skyward. And then you’re there—in Sedona—where it’s as if God took a paintbrush and dotted the landscape with colors you’d only expect to see in some exquisitely detailed watercolor.

Make sure to spend a few days in Sedona. You don’t want to plan to stay for an evening, then drive away the next morning, watching the red rocks in your rear-view, knowing there’s so much you left unexplored. From scenic hikes to off-roading adventures, Sedona has an adventurous side that you’ll want to take some time to delve into. Check out my city guide for the best activities, restaurants, and places to stay.

Next, make your way to the Grand Canyon, a mere two hours north. Perfect for a day trip, or a week-long camping adventure, the Grand Canyon offers an experience for every type of traveler. We spent the afternoon gazing over the rim, marveling at the layers of rock formations, and the tens of thousands of years of history held within them. It’s an incredible place—something that often tops the bucket lists of amateur travelers everywhere—and as well it should! No picture could ever do it justice. You need to stand in its presence to truly appreciate its magnitude. Just go there. Trust me.

You can see for miles.

You can see for miles.

A fun side jaunt is Page, Arizona. A ridiculously small town in the upper northeast corner of the state, Page is about a 2-hour drive from the Grand Canyon, via one of the most isolated stretches of road you’ll ever come across. It’s all on Native American land. You’ll go miles and miles without seeing anything. We wondered to ourselves who in the world would ever stop at the roadside stands you’d see set up occasionally—but somehow they were always deserted. There’s one town about halfway down this road between Page and Flagstaff—and it’s still about 20 miles from that exit. I don’t remember ever feeling that isolated.

Page boasts several natural wonders that make the journey well worth the trip. We reached Horseshoe Bend at sunset. This is the place where the Colorado River makes a 270-degree turn, forming the shape of a horseshoe. It’s one of the most tragically beautiful places I’ve been. (I read a fun fact that it has the highest suicide rate in Arizona because people think it’s the perfect spot from which to pass into the next life). It’s a hike from the road, but the dramatic views make up for that. Sit and marvel at the beauty before you.

The main reason people make the trek to Page is to visit Antelope Canyon, just outside the town. It is the most photographed slot canyon in the world. Unlike the Grand Canyon carved into the earth and witnessed from above, visitors walk into Antelope Canyon, and light dances on the canyon walls. At high noon during the summer months, light beams travel to the floor, creating an environment straight out of photographers’ dreams. It’s a remarkable place, and luckily because all the natural beauty is above your head, you are hardly bothered by the hordes of tourists surrounding you—and your images are virtually people-free!

Arizona is truly an incredible place worth some exploration. We would have loved to have had time to continue on to Las Vegas, or more National Parks in Utah. If you have the time, make the multi-day drive from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, stopping at every National Park along the way. When we mapped it out, our possible route would take us to eight!

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, Sedona.

Have you been astounded by Arizona? What other stops would you include a road trip?

Check out our other road trips: Maine, Maui, Florida, California, and the Finger Lakes.

Places

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, East Sky Harbor Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ, United States

Places

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States

Places

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States

Places

Sedona

Sedona, AZ, United States

Places

Grand Canyon, South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States

Places

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Parking, Page, AZ, United States

Places

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, United States

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, East Sky Harbor Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ, United States

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States

Sedona

Sedona, AZ, United States

Grand Canyon, South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Parking, Page, AZ, United States

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, United States

Savoring Finger Lakes Wine Country

Hammondsport, NY
Hammondsport, NY

This is part five in our Summer Road Trip series. We have already talked about road trippin’ Maine, Maui, Florida, and California.

Recommended Time: 1 week

We’d be remiss not to include the Finger Lakes in our Summer Road Trip series. We’re fortunate enough to call the country’s second-largest wine region home. With more than 130 wineries and more than 50 microbreweries, distilleries, and cideries, there’s a favor to tantalize even the pickiest of palates. And, of course, summer is the best time to enjoy those eleven glacially-carved, finger-like lakes that stretch across south-western New York. Warm summertime temperatures bring with them lots of opportunities to enjoy those lakes—whether you want to swim, kayak, boat, or just lounge lakeside with a glass of Riesling. Let’s not forget those idyllic small towns found at the head and foot of each lake. Each town has its own set of charming characteristics, compelling visitors to keep going from one to the next.

My beloved Y-shaped Keuka Lake, as seen during a scenic flight.

My beloved Y-shaped Keuka Lake, as seen during a scenic flight.

Start your Finger Lakes journey with a visit to Skaneateles (pronounced Skinny-atlas), a small village at the north end of Skaneateles Lake. Here, you can browse art galleries before boarding a cruise with Mid-Lakes Navigation to help deliver the mail via water—one of the only places in the country where this still happens.

Photo: shutterjet

Next, head to Ithaca, home to Cornell University, and lots of fantastic along Cayuga Lake (pronounced Kay-you-ga). “Ithaca is gorges,” indeed, with scenic hiking trails and Taughannock Falls, the tallest waterfall in New York State—yes, even taller than Niagara!

Photo: Brook Ward

Continue your wine tour in Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, which is home to more than 70 wineries, and year-round festivals to celebrate all the favors coming from them. Make sure your itinerary includes stops at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Wagner Vineyards (which has a brewery), and Finger Lakes Distilling on the east side of Seneca Lake, and Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard and Glenora Wine Cellars on the west side. No visit to Watkins Glen is complete without hiking the trails to see 19 waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park, or driving your own car around the famed NASCAR racetrack at Watkins Glen International.

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Hop one lake to the west, and rent a vacation home on Keuka Lake (pronounced Q-ka), if you have the time. “Y-shaped” and the most scenic of all the Finger Lakes, Keuka is known for its pristine beauty and world-class vineyards. Tour Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes circa 1860, and taste the most award-winning wines in the Northeast at Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.

Make Corning your final stop on your Finger Lakes itinerary, and allot for a couple of days to explore this arts and culture mecca nestled in the heart of Wine Country. Corning has been dubbed the “Crystal City” for its deep roots in the tradition of glassmaking.

Two new galleries. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.

Two new galleries. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.

The Fortune 500 company Corning Incorporated (maker of products like Gorilla Glass that covers your smartphone) has its headquarters there, and the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass draws 440,000 visitors a year to this small city of 11,000 people. Plan to spend at least five hours at this amazing museum, where you can not only explore 35 centuries of glass art, but you can watch live glassblowing shows all day every day, and even make glass yourself. The museum recently opened a new Contemporary Art + Design Wing, which is absolutely incredible, and will—without a doubt—make you see glass in an entirely new light. And if you plan to visit, drop me a line! I work there and would be thrilled to give you a tour.

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Spend the rest of your time exploring the vibrant downtown Gaffer District, which has been the model for many a Main-Street restoration project. Also stop in to see the Rockwell Museum, which features art about the American experience. It’s unusual to find such a large collection of Western art east of the Mississippi, but this museum showcases it with great flair!

Have you been to Finger Lakes Wine Country?

Places

Skaneateles, NY, United States

Places

Ithaca, NY, United States

Places

Watkins Glen, NY, United States

Places

Hammondsport, NY, United States

Places

Corning, NY, United States

Skaneateles, NY, United States

Ithaca, NY, United States

Watkins Glen, NY, United States

Hammondsport, NY, United States

Corning, NY, United States

Pacific Coastal Highways of California

Pacific Coastal Highway

This is part four in our Summer Road Trip series. We have already talked about road trippin’ Maine, Maui, and Florida.

Recommended Time: 7 to 10 days

Sand, sun, surf, and scenic drives: the stuff California dreams are made of. California’s coastal highways allow you to escape the bottle-necked freeways of the crowded cities, and live life in the slow lane. So, put the top down, feel the ocean breeze in your hair, and let the ribbons of highway take you on an adventure.

Although the Pacific Coast Highway only encompasses the stretch of road through Orange and Los Angeles counties, technicalities don’t seem to matter when you’re cruising down the California coast. Start your journey near the Oregon border with a visit to Redwood National & State Parks, home to the tallest trees on earth.

Photo: Wonderland

Continue down the coast and jut just a bit inland to the famed wine region of Napa and Sonoma counties. With more than 400 wineries to choose from, it’s an oenophile’s paradise, and a casual taster’s classroom. Scenic doesn’t even begin to describe the rolling hill and sundrenched vineyards found in the region. Each winery has its own flair and set of experiences—from a gondola ride to a hillside tasting room, to a tractor tour through the endless rows of grapes. Make time to take a bike ride to a few wineries, or even splurge on an early-morning hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.

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Next it’s on to San Francisco, driving into the city in the best way possible: over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Plan to spend a few days here, exploring the mystery of Alcatraz, the allure of Fisherman’s Wharf, and the serenity of Golden Gate Park. Be sure to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city by day for an easy way to see the highlights, and go back for more at night to see the city lights and hear stories about this beautiful city by the Bay. Make time for an unexpected highlight: the California Academy of Sciences, which is a natural history museum, rain forest, aquarium, and planetarium all in one. Soak up San Fran! It’s one of my favorite cities on earth!

Iconic Pier 39

Iconic Pier 39

Monterey comes next along the coast, with the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the beautiful galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Here begins the most scenic day of driving, as the two-lane highway winds lazily along the mountains of Big Sur, offering sprawling ocean views. There are plenty of scenic stops along the way from McWay Falls to Pfeiffer Beach. Get out, stretch your legs, and take in the stunning scenery—and share your pictures to Instagram to instantly get thousands of likes!

Photo: Howard Ignatius

Make a pit stop near San Simeon to explore Hearst Castle, a beautiful hilltop mansion that stands as a testament to wealth and ambition. William Randolph Hearst, a 20th-century newspaper tycoon, built the estate in 1919. It included a grandiose main building, three guesthouses, and 127 acres of gardens, pools, and fountains. Today, you can tour this National Historic Landmark.

Photo: Cocoabiscuit

For quintessential California beaches blended with fantastic red wine, stop in Santa Barbara next. Dubbed the American Riviera, the climate has been described as “Mediterranean.” Come for the weather and the views, but stay for the film and art festivals!

Photo: Damian Gadal

Next up is Malibu with its 27 miles of scenic beauty, and gated homes of celebrities living merely meters from the coastline. Take a look inside one of the most beautiful mansions—the Getty Villa, housing the very best artifacts of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. This hilltop oasis takes you back in time, allowing you to not only see the art, but explore four gardens inspired by Roman models.

Photo: nicoleversetwo

End your trip down the California Pacific highways with visits to bustling Los Angeles and San Diego, if you so choose. From the big-screen fame and fortune of Hollywood to sparkling beaches of San Diego and its surrounding area, these two sprawling cities are about as eclectic as they come. Dedicate a few days of exploration to both.

Photo: peasap

What spots do you recommend on a Coastal California road trip?

Places

Redwood National & State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks, CA, United States

Places

Napa & Sonoma Counties

Napa Valley, Napa County, CA, United States

Places

San Francisco

San Francisco, CA, United States

Places

Monterey

Monterey, CA, United States

Places

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, United States

Places

San Simeon

San Simeon, CA, United States

Places

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, CA, United States

Places

Malibu

Malibu, CA, United States

Places

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA, United States

Places

San Diego

San Diego, CA, United States

Redwood National & State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks, CA, United States

Napa & Sonoma Counties

Napa Valley, Napa County, CA, United States

San Francisco

San Francisco, CA, United States

Monterey

Monterey, CA, United States

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, United States

San Simeon

San Simeon, CA, United States

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, CA, United States

Malibu

Malibu, CA, United States

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA, United States

San Diego

San Diego, CA, United States

Sunshine and Seashells: South Florida

Sanibel Seashells
Sanibel Seashells

Recommended Time: 1-2 weeks

I know what you’re thinking. Florida in the summer?! C’mon, now. But it’s true! July and even into early August is a great time to visit the west coast of Southern Florida. The off-season means lower prices for resort hotels, and dwindling crowds on the still-pristine beaches.

Start you journey in Fort Myers Beach, a bustling small city with white-sand beaches and a plethora of adventure outfitters. Whether you want to rent a kayak, go parasailing, or even take a guided Jet Ski tour in search of dolphins, you can do it all right from the beach in Fort Myers.

Dolphin Tour

Awesome dolphin tour!

Then slow things down a bit and head to Sanibel Island, known as the seashell capital of the world. The drive over the three-mile causeway seemingly takes you a world away, where the pace of life is slower, and the palm trees are taller than any building. Sanibel and Captiva islands are known for their stunning sunsets, fantastic seafood, and untouched quality. Ride a bike along miles of trails in search of wildlife. Assume the famous “Sanibel Stoop” position as you scour the beach for shells. Or kick up your adrenaline just a bit and watch dolphins jump in the wake on the Sanibel Thriller speedboat tour. Whatever you do, the island life will have you leaving all of your cares behind—and mailing home an embarrassingly large seashell collection!

A glorious Sanibel sunset

A glorious Sanibel sunset.

En route to the Florida Keys, you’ll pass Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, both of which are vibrant Oceanside cities, famous for their eclectic culture and spring break parties. Nicknamed the “Venice of America” Fort Lauderdale is famous for its canals and 23 miles of golden sand beaches. Stop in Miami to soak up its Cuban culture and hoppin’ nightlife.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Photo: Ricymar Photography.

Then it’s back to nature. Encompassing 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is considered the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. The prime spot for wildlife viewing, the Everglades is home to turtles, herons, crocodiles, manatee, and many more species. Pack your binoculars and take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail, climb the 65-foot observation tower at Shark Valley, or take a guided tram or boat tour to see the animals that call the park home.

Photo: Sheila Sund.

Next, it’s on to the 120-mile stretch of islands known as the Florida Keys, connected to mainland Florida by 42 bridges that span U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway. Dubbed “America’s Caribbean,” the five main sections of the Keys each have their own flavor and fame.

Photo: Lars Plougmann.

Key Largo is the gateway to the keys, and offers some of the best scuba diving in the continental U.S. Lots of outfitters offer daytrips to reefs and wrecks, or you can opt to explore the ocean via a glass-bottom boat. Islamorada, called the purple isle, is known for its many fishing charters and quaint art galleries. Located in the middle of the island chain, Marathon is home to 5-star resorts, and the start of the famed “Seven Mile Bridge,” connecting the south side of Marathon with Little Duck Key. The Lower Keys offer lots of opportunities for outdoor adventure and wildlife spotting. And finally you come to Key West, the Southernmost city in the continental U.S., located 100 miles from Key Largo, and only 90 miles from Cuba. It’s a vibrant small city known for its notable residents (Ernest Hemingway lived there from 1931-1961), arts and culture, and its daily sunset celebrations on Duval Street.

Photo: Key Life Pie.

Do you have any tips to add to a Southern Florida road trip itinerary?

Places

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach, FL, United States

Places

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island, Lee County, FL, United States

Places

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States

Places

Miami Beach

Miami Beach, FL, United States

Places

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park, Monroe County, FL, United States

Places

Florida Keys

Florida Keys, Monroe County, FL, United States

Places

Key Largo

Key Largo, FL, United States

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach, FL, United States

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island, Lee County, FL, United States

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States

Miami Beach

Miami Beach, FL, United States

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park, Monroe County, FL, United States

Florida Keys

Florida Keys, Monroe County, FL, United States

Key Largo

Key Largo, FL, United States

The Best of the U.S.: Classic Summer Road Trips

Road Trip!
Road Trip!

Summer is prime time to load up the car and venture out on a great American road trip! With longer days, and the best possible weather conditions, summer is made for exploring the U.S. via highways and byways. You don’t need to rent a big RV for the family. Just set out on the road with that special someone, and discover together! From sea to shining sea, there’s a lot of land to explore.

Each Wednesday, we’ll feature one of our top picks for couples road trips this summer. From trips contained within a state to cross-country treks, there’s a road trip for any length of time you may be working with. Here’s what you can look for in the coming weeks:

Lobster and Lighthouses: Coastal Maine: July 15

Meandering Maui: The Road to Hana: July 22

Sunshine and Seashells: South Florida: July 29

Pacific Coastal Highways of California: August 5

Savoring Finger Lakes Wine Country: August 12

From Red Rocks to Slot Canyons: Astounding Arizona: August 19

Route 66: The Classic American Road Trip: August 26

Southern Charm and Spanish Moss: Charleston to Savannah: September 2

Are there any more classic American road trips you’d like to see on our list?

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