America the beautiful: 50 states, 320 million people and an endless array of nature to explore. At HotelsByDay, we love getting out and hitting the open road to explore new places. Whether you’re heading down the Pacific Coast Highway in California, checking out the Great Lakes in Michigan, or exploring the Florida Keys, there are some spectacular views along the way.
When you’re ready to take a break from the highway, booking hotels for the day along your route is the best way to relax, freshen up, and stretch your legs. We’ve scoured miles of interstates and highways across the country to find America’s best coastal road trips.
Check out these three U.S. coastal drives that will take your breath away:
Highway 1 – California (Pacific Coast Highway)
Highway 1 actually runs all the way from San Diego to Vancouver, but it’s the 655-mile stretch from Dana Point off Interstate 5 on the south end to State Highway 101 in Leggett on the north end that holds the label of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Whether you start your journey on the north end or the south, this road trip is downright gorgeous as a passenger, and a little nerve-wracking as a driver trying to keep your eyes on the road.
If you’re starting your journey on the north end, take in iconic Golden Gate Bridge as you cruise south through San Francisco and down the peninsula to San Jose, Santa Cruz and Monterrey—all worthwhile stopping points to get out and explore.
Continue south and you’ll cross the Bixby Bridge and its 714 foot-long single span concrete. From there, it’s further down the coast through the scenic bypasses of San Luis Obispo, and eventually to the bustling Los Angeles and on through to sunny San Diego.
San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Big Sur, Los Angeles, San Diego
Loop Around the Lake – Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI
Few road trips pack the punch of country and coast like cruising around the northern tip of Lake Michigan via Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and eventually, mainland Michigan.
Start your journey in Manitowoc on Wisconsin’s eastern coast, and head north on Interstate 43 toward Green Bay.
From there, hug the coast on State Highway 35 crossing into the Upper Peninsula. Take State Highway 2 as you reach the majestic Hiawatha National Forest (which is more than worth a stop) and continue onto the quaint countryside.
Once you make it through Sault Ste. Marie State Forest, cross the bridge to enter mainland Michigan. But before you do that, park and take a quick ferry to Mackinac Island for your fill of horse-drawn carriages, historical buildings and small island charm. After a short portion of landlocked driving on State Highway 31, you’ll reach Petoskey, which offers all kinds of water and woods activities.
You’ll then continue on Highway 31 with Lake Michigan to your right most of the way, cruising through idyllic Charlevoix and past that, Traverse City. Continue on 31 a few more hours south with Lake Michigan still as your passenger window companion before ending in Ludington. We recommend taking the ferry back across to Wisconsin for the full loop experience.
Hiawatha National Forest, Mackinac Island, Petoskey, Charlevoix, Traverse City, Badger Ferry across Lake Michigan back to Wisconsin
Highway 1 – Florida Keys (Overseas Highway)
What road tripping down Highway 1 in South Florida lacks in length, it more than makes up for in beauty. Highway 1, or the Overseas Highway as its called, is a 113-mile stretch of road starting in Key Largo and ending in majestic Key West.
However, for the sake of a road trip, we recommend starting in Miami, making the journey around 127 miles. Speed should be the last thing on your mind as you gaze at endless turquoise waters, soothing sunshine and observe the large sections of coral reef off the U.S. mainland.
Feel invincible gliding high over the water on the Seven Mile Bridge, among the longest bridges in the world at the time of its finished construction in 1912. There are almost too many opportunities to stop and take photos, spot some tropical wildlife, swim with dolphins or just get some classic Florida key lime pie.
Whatever you do make sure you have a fully day free as the trip can take upwards of four and a half hours, even in good traffic.
Pigeon Key, Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park, Seven Mile Bridge, Key West
Latest posts by Loulu Lima (see all)
- How Travel Affects Your Personality - January 24, 2016
- Hotels By Day App: Early Check-ins and Late Check-Outs - January 15, 2016
- Spotlight Los Angeles: 4 Ways - January 13, 2016