The best beach road trips for your summer 2024 bucket list

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If a visit to the beach is on your bucket list this summer, turn the trip into a road trip for an unforgettable vacation. With destinations in Florida, the northeast coast, the southeast coast and California, these road trips will take you to your region’s best beaches.

Is the beach on your summer bucket list? Take a road trip along these top oceanside routes around the country. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Visit America’s best beaches and beachside towns this summer

The beach is a top destination come summertime. With warm sun and cool water, beaches around the country offer a chance for relaxation and recreation. Locations along both the East and West Coasts offer a variety of experiences as well, from laid-back beach towns to bustling cities.

A road trip makes your entire beach trip an adventure. With stops along the way, the opportunity to visit several beaches in the same trip, and the potential cost savings of driving over flying, the popularity of road trips is on the rise. According to The Vacationer, over 75 percent of Americans plan on road tripping this summer. Plan your own road trip to these beach destinations.

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Visit Florida’s white sand beaches

With over 1,100 miles of coastline, Florida has hundreds of beaches to choose from. Florida State Road A1A will take you through Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Cocoa Beach and Daytona. Many beaches in this area are less crowded than the most touristy cities further south, giving you plenty of room to spread out.

Enjoy culture and history at northern Florida beach cities

A beach road trip gives you the option of splitting time between beach days and inland destinations. As Florida’s largest city and capital, Jacksonville, Florida has museums, nightlife and shopping. St. Augustine, first established by Spanish settlers in 1565, offers a beautiful historic setting. 

Best northern Florida beaches

When you are ready to hit the beach, you have dozens of options between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach. Jacksonville beaches, like Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, are pet-friendly if your pup is along for the ride. Local restaurants and shops can provide a break from the sand and swimming.

St. Augustine Beach is the perfect stop on a road trip as one of the few beaches that allow you to drive on the beach. Purchase a permit and you can park your car right on the beach, keeping all your gear nearby as you spend the day relaxing in the sun.

Near Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach offers a vantage point for rocket launches that occur throughout the summer. Then head further south to Daytona Beach — another one where beach driving is allowed — and find a boardwalk with rides and games for family entertainment.

Explore the Southeast along the Atlantic Coast

A road trip from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Savannah, Georgia will take you to some of the southern U.S.’s best beaches and historic sites. With 12 hours of driving, you can adjust your trip time based on how many stops you want to make.

Start in Virginia Beach, with its famous boardwalk, before heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to visit Duck and Nags Head. Further south, get onto Highway 17 and travel along the coast to Myrtle Beach. This vacation destination has all the beachside and water activities you could want from the beach, as well as a boardwalk, SkyWheel, entertainment and golfing.

Historic Charleston and the nearby waterfront community of Mount Pleasant are packed with things to do on a beach road trip. Having your car with you makes it easy to get to local museums, parks and, of course, great beaches like Folly Beach or Isle of Palms. Finish your road trip in Savannah, GA with stops in Beaufort and Hilton Head.

Mix a city trip with a beach trip in the Northeast

If your ideal beach trip includes exploring local cities, a road trip through the Northeast is perfect. You can mix up stops in metropolitan areas like Philadelphia and New York City with seaside towns like Mystic, Connecticut, and Newport, Rhode Island.

Once in Rhode Island, travel writer Sage Scott from Everyday Wanderer recommends Ocean Drive. She says, “Although it’s just 10 miles long, Rhode Island’s Ocean Drive delivers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean as it winds around the southern coast of Aquidneck Island. Start near Fort Adams State Park and end by embracing the Gilded Age gazing at the impressive seaside mansions of Newport.”

If you want a break from the car, take the ferry from Newport to Block Island. With multiple lighthouses, a wildlife preserve and sandy beaches, it’s a great place to stretch your legs at the end of a road trip.

Experience stunning views on the Pacific Coast Highway

Highway 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway, is over 600 miles long and offers stops at dozens of beaches in California. Sage Scott explains, “The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. and with good reason. As you hug the Golden State’s rocky coast, you’ll be treated to scenic ocean views and towering mountains.”

Driving the entire highway offers a once-in-a-lifetime trip for those who have time. Shorter segments offer road trips ranging from a few days to a few weeks depending on how long you want to spend in towns along the way. 

For a Northern California road trip, travel to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur State Park for a combination of culture and scenic views of rugged coasts. Further south, visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, head to Southern California beaches in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica and finish the trip on Coronado Island in San Diego Bay.

Plan a beach road trip this summer

Whether you are taking a long weekend or have several weeks, a road trip is the ultimate way to customize your beach vacation. Use these favorite beach trips as your inspiration and add in experiences that interest you. The beautiful drives and stunning beaches are sure to make your entire trip a memorable one.

Lisa Wells is a travel, food and lifestyle writer and photographer who has traveled across 37 countries. As the founder of Coastal Wandering, she shares her love for laid-back beach living with stories, recipes, and tips for a relaxed coastal lifestyle.

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