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Road Trips Around the US

There’s nothing quite like jumping into a car and hitting the open road. Travelling the USA by car is an excellent way to explore hidden gems, get a taste of local flavours, and spend some quality time with your travel buddies.

The number of options available when choosing a road trip route in America is a testament to the sheer size of the country. From long classic highway routes, to more off-the-beaten-track itineraries, there’s a road trip experience for every taste in the USA. In honour of this classic American holiday, we’ve put together our 3 top itineraries for road trips around the US. For more US travel ideas with a twist, check out our off-the-beaten-track USA holiday ideas.

1. Quintessential Route 66

Perhaps the most famous of all US road trip routes, this classic route (also known as the “mother road”) stretches through California to Illinois. With 50s style roadside eateries, desert landscapes, sleepy country towns and fast-paced sin-city all on offer, Route 66 offers a varied glimpse into quintessential America.

Length: 3,940 km

Start: Chicago

End: Santa Monica

Illinois

Day 1-3: Illinois

Start your journey off in Chicago, at the very start of Route 66. Take a few days to explore Chicago, and enjoy some of its most famous sights, like the 360° Chicago Observatory.
Once you leave Chicago, drive for 7 hours, stopping off at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac and Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station (which is the longest operating gas station along the route). You can opt to break the trip up by staying a night in the towns of Odel or Springfield.

Missouri

Day 2-3: Missouri

From the town of Springfield in Illinois, it’ll take you a short 3.5 hours to arrive in St Louis, Missouri. Located on the Mississippi River, St Louis is home to an array of museums, parks, and wildlife. Enjoy a tram ride to the Gateway Arch for a great view of the river.

Oklahoma

Day 3-5: Oklahoma

Route 66 covers about 700 kms through the state of Oklahoma. Known as “America’s heartland” enjoy Native American attractions such as the Totem Pole Park.
Following the route from Missouri to Oklahoma, be sure to stop off in the town of Joplin. Famously known as home to Bonnie & Clyde’s hideout, you can also check out some iconic gas stations, burger joints and motels. If you want to continue a little further, drive 3 hours until you reach Oklahoma City.



texas

Day 4-6: Texas

Leaving Oklahoma City behind, this part of the route sees you enter Texas. You’ll pass through the towns of Yukon, El Reno, Bridgeport, Hydro, Weatherford, Clinton, Elk City and Erick. Be sure to spend a night in Amarillo and enjoy historic buildings, live music, galleries, and shopping. Don’t forget to sample some Texan steak!

new mexico

Day 6-9: New Mexico

The Route you’ll take through New Mexico will see you pass through the two major towns of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Enjoy a few days of Spanish Colonial architecture, and Native American culture. Key features of this part of the route include the iconic 50s style diner 66, and the musical highway. The musical highway is a portion of the route where the sound of “America is beautiful” can be heard when your tires meet bumps on the road.

Day 9-11: Arizona

The journey through Arizona is home to some of the most scenic vistas along the route. Enjoy desert plains, plateaus, and forests. Admire curiosities like abandoned theme parks, diners, and Route 66 inspired art along the way. You can also make a detour and discover the Grand Canyon on this leg.



California

Day 11-14: California

The last leg of your road trip will see you move from the Mojave Desert into lush California. Spend the night in Victorville and visit the California Route 66 museum, abandoned ghost towns, and have a night at the drive-in movies. Finally, your journey will end in Santa Monica, where Route 66 ends directly at the pier.


2. The Pacific Coast Highway

A Pacific Coast Highway road trip offers the best of California’s beaches and National Parks. If you opt to do the drive southbound, you’ll get to experience a spectacular drive along coastal roads stretching from San Francisco to San Diego.

Length: 800 kms

Start: San Francisco

End: San Diego

San Fransisco

Day 1-2: San Francisco, California

Known for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, trams, and so much more, San Francisco is the perfect city in which to start your road trip. Spend a few days soaking up the culture of this vibrant city before you hit the road.

Santa Cruz

Day 2-3: Santa Cruz

Driving Southbound from San Francisco, you’ll pass the town of San Jose. Pop in to stretch your legs and check out the famed Winchester Mystery House. Continue on to Santa Cruz, where you’ll spend the night. Enjoy a walk along the beach boardwalk with plenty of eateries and shops to visit.

Big Sur

Day 3-4: Big Sur

Leaving Santa Cruz behind, you’ll pass by the town of Monterey, where you can check out the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Continue through to Big Sur, over the famed Bixby Bridge (popular with instagrammers!). Stop off for the night and explore the Big Sur region at your own pace.



san luis obispo

Day 4-5: San Luis Obispo

3 hours drive from Big Sur, you’ll now head towards San Luis Obispo. Be sure to stop off at the one-of-a-kind Madonna Inn hotel for a drink or lunch, and a healthy dose of California kitsch. Spend the night in San Luis Obispo, sample local wines, and visit Pismo Beach.

Santa Barbara

Day 5-6: Santa Barbara

Continue your journey south from San Luis Obispo towards Santa Barbara. Stop by quaint towns such as Morro Bay, and explore wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Spend a night in Santa Barbara and enjoy galleries, fine dining, and Spanish Colonial architecture.

Day 6-8: Los Angeles

Nearing the end of the route, day 6 sees you leave Santa Barbara and head towards Los Angeles. A great spot for a few days break from driving, take your time exploring all the city of angels has to offer.



San Diego

Day 8-9: San Diego

The final leg of your journey is a 2.5 hour drive from Los Angeles to San Diego. Enjoy stunning beach stops along the way like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach. Stop off for some quintessential SoCal Mexican food before rolling into San Diego!

3. The Maine Lobster Trail

On the other side of the country, you’ll find a very different type of coastal road trip. Following Maine’s Route 1, this itinerary is packed full of character-filled fishing towns, rugged coastlines, and, you guessed it, lobster rolls. The Maine Lobster Trail will give a classic New England flavour to your travels. Commonly referred to as The Lighthouse State, Maine has 65 historical lighthouses along its coast. They make for great sightseeing opportunities while you eat your way through this trail.

Cape Elizabeth

Day 1: Cape Elizabeth

According to USA Today's list of Maine/Massachusetts Best Lobster Rolls, the best rolls can be found around Fort Williams Park and Portland Head. Start your journey at “Bite into Maine” in Cape Elizabeth. This food truck serves 6 types of lobster rolls. Visit the Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth while you’re there.

Crab Burger and Fries

Day 2: Freeport

After a morning of kayaking in Freeport, visit Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster. Tucked into a small marina in South Freeport, this no-frills eatery serves up some of the best seafood in the area. Freeport is also home to numerous outlet stores, and The Desert of Maine. This former potato farm has been transformed into a desert, making it a curious tourist attraction.

Wiscasset

Day 3: Wiscasset

There are a number of museums and historic homes in the village of Wiscasset, Maine. This includes the Lincoln County Museum and Old Jail, and the Lincoln County Courthouse which is the oldest functioning courthouse in New England. For your lobster fix, head to Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. Once you’re done, take a stroll up to the Bass Harbor Head Light, located within Acadia National Park.



Eastport

Day 4: Eastport

We finish our route in Eastport, but of course there is a lot more to see (and eat). Quoddy Bay Lobster in Eastport offers one of the best views of the Bay of Fundy, and across to Canada. Eastport itself is a small city consisting entirely of islands, making it a perfect place for activities like kayaking, fishing, boating and swimming.


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