Summer’s winding down, and Fall is on the horizon. (Woo hoo!) Many of us are itching to hit the road now that kids are back in school and the hot weather travel peak is over. But, oh, oh, where to go?
Of course, Southern Living magazine is a treasure trove of information about the South and they graciously include Texas and sometimes Oklahoma and even Maryland in their definition of The South. This benefits us all when they publish features on things like “The South’s Best Scenic Drives”. If you’re ready to roll, this list is for you.
These ten places will truly knock your socks off and the view won’t cost you a dime. Buckle up and throw on your Rio Rays, because these drives will make you wish you’d left yesterday.
10. Bayou Teche Scenic Highway (Louisiana)
If you’re after a bayou experience, this is your drive. Bayou Teche winds through South Louisiana, and features all the bayou things; cypress trees, moss, and gators. At approximately 125 miles long, possibly the best part about this drive is the crazy-good Cajun food.
9. Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway (Arkansas)
This forested mountain drive is a favorite of motorcyclists who like the scenery alright, but love the winding roads along this byway. The Ozarks Highlands Scenic Byway offers about 165 miles of vista views, natural streams, and spectacular fall foliage, if that’s your cup of tea. It’s definitely mine.
8. Overseas Highway (Florida)
Truly a wonder, this 113-mile drive is a series of roads and bridges that skip across the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West. It bears the prestigious title of All-American Road, awarded by the US Federal Highway Administration to roads with unique historic, cultural, archeological, or scenic qualities. The view from the Overseas Highway includes the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as coral and limestone islets peeking out of the water.
7. Bluebonnet Trail (Texas)
The name says it all -Texas Bluebonnets as far as the eye can see. This one is a Spring season trip, because the Bluebonnets are at their most spectacular in April. However, if you’re patient, this view is worth the wait. Ennis is the official Bluebonnet City of Texas, and they’ll give you a big, warm Texas welcome.
6. Outer Banks Scenic Byway (North Carolina)
How can one pass up a drive that starts at Whalebone Junction? Right. One cannot. This drive starts in Nags Head, NC, the Outer Banks Region, and ends in the Crystal Coast region, and features two ferry rides in between. Views are all water, all the way around. The Atlantic Ocean on the east and Pamlico Sound on the west offer long coastal views, windswept sand dunes, and tidal marshes, as well as the sea sounds all our dreams are made of.
5. Natchez Trace (Mississippi/Alabama/ Tennessee)
Pack a bag and some snacks for this drive. At 444 miles, it’s the longest drive on the list, but worth the investment. You’ll travel through three states, starting in Tennesee, across the northwest corner of Alabama, and down through Mississippi, from the Cumberland River to the Mighty Mississippi. The National Park Service calls the Old Natchez Trace “a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, "Kaintucks," European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents. Today, people can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping along the parkway.”
4. Skyline Drive (Virginia)
Experience 105 miles of the Shenandoah National Park, driving primarily along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, which affords the most spectacular mountain views. Fall foliage is usually at its peak in October, and to see it, you’ll have to take it slow. Not because you’ll miss anything, but because it’s another winding road, great for motorcyclists and naturally slow drivers.
3. Florida A1A (Florida)
Hit all the ocean front towns on Florida’s Atlantic coast on this drive, starting in Key West, all the way up the coast, and ending right before you get to Georgia, on Amelia Island. It’s a long one at 340 miles, but the views and the history make the time fly by. This drive takes you through St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, and offers beach trails, preserves, state parks, estuaries, and more.
2. Lookout Mountain Parkway (Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee)
This short little drive is only 93 miles but it packs a punch. It hits three states and features countless natural wonders, including waterfalls and canyons. Even better, and unique in the South, this parkway boasts all four seasons, and even gets a sprinkling of snow from time to time. Spring, however is breathtaking along this parkway.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina, Virginia)
Self-proclaimed as America’s Favorite Drive by blueridgeparkway.org, this drive is admittedly spectacular, offering unbelievable natural resources and what they call “unsurpassed biodiversity” which is a fancy way to say you’ll see a lot of stuff that will blow your mind. Like, for instance, Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern US, and Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon. Plus, “unsurpassed diversity of climate, vegetation, wildlife and geological features” says the website. Translate: photo ops galore.
Anyone else get their motor going just reading that? Road trip! I’m calling shotgun.