Cadillac 6-1-2011

Where to?

Some suggestions for your next summer road trip.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” —St. Augustine.

We’ll admit to just a passing familiarity with St. Augustine, but from his quote, it would appear he’s the type of guy who would be up for a summer road trip. We do know, however, that tossing a few belongings into your car and hitting the road is a summer tradition. But be sure you choose your companions carefully. St. Augustine was probably a great guy, but if you’re not a fan of theology, his conversation might have you hanging a U-turn after the first mile. Or, this type of thing could happen. But now, if you can find some like-minded companions, here are some classic road trips worth taking.


The PCH––from San Francisco to San Diego.

This is the road trip where practically every mile will have you feeling like you’re in a car commercial. From the stunning scenery of Big Sur to the urban beaches of Southern California, this drive was made for a convertible. Or, an SUV if you’re carrying surfboards. And any drive where you can fuel up along the way with fresh fish tacos is a winner with us.

Trip highlights:

• Monterey/Pebble Beach.
If you’re fan of Steinbeck, this is definitely worth seeing. It’s incredibly touristy, though. But if you can get past that, seeing where “Doc” Ricketts collected his marine specimens brings Cannery Row and Sea of Cortez to life like nothing else can. Oh, and Pebble Beach is here, too, if you’re more interested in reading greens than books.

• Hearst Castle.
Like the White House and Graceland, this is one of those must-see American residences. 144 rooms in all, it’s a monument to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s influence on his time.

• Leo Carrillo State Beach/Zuma/Malibu.
If you’re a fan of surfing, surf movies, or just like to hang out at the beach, this stretch of the coast is for you. Leo Carrillo is where the Gidget movies were filmed and commercials, TV shows, and music videos are shot here all the time. Zuma Beach can seem like one big beach party on the weekends. And Malibu is possibly the most famous surf spot in the world.

• Fish Tacos/Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego.
The art of the fish taco reaches its greatest heights in the beach towns in and around San Diego. Juanitas Taco Shop in Encinitas and Taco Surf in Pacific Beach are two standouts, but finding your favorite is part of the fun. The Gaslamp Quarter is great before or after a Padres game, with bars, restaurants, shopping, and nightclubs galore.

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Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway––from Virginia to North Carolina.

This drive can be as adventurous as you want it to be because detours will often have you feeling as if you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s a landscape steeped in Americana. There’s also great hiking and great music along the way. You might want to consider car camping as well. Pitching a tent and seeing the stars like Daniel Boone did is a simple thrill that shouldn’t be missed.

Trip highlights:

• Waterfall hike.
Check out Dark Hollow Falls at Skyline Drive Mile Marker 50.7. It’s about a mile from the trailhead. From Skyline Drive Mile Marker 84.1 it’s a 3.5 mile hike to Jones Run Falls. The falls aren’t as impressive as Dark Hollow, but the hike is better.

• Natural Bridge.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this 90-foot stone arch was actually purchased by Thomas Jefferson in 1774. The gift shop in the parking lot contains one of the largest collection of roadside trinkets you’ll ever see.

• Roanoke, VA.
A neat little town that includes the O. Winston Link museum (dedicated to the historic railroad photographer) housed in a restored railroad station. The station itself is interesting, designed by famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy. His works are proudly on display within the museum gallery, including the Coke bottle, the Lucky Strike and Shell logos, and the interior of Skylab.

• Asheville, NC.
The Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt vacation home, is the main attraction here. Surrounded by incredible gardens, the 250-room mansion includes fascinating artwork and, interestingly enough, Napoleon’s chess set. Another home not to miss, especially if you’re a Thomas Wolfe fan, is the one at 28 Spruce Street, which served as the setting for “Look Homeward, Angel.” Asheville itself has a thriving arts and music scene and great restaurants, which make this a road trip destination for many.

• Bluegrass music.
A true American art form, bluegrass was born in this region. The Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, VA has a full calendar of concerts.

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The New England Coast––from Boston to Acadia National Park.

This drive has pretty much everything a person could want. Stunning natural beauty. Neat little weathered fishing villages. And it’s a seafood foodie’s heaven. It’s a mix of quintessential New England and unexpected surprises. Throw in seeing the first sunrise in the U.S. and you’ve got an unforgettable trip.

Trip highlights:

• Halibut Point.
Standing on top of the granite cliffs at the point of Cape Ann gives you a great view all the way to Maine and the Isles of Shoals off New Hampshire. There’s also a restaurant in Gloucester called Halibut Point that has excellent clam chowder.

• Antiques.
Most guys cringe when they hear the word antiques, but the area around Wells, Maine has some great shops worth looking into. Things like vintage hunting, fishing, skiing, and tennis gear look great displayed around your place.

• Desert of Maine.
At 40-acres, this is the world’s smallest desert. No, really, it is. Formed by glacial silt it was exposed after poor farming practices caused the soil to erode. Among other things you’ll find here is, of course, a sand museum.

• Rockland/Camden, Maine.
The Maine Lobster Festival is held in Rockland in August although there will be plenty for you to dine on whenever you arrive. Camden is where Thomas Watson Sr., the founder of IBM, vacationed. He enjoyed sailing around Penobscot Bay and you can do the same, as there are many charters and rentals available here.

• Acadia National Park.
From tide pools at the shoreline to miles of hiking and biking trails, the wildlife and scenery here are incredible. Don’t miss hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain to be among the first to see the sunrise in the U.S.

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Trip notes:

• If you don’t own a car, or even if you do, consider renting a car for your trip. This way you get exactly what you need for the amount of people coming along. You don’t want to be stuck wedging four people into your friend’s Mini. Just do your best to avoid this.

• As it has been since time immemorial, calling “shotgun!” must be honored.

• The idea of what constitutes a suitable place to stay on a road trip can vary widely. So we recommend having everyone agree on accommodations before you depart. Unless, of course, you just want to “figure it out when we get there,” which can add to the adventure. Just keep in mind this may be where you end up.

TAGS: Acadia National Park | Antiques | Asheville | beach | Blue Ridge Parkway | Bluegrass music | Boston | Cadillac Mountain | Camden | Cannery Row | Cape Ann | Desert of Maine | Fish tacos | Galax | Gaslamp Quarter | Halibut Point | Hearst Castle | hiking | Leo Carrillo State beach | Maine | Maine Lobster Festival | Malibu | Monterey | Natural Bridge | New England | New Hampshire | North Carolina | Pacific Beach | Pebble Beach | road trip | Roanoke | Rockland | sailing | San Diego | San Francisco | Sea of Cortez | Skyline Drive | Southern California | St. Augustine | Steinbeck | Summer | surfing | Virginia | waterfall | Weekend Getaway | Zuma

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  • avatar
    I've completed all of these drives & two of them more then once. The first & second will take a lot longer (time wise) than you expect, mostly due to single lane & very curvy roads. The third, thankfully has a few straight & quick sections. I've driven the first most recently, from West Hollywood(Sunset Tower Hotel) to Carmel, if I recall correctly it took 13 hours.
    45 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    I want to toss Route 100 in Vermont into the ring of great summer drives. This road starts at the Massachusetts border and runes North all the way to Canada. Along the way you'll pass through most of the major ski towns of Vermont including the always classic Stowe. You'll also see some of the classic Vermont towns that have been frequently photographed as stereotypically New England, including Londonderry. The whole trip up can be done in a weekend, and I-87 I-91 are available to take you back down south at a much more rapid pace.
    45 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    I have been to several of the points on the third trip, and have to agree that it is great. Acadia National Park is my favorite. I have been to most of the big national parks, and highly recommend Acadia. It is the only one I have been able to visit several times. I want to add some of the things I enjoyed while exploring the area. After you wake up to see the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain go to Jordans Restaurant in Bar Harbor. They have the best Blueberry Pancakes in the world. It is a quant and quick diner style restaurant. Another great morning activity is visiting the sand bar that connects Bar Harbor to Bar Island during low tide. Jordans Pond is a great location to visit at lunch time. They have a quant outdoor lunch area, and it is a relaxing hike around the pond.
    45 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    The Skyline Drive/ Blue Ridge Parkway drive really takes one back in time. Natural Bridge is one of the most unspoiled areas and yes, the gift shop is a "trip" in itself. Consider a side trip to Lexington, Virginia - well worth the detour. Route 11 (locally referred to simply as "Number 11) in the Valley is also worthy of inclusion as a "road trip" through unspoiled countryside, historical sites, and small towns. The Southern Kitchen in New Market is frozen in the fifties - with the best comfort food (before comfort food returned to favor)!
    43 months ago | Report abuse |