14 Best Family-Friendly Road Trips on the East Coast
Last Updated on April 9, 2023
Planning a family road trip on the East Coast and wondering where to go? Hit the open roads, get ready for some adventure, and discover some of America’s most stunning landscapes, prettiest cities, and most important historic sights.
Whether you’re looking for a short road trip near you for your next weekend getaway or a long one for your next vacation, you’ll find the best East Coast family road trips listed below. From wild beaches and quaint villages to mountain roads and national parks, find inspiration for your next family road trip.
These road trips feature plenty of kid-friendly activities and many stop opportunities to avoid driving for too long. They can easily be adapted to the time you have, the things you want to do and see, and your kids’ age.
Keep on reading to discover the best road trips on the East Coast for families!
Related – Road Trip Must-Haves and Packing List
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Before You Go – Family Road Trip Tips
- Make sure to pack road trip entertainment and snacks for the kids;
- Plan where you’re going to spend the night beforehand and book everything, especially during high season. You can check the best deals on hotels here and the best deals on vacation rentals here;
- Before heading out to more remote areas, make sure you have enough gas, and check where you can fill up your tank;
- If you’re flying in, check the best deals on flights on Skyscanner and the ones for car rental here;
- Getting travel insurance can be a good idea. World Nomads has a plan for road trips, covering sudden trip cancellations, unexpected medical emergencies, rental car insurance for vehicle damage, emergency assistance, road trip interruptions and delay, and protection for stolen belongings – More info on their website.
Vermont Fall Foliage Road Trip
Start: Wilmington End: Newport
How many days: 3 to 7 days
Length: 216 miles
Best time: Fall
Route 100 in Vermont is one of the most picturesque roads on the East Coast, especially during the fall, when the trees’ colors turn into intense shades of red and oranges. Meander through the Green Mountains enjoying the scenery, and visit charming New England villages.
You can complete the road trip in 3 days but can easily stretch it to a whole week. You can start in Wilmington, in the south, and make your way north to Newport.
Take the time to visit Wilmington then make your way to Ludlow (maybe the next day depending on when you get in town). On the way stop at Mount Snow and ride the gondola to the top of the mountain to see the fall foliage from high up.
Next head to the charming town of Jamaica, for an easy hike through the forest, don’t miss Jamaica State Park. The West River Rail trail is ideal during fall and easy enough for children to hike it.
Next stop is the picturesque town of Weston. There, stroll around town, window shop, and stop by the Vermont Country Store where you’ll find a bit of everything.
Once you’re in Ludlow, enjoy the small-town vibes and head to Buttermilk Falls, gorgeous during the fall. If you want to meander through the countryside, you’ll find a couple of trails around town.
The next stretch of road, from Ludlow to Stowe, is filled with charming villages, acres of farmland, and plenty of scenic lookouts. Some of the most popular stops for families include Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Moss Glen Falls in Granville, Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store, and Little River State Park.
Once you reach Stowe, make sure to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain, Vermont’s highest peak.
If you have time, you can make a detour to Smuggler’s Notch on route 108, a narrow pass between Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak with plenty of easy hikes you can do from the road. The trail to Bingham Falls is only a 1.6-mile round trip. Note that the pass is not suitable for RVs.
Related – Best Road Trips in the US for your Bucket List
Great Lakes Seaway Trail
Start: Erie, PA End: Massena, NY
How many days: 3 to 7 days
Length: 518 miles
Best time: Spring through Fall
Outdoorsy families will love driving along Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, stopping at state parks, and enjoying the wilderness. With stunning scenery and plenty of fun things to do, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail is one of the best East Coast family road trips.
You can drive it within a day but you can also take your time, visiting the towns along the way, enjoying water activities (if you’re there during summer), visiting historic sites, and hiking at some of the state parks. It’s an ideal road trip to take with kids as you’ll find plenty of easy trails and fun things to do.
There are plenty of stops you can take, depending on what you want to do, make sure to visit a state park or two, some beaches, historic lighthouses, maybe a museum or two, and a couple of small towns and cities. You can check out Wikipedia’s page for a full list of attractions along the way.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Start: Front Royal, VA End: Cherokee, NC
How many days: 3 to 7 days
Length: 469 miles
Best time: mid-May to mid-September
From Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches through stunning landscapes and offers plenty of kid-friendly things to do.
You could drive the parkway in 2 days but it’s recommended to stay at least 5 days, to really explore the area and see the top sights. You can also plan a longer road trip, you won’t get bored.
Along the way, you’ll find plenty of easy hikes that will be perfect for kids and that will take you to stunning overlooks. Some of the most kid-friendly trails include:
- Fallingwater Cascades Trail – 1.4 miles back and forth
- Gully Creek Trail – 2-mile loop (recommended for older kids as some parts are pretty rough)
- Price Lake Trail – 2.2 miles
- Rough Ridge Trail – 0.2 miles, leading to a viewpoint
- Hike to the top of Mount Mitchell – great if you are looking for a longer hike.
The towns of Waynesboro, Roanoke, Blowing Rock, Asheville, and Gatlinburg make great places to stay for the night – and also, offer plenty of activities the kids will enjoy.
For more cultural activities, visit the 1890s farm building in Humpback Rocks, stop by Mabry Mill, tour the Moses Cone Manor House, and visit the Museum of North Carolina Minerals.
Start: Miami End: Key West
How many days: 2 to 3 days
Length: 165 miles
Best time: Winter and Spring
A great family road trip to escape the cold weather in winter, the Florida Keys offers pristine beaches, fun water activities, and opportunities for kids to learn new things.
The easiest is to start in Miami, you can drive to Key West in a day, but it’s better to plan 2-3 days so you can stop along the way. You can then spend a couple of days in Key West before driving back.
You should plan to spend a day exploring Everglades National Park. Airboat tours are popular, but for something more eco-friendly take a kayak tour to learn more about the different plant and animal species. There are also short hikes you can take with kids – Bobcat Boardwalk Trail, Eco Pond Trail, Anhinga Trail, Pa-hay-okee Trail are recommended.
Next, spend some time snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – watching the beautiful coral reefs, colorful fish, and their famous underwater statue. There’s also a mangrove area where you can kayak.
You can plan to spend a night in Key Largo, where you can enjoy cruising the canals onboard the famous African Queen, and watching the sunset from Plantation Key’s Mile Marker 88 Beach.
Kids will love seeing the giant Lobster statue on marker 86. Another highlight of the drive is the impressive 7-mile bridge.
Once you reach Key West, relax at the beach for a couple of days and enjoy some water activities.
If you have more time you can drive down the entire East Coast of Florida, starting in St Augustine or Jacksonville, planning a few stops at Hollywood, Cocoa Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, before heading to the keys.
Finger Lakes Road Trip, New York
Start: Canandaigua, NY End: Ithaca, NY
How many days: 3 to 7
Length: 100 to 300 miles
Best time: May through September
With 9,000 square miles of stunning lake views, endless farmlands, gorges and waterfalls, world-class vineyards, flower fields, breweries, historical museums, and much more, the Finger Lakes region will make an awesome family road trip destination in New York.
With the perfect blend of culture, history, and nature, everyone in the family will have fun. There’s not one itinerary you have to follow, you can adapt it according to how long you have and what you want to see.
The main lakes are Canandaigua, Kekua, Seneca, Cayuga, and Skaneateles Lakes, and are called Finger Lakes, because of their shape.
Along the way, you’ll find a couple of state parks and easy hiking trails, waterfalls, small towns, historic sights, farm-to-table restaurants, museums, and crafts markets.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina
Starts: Nags Head, NC Ends: Beaufort, NC
How many days: 5
Length: 138 miles
Best time: Mid-April to Mid-December
The perfect East Coast road trip for families, the Outer Banks Scenic Byway will take you through North Carolina’s beautiful beaches, thriving wildlife preserves, historic towns, and iconic lighthouses. Kids will love spending time at the beach, exploring historic buildings, and seeing wild horses roam free.
Start in Kitty Hawk and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial where the first flight took place. In town, you can have a meal at the kid-friendly Rundown Cafe, serving Caribbean and Pacific Rim-inspired food.
Then keep heading south until you reach Beaufort. You can drive the byway within a day, but it’s better to plan at least 5 days for the trip as you’ll want to spend time visiting some of the places along the way.
Some of the top sites to tour with children include Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station from the 19th century, the shipwreck Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and Ocracoke Lighthouse.
You’ll find plenty of pretty beaches, nice restaurants, and small towns to stop by along the way as well.
Outdoorsy families who want to spot wildlife, enjoy unspoiled beaches, and go for easy hikes, need to include Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge or Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in their road trip.
You can visit the Outer Banks year-round, but most restaurants, hotels, and shops will be closed during winter.
Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip
Starts: Boston, MA End: Bar Harbor, ME
How many days: 3 to 7
Length: 280 miles
Best time: Summer and Fall
If you’re feeling like going on an adventure with stunning views of the coast, beautiful state parks, and historic towns, the quick yet scenic East Coast road trip from Boston to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor is one the whole family will enjoy.
Crossing Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, the whole trip can be done in a day, and then, you can spend a couple of days in Acadia National Park or you can plan a couple of overnight stops along the way. This road trip can also be started in NYC or Portland.
If you have time, you can take a detour to drive the Kancamagus Highway part of the White Mountains Scenic Byway.
You should definitely plan to visit a couple of historic cities like Portsmouth, Portland, Rockport, and Camden, strolling around their historic district and maybe touring a couple of historic buildings and museums.
If your family likes hiking, then stop for a short hike in one of the many state parks you’ll pass by. Stroll around the 19th-century gardens and plantings at Maudslay State Park, go for a swim at Bear Brook State Parks, look for birds at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and make a small detour to explore Fort Knox State Park.
Once you reach Bar Harbor, you can spend a couple of days exploring Acadia National Park, where you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly hiking and biking trails as well as beautiful beaches. Take a few hours to drive the Acadia All American Road.
Skyline Drive Road Trip, Virginia
Start: Front Royal, VA End: Rockfish Gap, VA
How many days: 1
Length: 105 miles
Best time: Spring and Fall
Located within Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is one of the most scenic road trips you can go on on the East Coast. Featuring stunning scenery over the Shenandoah Valley, picturesque viewpoints, and easy trails accessible from the road, this drive is ideal to take with kids. And, if you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife.
Running along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the drive will take you through 75 overlooks and will connect you to all the major visitor centers, campgrounds, lodges, picnic areas, and most trailheads.
You can do this road trip in a day, but you can also plan a couple of overnight stops at the campgrounds or lodges found along the way within Shenandoah National Park. Just make sure to book ahead.
Some of the top kid-friendly hikes you’ll find along the way include:
- Fox Hollow Interpretive Trail – 1.2-mile loop
- Traces Trail Hike – 1.7-mile loop
- Mary’s Rock Trail – 3.7-mile round trip – Moderate, recommended for older kids.
- Stony Man Trail – 1.6-mile round trip
- Dark Hollow Falls – 1.4-mile circuit – Moderate, steep and rocky trails, often slippery
Charleston to Savannah Road Trip
Start: Charleston, SC End: Savannah, GA
How many days: 3 to 8
Length: 108 miles
Best time: Year-round
Charleston and Savannah both have a lot to offer, and taking a road trip to explore the iconic cities as well as their surrounding is a great thing to do with kids. They’ll enjoy touring historic plantations, visiting children’s museums and their hands-on exhibits, and gorging on Southern food.
Explore the low-country in Georgia and South Carolina, first starting in Charleston, then heading to Beaufort, stopping by Hilton Head Island, then Bluffton, making your way to Savannah (or the other way around). You could do the drive in one day but it’s recommended to plan a couple of overnight stops.
Spend time exploring the historic districts, visit museums and historic buildings, enjoy the beach, stroll around a state park or two (Edisto and Hunting Island State Parks are recommended), and don’t miss touring a plantation.
If you have time, you can drive the Savannah River Scenic Byway where you’ll find scenic views, get a glimpse of life in the rural South, and experience southern hospitality. The byway starts a bit before Clarks Hill and ends in Oakway, it takes around 3 hours.
You can also start this road trip in Raleigh, North Carolina, and drive to Myrtle Beach, then onto Charleston.
Appalachian Trail Road Trip
Start: Carrabassett Valley, MA End: Tallulah Gorge State Park, GA
How many days: 14
Length: 2,100 miles
Best time: Spring through Fall
One of the most popular hiking trails in the United States, the Appalachian Trail winds from Maine’s North Woods all the way down to Georgia. The driving route follows closely along the trail passing by stunning landscapes, charming towns, and historic sites.
The best part about this road trip is that it combines some of the best road trips on the East Coast, so you get to drive some of the most scenic drives in the country in one big road trip.
The Appalachian Trail crosses through 14 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia), 8 national forests, and 6 national parks.
Popular spots along the route include:
- Baxter State Park in Maine.
- The White Mountain National Forest, Mount Washington Auto Road, and the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.
- Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York.
- Shenandoah National Park, Water Gap National Recreation Area, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and Mount Rogers in Virginia.
- The Great Smoky Mountains, and Blood and Springer mountains in Georgia.
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in DC and Maryland.
Northern Florida Road Trip
Start: Falling Waters State Park End: Fort Clinch State Park
How many days: 5 to 7
Length: 424 miles
Best time: Spring or Fall
Northern Florida has a lot to offer and hides many gems few tourists know about. Plan a road trip there to explore its highlights, enjoying the sun, the beaches, and all the natural wonders it features. It’s ideal for families looking to spend some time outdoors while still having time to relax.
The drive from Falling Waters State Park to Fort Clinch State Park takes around 8 hours but you’ll want to spend time at the stops, so count at least 5 days but a full week would be better as there is a lot to do and see.
Here are the highlights of the trip:
- Visit Florida’s highest waterfalls at Falling Waters State Park – there you’ll find many easy hikes through the wood, accessible to kids of all ages.
- Take a 45-minute tour through the caves in Florida Caverns State Park – check the tour schedule beforehand. There you can also kayak on the Chipola River and hike to the Blue Hole Spring.
- Ride a boat at one of the biggest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, where you might spot birds, manatees, and alligators. The park also features a couple of nature trails and areas where you can swim and snorkel.
- Tube down the river at Ichetucknee Springs State Park
- Swim in a sinkhole at the Devil’s Den Spring.
- Stroll around America’s oldest city, St. Augustine
- Enjoy the peaceful scenery at Big Talbot Island and Little Talbot Island
- Spend some time at the beach on Amelia Island
Washington Heritage Trail, Virginia
Start: Paw Paw End: Berkeley Springs
How many days: 1 to 3
Length: 136 miles
Best time: Year-round
Forming a loop through the Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties, the Washington Heritage Trail traces the footsteps of George Washington and the marks his family left in the Eastern Panhandle. It’s an ideal road trip to take with kids to teach them about American history in a fun way.
There are over 40 official sites to visit along the trail, from 18th-century towns and historic sites to scenic overlooks and picturesque scenery. You can pick the ones you like best or visit them all!
Most of the sites are located within 5 towns: Berkeley Springs, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, and Charles Towns. At each, you’ll find historic buildings and museums you can visit. You can see the full list here>>
Hudson Valley Road Trip, New York
Start and End: New York City
How many days: 2 to 3
Length: 180 miles
Best time: Fall
Less than an hour’s drive away from New York City, the Hudson Valley is ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax for a few days – it’s a perfect road trip from New York City for families looking to explore some stunning landscape and enjoy outdoor and cultural activities.
You can either start from NYC and back or take a train to one of the towns along the Hudson River and rent a car from there (a good idea to avoid traffic).
If you start from NYC, drive the Palisades Interstate Parkway and then Perkins Memorial Drive to reach the top of Bear Mountain. Don’t miss some of the lookouts on the way. Once in Bear Mountain State Park you can spend some time hiking (the Hessian Lake Loop is easy and nice to do with kids) or keep going.
Stop by West Point Academy, you can take a guided tour there and visit the museum. Then stroll around Storm King Art Center, home to one of the largest collections of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the United States – kids will love walking around the park, seeing all these sculptures.
Make your way to Hyde Park, where you can visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home and The Vanderbilt Mansion. Then drive to the village of Rhinebeck, home to over 300 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids will love touring the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum as well.
Next stops include Poughkeepsie (don’t miss the bridge), the Locust Grove Estate, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown.
Cape May to Virginia Beach Road Trip
Start: Cape May, NJ End: Virginia Beach, VA
How many days: 3 to 7
Length: 200 miles
Best time: Summer
An ideal road trip to take from Washington DC or Baltimore for families who want to spend some time at the beach, explore the wilderness, and see the famous wild horses.
The top spots on this East Coast road trip include:
- Cape May
- Lewes and Rehoboth Beach
- Bethany Beach
- Chincoteague and Assateague Island National Seashore
- Virginia Beach
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