Picking up from last week, you’re driving south from the Great Smoky Mountains; about five hours away is Charleston, South Carolina. This deep southern town will inevitably charm you with its antebellum mansions and flowery gardens, for which there are a variety of local tours. Have some shrimp and grits, and enjoy that gorgeous Spanish moss that drips off stately oak trees.
At this point, the subtropics are probably calling, so you might just make a nine-hour beeline for the palm trees of Miami, Florida. The pastel Art Deco buildings along South Beach are the stuff of postcards, and since Miami is arguably the Hispanic capital of the country, you’ll find stellar Cuban food options in Little Havana. Detour to South Beach for clubbing or checking out Ocean Drive when you go through Miami.
While you’re this close, take a day trip into the Everglades—there’s no other ecosystem in the country quite like it. Teeming with alligators and water fowl, it’s not actually a swamp, but a 50-mile-wide slow-flowing river. Take a speedy air boat tour through the dense mangroves and hike a few trails in Everglades National Park, but not without sunscreen and bug spray.
If you want to finish this road trip right, do the much-beloved drive from Miami all the way down to Key West, Florida, which is both the end-point of the Keys and the southernmost city in the continental U.S. Key West was once the home of Ernest Hemingway (his house is now a museum) and the surrounding blue waters thrive with coral reefs and marine life. And if you really want to finish this trip right, you’ll hop on the ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park, home of a remote 19th-century military fortress and more pristine beaches. From there, the only place to go is Havana…
Have you driven the length of the East Coast? What were your highlights?