Road trips are an American summer staple.
Especially after dealing with all of this COVID-19 bullshit, I think we could all use a relaxing trip driving down a winding, back country road. (I mean, I'm writing this in the midst of a mandatory lock down, and I'm about to pull my hair out.) At night, I dream about being on the open road with nothing standing between me and a relaxing vacation.
I know that this situation with the virus is going to have a hugely negative impact on individuals and the economy. If you've lost your job due to the virus, let me say that my heart goes out to you, and I certainly hope that you're not out of it for long!
My goal with this post is to help you find some fun (affordable) road trip destinations in the Southeastern United States that you can visit this summer once all of this craziness is over!
So, without further ado, let's get into it!
Related: *Coming Soon!* Road Trip Essentials!
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What can I say about Helen, other than this is one of my favorite places to visit.
I have been more times than I can count, and we're even planning on going again this year!
Why do I love this adorable Bavarian-style town? Well, it likely has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up vacationing here, but Helen also has some awesome features that I just can't seem to stay away from.
I love hiking. It's a great way to enjoy the great outdoors and see some pretty incredible views. These kinds of experiences are really why I enjoy traveling so much.
Since Helen is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of great hikes around the town. Some are closer than others, but even those that require a bit of a drive are well worth it.
But, here's a couple of my favorites!
Anna Ruby Falls
This is an easy hike that can be done in flip-flops, though I don't recommend it. (Seriously though, last time I went on this hike, I saw people in flip-flops. Like, why?)
It's a leisurely walk with a bit of an incline at points, but it's a well blazed path. So well blazed that it's actually paved. Okay, okay. It's mostly wood but still!
It's well up-kept, which means the small admission fee is going to good use.
If you're an avid hiker, I can see you rolling your eyes and saying, "Jenn, I need something a little more challenging than that." Well, I get it (and don't worry, I have something for you coming soon), but it's actually an awesome hike because you get to see a beautiful water fall and a ton of butterflies! So, whether you're a seasoned hiker or total beginner, it's worth the admission fee!
This hike is probably the toughest I've ever completed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a seasoned hiker by any means, but I'm not exactly a beginner either. I'm somewhere in the middle.
Either way, this was a tough hike.
It was steep, slippery, and long. Okay, maybe it's not that long, but it definitely feels like it!
Round trip, it's a little over 4 miles, and it's a steep, unrelenting climb on the way up.
When it was all over, I felt like a freakin' super hero. You can practically see my cape in all the pictures.
Seriously. This was rather intense for me, and we went into it a little unprepared. We didn't bring enough water or snacks, so when we left we were ravenous.
We found the nearest Outback Steakhouse, which was actually about 45 minutes away. Funny enough, none of us cared. We all just wanted steak and lots of it. Needless to say, we devoured everything that touched the table.
It was a great hike followed by a great meal and a sense of accomplishment that has stuck with me.
There is talk about doing it again when we go back to Helen this year. If we do, I'll do an entire post and video on it.
You can't visit Helen without tubing down the Chattahoochee River, unless it's the dead of winter, in which case you will be forgiven.
There's a few companies that offer tubing, and there's usually a couple different lengths. You can spend a couple hours on the river or half a day. If you think spending half a day tubing is too longer, you probably won't even notice how much time you spent on the river. It's that fun.
If it rains the night before you go tubing, you can expect two things: cold water and a quick current.
The Chattahoochee River has a lot of rocks in it, so you need to be careful, and I highly recommend wearing water shoes.
White water Rafting
If tubing makes you yawn, first of all, calm down, tubing is amazing, and second, there's always White Water Rafting!
I absolutely love White Water Rafting. It makes me so nervous that I want to throw up, but I always enjoy myself. At the end, I always feel good and a little brave. After all, I was terrified but did it anyway, and that's a win!
If you're interested in having an adventure, I definitely recommend squeezing this into your itinerary.
Vineyards, Wineries, Breweries. Oh My!
What's not to love about beer and wine?
As a wine enthusiast, I absolutely love touring Wineries. I haven't been to a vineyard yet, but I'd love to.
It's always fun to try local beverages since you can often find something different from what you're used to drinking at home.
Sanibel Island, FL
Sanibel Island is a fantastic beach destination in Florida. You'll feel like you stepped back in time when you're sitting on the beach.
Unlike many other cities in Florida, the beaches aren't lined with high-rise condos. Sure, there are plenty of hotels along the beach, but none are taller than the tree line, so you'll hardly notice them, especially on the public beaches since the hotels are a little bit removed from them. Plus, the beaches are typically rather quiet. They're not overcrowded like in Miami.
If you plan a road trip through Florida, this spot has to be on your list of places to stop!
Bonus! Peak season is actually in winter, so summer is actually quite calm.
Best Place for Shelling
Enjoy collecting shells when you go to the beach?
Then, you definitely don't want to miss this place.
It boasts some of the best shelling beaches in the world, which is pretty neat.
The gulf-side beaches are apparently the best for shelling, so definitely check those out.
Sanibel features many restaurants that serve mouth-watering food.
These restaurants have it all: great food, atmosphere, and outdoor seating. There's something so great about eating outside, especially when you're in a beach town.
Sanibel is incredibly pet-friendly, so you don't need to worry about bringing along your furry friend.
Here's a list of pet-friendly restaurants.
Your pups are allowed on the beach, too! Just make sure you clean up after them.
If you're interested in bringing your dog, here are some pet-friendly accommodations.
St. Augustine, FL
St. Augustine is another destination in Florida that you can't miss. Not only is it beautiful but it's historic, too!
There's so much to do in St. Augustine. You can visit Castillo de San Marco, take a ghost tour, visit a Winery, and so much more!
I live pretty close to St. Augustine, so I've been there countless times. I love walking down the the little streets and exploring the old parts of town. Everything is beautiful.
St. Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited city in the US, and it's unlikely that they'll let you forget it. They certainly didn't let Jamestown forget when they tried to coin (literally) their 500 year anniversary and use the slogan "Oldest City in America."
There are plenty of great historical sites you can see all from different parts of this city's interesting history: Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, City Gates, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Fountain of Youth, Old Jail, and so much more!
If you'd like a quick rundown of the history, you can read a timeline here.
You can find all of the educational but fun historical site here.
San Sebastian Winery
If you enjoy wine, which I hope you do, there's a great winery called San Sebastian Winery. I've found that people love it or hate it.
I love it. Their wines are sweet and crisp. They use grapes grown in Florida on one of their vineyards and they make the wine at the winery.
They use muscadine grapes to make the wine, which gives it a very sweet flavor. I enjoy it because I do appreciate sweet wines. However, anyone that exclusively likes dry wine will probably feel as though they are drinking straight up grape juice and likely won't enjoy it.
That being said, if you can get behind sweet wines, you'll greatly enjoy the FREE wine tasting after the tour. Or, you can skip the tour all together and go straight to the wine tasting if it's close to closing time.
Ghostly Experiences Galore
St. Augustine is renowned as one of the most haunted cities in America. I mean, you can hardly do any sort of construction there without unearthing bodies. Is it any wonder that people have so many unexplained experiences?
I haven't been on the the Ripley's Ghost Train Adventure but my sister-in-law went and had a blast! You actually have the opportunity to investigate, which sounds like a spine chilling experience. Who knows what you'll find. *Insert spooky noises here.*
Michael and I took a walking ghost tour from Ghost Tours of St. Augustine and enjoyed ourselves. We didn't see anything weird, but we heard a lot of fun yet spooky stories, and we learned a bit about St. Augustine's history, which was a nice touch.
Savannah is another old city that boasts lots of ghosties.
Did I scare you?
Anyway, Savannah is absolutely gorgeous. It's much larger than St. Augustine and features more beautiful architecture throughout the city. Plus, it's home to some world class restaurants. What's not to love?
Where You Can Find Ghosties
Since we just finished talking about the ghosts in St. Augustine, I figure we could go ahead and talk about Savannah's hot spots for paranormal activity.
There are plenty of ghost tours. No question. If you pop by the welcome center, you'll be surprised at how many brochures you can grab.
However, there's one spot that you can enjoy the best ghost tour of you life: The Sorrel Weed House.
This tour freaked me and both my sister-in-laws out. Now, we didn't experience anything negative. We were never fearful but unexplained experiences were experienced.
They have a late night paranormal investigation tour that I want Michael and I to participate in once all of this COVID-19 stuff is over.
If we do, I'll obviously take pictures and videos, and frankly, I'll dedicate an entire post to it.
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Explore These Districts
I don't think there are any districts you should avoid, but my favorites are the Historic and Victorian districts.
Like I said, the architecture in Savannah is breath-taking. I had so much fun just walking around and admiring the beautiful buildings.
It's something that pictures just don't do justice. Being immersed in a particular setting just makes it more awe-inspiring.
One of my favorite parts about the historic district is that it backs up to the Savannah River. There's a nice River Walk with plenty of restaurants and craft markets.
The Starland district displays a more modern side of Savannah. There, you can enjoy art galleries and even a cat cafe.
If you're into nature, you'll probably want to check out the Moon River district. There, you'll find a state park with 6+ miles of trails, an aquarium, and a historical plantation.
If you want to learn more about Savannah's many districts, click here.
Savannah is not known for it's mead. So, you might be wondering why I'm telling you to try mead...in Savannah.
Well, my friend, the Savannah Bee Company has a shop in the Historic district, which has a mead bar. At this mead bar, you can try about 5 or 6 different types of mead. If you're anything like me, you're probably saying, "I didn't know there were different types of mead." Well, there are. And they vary so greatly!
I had a blast tasting mead, and I think you will, too. It's a nice change from beer or wine.
I hadn't hear of Asheville before I went, so if you haven't either, don't feel bad. If you think it's crazy that went such a long time with hearing of this adorable city, you can shame me if you must.
This city is the most hipster city I've ever visited, and I'm not saying that in a negative way.
It strives to be environmentally friendly, most of the restaurants source their meats ethically, and if you are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, etc, there are plenty of food option for you. It's very special diet friendly.
Immerse Yourself in the Great Outdoors
Asheville has plenty of great hikes surrounding the city.
The one we went on wasn't great. So, I won't recommend it, but don't worry, the trail head was hellishly tough to find so I don't think you'll end up on it.
I'm going to share a list of hikes that are supposed to be better, so as long as you follow the tourist board's advice, I think you'll be fine!
Any Hunger Games Fans in the House?
The Hunger Games was filmed around Asheville, which means you can visit the filming locations on a fun tour!
This gives you the chance to recreate some famous scenes for epic photos.
Feel Fancy at the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is absolutely breath-taking.
Don't take my word for it though, as I didn't actually get to go!
The pictures are stunning, but it's a bit pricey so prepare your wallet...
I absolutely love old things, especially old houses. Even though it's old, I don't think you will find any ghosties there, so I don't recommend looking. You'll look like a weirdo. Not that it's anyone else's business but...
The Biltmore Estate is more than just a house. It features a stunning garden and winery! Plus, your ticket gets you access to Antler Hill Village. Not sure if you can visit without a pass or not... They make it sound like access is exclusive with your ticket. But, it's a little village, so how would you restrict access? Ah, the questions that keep me up at night.
Asheville is quite pet-friendly, so if you'd like to bring your furry friend, feel free!
When we visited, our friend brought her little dog with her, and we didn't have any issues around town. In fact, there are some very cute dog stores with fun treats for your pup!
Don't Forget Your Road Trip Planner!
There's a lot that goes into planning a road trip. Don't let it overwhelm you.
Download the Road Trip Planner now so that you can focus on the important details of planning your road trip and ignore all of the fluff the internet will try to throw your way!
What did you think?
Is your mind turning with all of the awesome possibilities?!
I hope so!
Road trips are great because they're so flexible.
Here's a quick recap of my top 5 destinations:
- Helen, GA
- Sanibel Island, FL
- Savannah, GA
- Asheville, NC
- St. Augustine, FL
If you liked all of these suggestions and want to include them in your next road trip, I've put together a map that you can use to plan out your trip.
I've got it in a line right now since I don't know where you're starting from, but you can rearrange the destinations in any order that makes sense for you.
If you're ready to go on a road trip, share this post with your road trip buddy and get to planning!
Have questions about any of these destinations? Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I'd love to help! And if I don't have the answer, I can likely find a resource for you that does! 🙂