So we completed a road trip around the mighty US of A in 2012 and as expected we had a lifetime of memories in 3 months.
But what was the best bit? Hmm I’m sure I have read peoples opinion on that on 100s of websites. Too boring.
Well it was a road trip. So what was the best road we drove??? So many to pick from. Over 12,000 miles racked up on the odometer. Wow.
Was it Highway 1 down the coast of California or the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone Park? Maybe one of the many roads running through the beautiful Colorado Mountains? Those were three of many fantastic drives. They will be long remembered. One thing for sure is it wasn’t Hwy 80 through Nebraska! Sorry Nebraskians, but I needed a cooler full of red bulls to keep me awake driving down that one.
Well for the observant who read the title, I’ve picked Highway A1A.
The A1A stretches from Key West to Fernandina Beach in Florida. The majority of the road is down a long skinny ‘barrier’ island along the east coast of Florida. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean and to the west are rivers that separate the island from the mainland of Florida. Long sections of Highway A1A run directly along the beach, other sections a few streets back.
When we originally looked into the road trip we read a website that basically said Highway A1A was not worth driving. It took longer than the 1 on the main land and it wasn’t worth it as you couldn’t see much. I’m glad we ignored their advice. We weren’t in a rush (who wants to rush on a 3 month road trip?) and decided we wanted to see as many beaches as possible. So off we went!
We started our drive on Highway A1A near the southern end near Miami and drove north. We drove up and stopped at beaches that looked good. Miami Beach, Surfside, Sunny Isle Beach, Golden Beach, Hollywood Beach… Hmm we have only traveled 10 miles and stopped at 5 beaches. Might take us a while to get out of Florida! All the beaches were spectacular. Beautiful white sand with a tropical background of palm trees. There were waves washing up on the shore, sunbathing beds / umbrellas and girls in bikinis (and shirtless surfy boys – though I didn’t seem to notice them…). What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, nice warm Florida weather and a relaxing swim in the lovely blue ocean. I could get use to this!
In order to ensure we actually got out of Florida we decided it might be best if we don’t stop at every beach that looked good. The drive included what seemed to be limitless beaches to stop at. The highlights of the ones we did stop at were the beaches around Miami, Palm Beach, Juno Beach, Daytona Beach, St Augustine Beach, Atlantic Beach and Fernandina Beach. But really you couldn’t go wrong stopping at any beach. Be careful though at some of the beaches as there are definitely some just for the surfers (big waves and rips).
Another positive is that with so many beaches it isn’t unusual to get a beach almost to yourself.
Driving along the road you drive through some great little towns and beach communities. They all have a laid back relaxed feel about them. People who live / holiday here are near the coastline because they want to relax and love the beach. Many of them are retired and no one is in a rush. Each town differs in how touristy they are (e.g. you will find more tourists than locals at Daytona Beach), but there are so many places to stop and have a drink at a bar overlooking the water, eat at a restaurant with the waves crashing in the background or have a coffee watching the world go by. Getting a hotel for the night was a breeze too. And considering how close we were to the beach they were bargains. $50-$100 per night will get you a hotel / motel along Highway A1A within a stone’s throw of the water.
Our favorite towns along Highway A1A were:
- Miami Beach – so much happening, great walking tracks, great (or should I say interesting?) people watching, as well as more food and bars than you can poke a stick at. Need I say more???
- St Augustine – easily the town with the most history. America’s oldest permanent European settlement with a Colonial Spanish Quarter and many 18th-century buildings.
- Atlantic Beach / Neptune Beach – Nice little town with stone cobbled roads in the shopping area. Also serves one of the best Pad Thai (our little food obsession) we’ve ever had.
One other habit we have is ‘window shopping’ for houses. As you can imagine with the road located next to the ocean on an island its prime real estate. This road has some incredible houses. Many nothing short of spectacular. You heard of the 15 bedroom, 15 bathroom houses. Here they are! I almost drove off the road on numerous occasions trying to get a better look at some of the houses. Hell, the servant quarters are bigger than most of the houses I’ve lived at! This is where the rich of the rich are. Oh well, we can all dream.
We just loved this drive. The beaches, great little towns and houses made the drive nothing short of spectacular. We spent a week completing the journey, but loved it so much we have been back to many of the towns again in later visits to the USA (Miami Beach, Daytona, Atlantic Beach, Vero Beach, Juno Beach, Boca Raton, Lauderdale by the Sea, Fort Pierce and Palm Beach) for stays varying from a few days to six weeks. And I have no doubt we will be back again.
Whats been your favorite drive? We are looking for new places to put on the bucket list!