12 Road Trip Destinations for Northeasterners

I'm a geography nerd with a distracting wanderlust, if you couldn't already tell. I love sensing the direction I'm traveling and knowing instinctively which way to turn. I don't get "lost," I "take the scenic route" or the "long way." I hate GPS because it distracts from the journey, so I use maps to fill in the gaps - and keep me off the interstates. When I travel, I like it to be off the beaten path and cheap (gas prices aside).

This isn't about me though. 

This is about you and some of the lesser-known places you should hop in the car and meander to if you're on the east coast and in the mood to explore (especially if you're leaving from the Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. areas).
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I started pulling together this list when Bhrett (currently residing in Philadelphia) asked me if there were any less-commercial, quaint, cute towns she should make a point to see before she gets lost in relocation again, potentially losing the east coast at her fingertips. This girl's a kindred spirit, and that happens to be my specialty. How could I not oblige?!

Some of these places I've been, others I haven't. Let's explore them together, shall we?

Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor, Maine
I've been dying to get up to Maine (it and Georgia are the only states on the eastern seaboard where I've yet to touchdown). Acadia is located on the rocky shore of Mount Desert Island. There are granite cliffs, sand, cobblestone beaches, and glacier-carved mountains. The geography of Acadia National Park ranges from meadows and marshes to  evergreen forests. Sounds like heaven, right? My parents, along with anyone else who's been say that it's absolutely beautiful, a must see. There's also an adorable town named Kittery, ME that's worth hitting on the way there.

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Lake George & Bolton Landing, New York
[Map  ::  Camping  ::  More Lake George ::  More Bolton Landing]
I've been vacationing on this lake for 28 years (yes, that's my entire life, including my first trip at 2 months old). I promise you, if you make it up there -- and specifically if you get out on the lake via steamboat, or motorboat, you'll fall in love. While I've always stayed in cabins we consider "a step up from camping," if you're interested in sleeping in a tent, not only can you stay on the mainland, but Lake George also offers the option of island camping as well!

The lake is over 30 miles long, offering many lakeside towns to explore and mountains to climb. Lake George Village is boardwalk-esque and worth visiting for an evening, but I'd find somewhere to stay in Bolton Landing, a little north and away from the frenzy. Bolton Landing is a much more laid back area with great
restaurants, shops (antiques!), and (among many other things) parasailing!

Seriously, if you plan head there and have any questions - ask me! I've got answers.

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Narragansett Beach & Newport, RI 
[Map  ::  Stay  ::  More Narragansett  ::  More Newport
Narragansett is great, super New Englandy, but not as miserable a drive or as fussy as Cape Cod. My favorite restaurant in the whole wide world is in Narragansett (get the luna-sea burger & BYOB, trust me), and the beach is lovely. Newport is much fancier, with ostentatious old mansions and shopping, but an absolutely wonderful neighborhood vibe. If you're driving up via I-95, it's a worth stop in Mystic, CT on the way for their awesome aquarium (as well as the original pizzeria of Julia Roberts' movie fame).

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Hudson Valley, NY
[Map  ::  Stay  ::  More New Paltz  ::  More Kingston  ::  More Woodstock  ::  More Saugerties  ::  d*s Regional Guide]
Top Picks: New Paltz, Kingston, Woodstock & Saugerties, NY (all within an hour driving radius on the western bank of the Hudson) Each of these towns lives along I-87 just south of Albany, and New York's Capital Region. This is by far one of my favorite areas in my home state.

I've loved New Paltz for years, 
from my card-reading and reiki massage at The Awareness Shop to 10-mile hikes in the 'Gunks and an anniversary at The Mohonk Mountain House (so spoiled). It's a total hippie town with head shops and tie dye, but also has a fantastic assortment of antiques and great gift shops. I do most of my holiday shopping in New Paltz. Oh, and if find yourself in town and your tummy starts to grumble, do yourself a favor and Rock da Pasta. You won't be sorry.

I visited Kingston, Woodstock, and Saugerties for my birthday last month, and the day was spectacular. Kingston's farmers market is in an historic area of town with so much to explore. Woodstock is what you would expect, with much of the same hippie flair as New Paltz - funnily enough, the festival didn't actually take place there (see: Bethel, below). My favorite of the day though, was Saugerties. There's so much history and a unique energy in the town. The icing on the cake is a mini-hike out to the Saugerties Lighthouse. Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine.

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Montauk, NY
[Map  ::  Camp  ::  More Montauk]
Ok, it's a pain in the ass to get to there, but it's so chill and beautiful once you arrive. Located at the eastern most point in New York (at the very very tip of Long Island), we affectionately refer to Montauk as "The End." Hither Hills State Park is the beach to find yourself camping on - if you can get a reservation! If not, there are plenty of other places to stay, and you've got to check out the lighthouse if you have the time. Super beachy and surfy, it's close to - but far less hoity than The Hamptons to its west. 

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Bethel Woods, Bethel, NY 
[Map ::  Stay  ::  More Bethel Woods]
This is the site of the original Woodstock festival and home to the incomparable Woodstock museum. There's absolutely nothing like standing in the field that once held thousands - with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair (especially if you're and 80's-baby-flower-child, like me). I posted an in depth Bethel trip itinerary a few months ago, and I'd be remiss not to mention that you should plan to see a show while you're there!

Ithaca, NY
[Map  ::  Camp ::  More Ithaca
Such a crunchy town! Ithaca's a stunning little liberal pocket in the middle of nowhere at the base of one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY. The town is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College (where I almost went to school, I loved it so). Beyond The Commons pedestrian mall for shopping and food, opportunities abound for outdoor adventure. Ithaca's also famous for its gorges which are not far outside of the city proper (Buttermilk Falls State Park is a 10 minute drive from downtown), and are gorgeous.

Rehoboth Beach, DE
[Map  ::  Stay  ::  More Rehoboth]
Truth be told, I have yet to venture to Rehoboth Beach, although, I made it to Dewey (just 10 minutes south) a few years ago. I chose Rehoboth for this list because of its rank as one of the top 10 boardwalks in the country. My aunt's family, who have their own summer property elsewhere, visit Rehoboth every single year, and sing its praises. There is an active liberal community, vibrant nightlife, and plenty to see, eat, and do! Might you find yourself in Cape May, NJ beforehand, you can even hop a ferry across the Delaware Bay to your destination.

Assateague Island National Seashore, MD.
[Map  ::  Camp  ::  More Assateague  ::  National Park Service]
You can go beach camping surrounded by wild horses. Need I say more?

Tilghman Island & St. Michaels, MD
[Map  ::  Stay  ::  More Tilghman  ::  More St. Michaels  ::  More Eastern Shore]
I can't say enough great things about this area. St Michaels is the most precious town ever. It's not very big, but there are wonderful shops and the nicest people around. I have great memories of getting fudge from the candy store, and summer afternoons perusing ornaments at the Christmas Shop (seriously, it's Christmas all year long).

If you've already made as far as St. Michaels along the scenic byway, you might as well shoot out a few more miles for the 
tiki bar and some crabcakes in Tilghman IslandMy aunt & uncle have a house on Tilghman Island, so I know it well. It's a tiny little fishing community on the Chesapeake where the sunsets and the seafood are to die for. They're famous for their June Seafood Fest and Tilghman Island Day (a fundraiser for the volunteer fire department) in October. The festival events are as down-home as you can get, but if you want a true taste of the Chesapeake culture - you have to catch one.

Shenandoah National Park, VA
Another one on my bucket list - Shenandoah's Skyline Drive is said to be spectacular. Two of my best friends drove in to camp out, en route to Bonnaroo a few years ago and still talk about it all the time. With 75 scenic overlooks along 105 miles, how could you go wrong?! This is definitely more of a journey trip than that of one specific destination. I wish I'd had the time and cooperating weather to drive it home from Nashville a few months ago - but alas, t'was not the case. I'll get there eventually!

Charleston & Isle of Palms, SC
[Map  ::  Stay  ::  More Charleston  ::  More Isle of Palms  ::  d*s City Guide]
Charleston is heavenly. Seriously, so worth visiting. I might be biased because I attended the most fantastic wedding in the area a few years back - but so be it. Get yourself to there if you haven't been. It's so historic and beautiful and draws you in with its southern charm. As a New Yorker, visiting Charleston was my first true taste of southern hospitality - the people are just out of this world polite and smiley. Isle of Palms is not far from Charleston at all, but feels a world away. The water is warm, there are palms everywhere, and gorgeous beach houses lining the shore. Beyond the beach and downtown Charleston, the surrounding areas also have many historic sights to be seen, and low-country food to be nommed. Love this town.

I hope my picks have ignited a little spark under your butt to get out and see the east coast.
Are there any places unmentioned you think I should make sure to see?