NOT Route 66: 3 alternative USA road trips
For adventurous holidaymakers, nothing beats the rush of hitting the open road with the roof down, music blaring, and a lively group of friends in tow. And, there’s no better place to do it than the US of A.
The country is vast and packed with breathtaking scenery, from dramatic mountain ranges and wide-open lakes to towering forests and scorching deserts. It’s ideal road trip territory.
If you’re new to road tripping, Route 66 is a great place to start. But if you’ve ticked that off your bucket list, or just want to try something different, we’ve got three USA road trip alternatives for you.
And remember, by booking your car hire through Avis and Norwegian Reward, you’ll get up to 15% off the cost, as well as 10% CashPoints and a free additional driver to help share the wheel.
So, fill the tank with gas, charge your camera, and prepare for an epic adventure on the road!
Route 1: The Pacific Coast Highway
Driving time: 13 hours without traffic
Cities covered: Seattle, Portland (optional detour), Long Beach, San Francisco
Good for: Iconic landmarks, street art, seafood, shopping
With constant views of the glittering ocean and that gorgeous sea breeze, it’s little wonder the Pacific Coast Highway is a favourite for road trippers in the USA – especially in a classic convertible.
We recommend taking the southbound route between Seattle and San Francisco, which places you on the ocean side of the road and gives you two great cities to explore at the start and end of your journey.
The drive can be done in around 13 hours with no stops, but where’s the fun in that? Plan for five days, so you can fully appreciate the sights along the way.
It’s fitting that Seattle’s nickname is the Emerald City, as it’s a true gem. Tucked away on the northwest side of the US, it’s pretty as a picture and boasts a trove of things to see and do, from top-notch shopping, dining and nightlife to stunning landmarks such as the historic Pioneer Square.
Be sure to check out the iconic UFO-like Space Needle – which features a revolving restaurant and observation deck – as well as the Seattle Waterfront, where you’ll find some seriously good fish and chips.
The market at Pike Place is worth a visit too, especially if you like hunting for unique, handcrafted treasures.
Points of interest along the way
As you set off from Seattle and drive south-west towards the Pacific Coast Highway on your grand USA road trip, you’ll pass Olympic National Park. For outdoorsy folk, the sprawling wilderness is well worth a stop. With its dramatic mountain peaks and impressive forests, it’s full of fabulous hiking trails.
Once back on the road, if you’ve got time to spare, take a detour to Portland. This quirky city is home to attractions such as the Portland Art Museum, which is packed with fascinating Native American art, and the tranquil Japanese Gardens – the perfect place to recharge before getting back behind the wheel.
As you cross the state border from Oregon to California, you’ll come to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Home to the imposing Rockefeller Forest, it’s famous for its enormous redwood trees.
You won’t need to stop to see them, though, as Highway 101 goes straight through the towering forest, on a 31-mile stretch of road aptly named the ‘Avenue of the Giants’.
San Francisco needs little introduction. A vibrant, cosmopolitan city, it’s home to the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the ever-bustling Fisherman’s Wharf – not to mention plenty of fantastic dining, shopping and nightlife spots. A quintessential stop on any West Coast road trip, prepare to leave your heart there!
Tip for first-timers: Make the most of your stay in the City by the Bay and take a look at these eight things not to do when visiting San Francisco.
Route 2: The Overseas Highway
Driving time: The full loop takes seven to eight hours, without traffic
Cities covered: Miami, Key West
Good for: Lazy beach days, hiking, nightlife
If you’re looking for a sunny seaside road trip on the East Coast of the States, the Sunshine State’s Overseas Highway is an excellent option. The 113-mile stretch of road will take you between Miami and Key West – Florida’s southernmost point.
Fun fact: As the name suggests, the route features a section of highway that travels directly over the ocean. How’s that for a scenic drive?
You can’t set off along the Overseas Highway without spending a few days in Miami – or more specifically, Miami Beach. Famous for its blonde sand and cobalt waters, this seaside city is the place to go for adrenaline-fuelled water sports, glamorous boutique shopping, and a neon-lit nightlife.
While there, don’t miss South Beach’s Art Deco District, which features around 800 pretty pastel-hued Art Deco buildings, as well as the city’s picturesque palm-fringed Boardwalk.
The Bass art museum is a must for culture vultures, while nearby Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park have plenty to offer wildlife enthusiasts.
A four-hour drive through south Florida’s picturesque beach communities (not to mention the ever-present, sparkly ocean views) will take you to Key West. Gilded with sugar-white beaches, this tropical island is known for its chilled-out vibe and liberal nature, making it as fun as it is relaxing.
Must-sees on this part of your USA road trip include the historic home of Ernest Hemingway, and Duval Street; a lively palm-lined thoroughfare dotted with shops and restaurants. Come sunset, there are plenty of watering holes and clubs.
If you’re in need of some après-road trip R&R, stop off at Smathers Beach to catch some rays. Then grab a selfie at Southernmost Point, which is marked with a concrete buoy. You can’t get further south in the continental USA than right there.
Once relaxed, get back on the road and do it all in reverse. It’s so beautiful you’ll want to see it twice!
Route 3: Hill Country
Driving time: The full loop takes around four hours, without traffic
Cities covered: Austin, San Antonio
Good for: Music, nature, theme parks
If you’re more of a nature-lover than a sun-worshipper, Texas’s spectacular Hill Country route will hit the spot.
Starting just southwest of Austin, this looped 309-mile road trip takes you to some of the Lone Star State’s most beautiful natural wonders, as well as one of its most happening cities: San Antonio.
For music fans, Austin is a must. Known as the ‘live music Capital of the world’, it’s synonymous with country, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. But there’s a lot more to the city.
You’ll find great food, friendly locals, and plenty of picturesque parks and lakes for hiking, swimming and boating.
Points of interest
The total trip takes around four hours, not including stops. But you’ll definitely want to stop along the way.
The first stop is an hour southwest of Austin. A popular spot for Texans to cool off in the summer, Jacob’s Well is a beautiful natural oasis, with an alluring spring as its centrepiece. Swimming is allowed from May to September, but you’ll need to make a reservation first.
Just 30 minutes away is another popular natural swimming site: Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve. Featuring lush foliage and a trickling 50 ft waterfall, this enchanting grotto is like something from a fantasy novel. You’ll also need to book online to swim here, though.
Another place to add to the itinerary is Fredericksburg. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see the bluebonnet-lined road leading up to it.
Take some time to visit the wineries. If you’ve only got time for one, stop for a glass or two of Texas Cinco at Pedernales Cellars.
San Antonio is the last stop before looping back to Austin. The city is packed with attractions, from the historic Alamo and the leafy restaurant-lined River Walk to SeaWorld and the Six Flags Fiesta theme park.
When you’ve had your fill of roller coasters, make your way to Landa Falls and spend a lazy afternoon tubing along the Comal River, before hopping back in the car and making the two-hour trip back to Austin for a well-earned beer.
Get on the road!
Feeling inspired? Book your car through AVIS and earn plenty of CashPoints from your USA road trip.