11 Awe-Inspiring Scenic Coastal Drives In The United States

The United States is full of beautiful destinations, landmarks and scenery.

But when it comes to taking a drive you won’t forget, there’s nothing quite like the coastal beauty of this country.

And with so many different types of coastal terrain up and down both coasts, you get amazing scenery of all kinds.

So from the rocky and mountainous shorelines to the white sand beaches with turquoise waves gently rolling in, we’ll highlight the United States’ eleven best coastal drives in this guide.

Overseas Highway In The Florida Keys

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The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys is a remarkable feat of engineering and natural beauty, stretching about 113 miles over the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. 

This unique highway, connecting the Florida mainland to Key West, is famous for its series of bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge, which offers panoramic ocean views.

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As you travel along this route, you’ll pass through a string of tropical islands, each with its own character, from the laid-back Key Largo to the lively Key West. 

The drive is characterized by stunning turquoise waters, picturesque sunsets, and a variety of marine life.

Acadia National Park Loop Road In Maine

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The Acadia National Park Loop Road in Maine is a 27-mile journey of unparalleled natural beauty. 

This well-paved route offers an intimate tour of the park’s diverse landscapes, from dense woodlands to rocky coastlines. 

As you drive, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, particularly from spots like Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the U.S. East Coast. 

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The road winds through lush forests and past serene lakes, leading to iconic landmarks like Thunder Hole, where the ocean’s waves create a thunderous sound. 

The Jordan Pond area, with its crystal-clear waters and the backdrop of the Bubbles mountains, is one more of plenty of highlights along this scenic route.

Pacific Coast Highway In California

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The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in California is a legendary route that offers one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. 

Stretching along much of the California coastline, this highway is particularly renowned for its breathtaking stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

As you journey along the PCH, you’ll encounter dramatic cliffs, expansive ocean vistas, and iconic landmarks like the Bixby Creek Bridge. 

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The route also passes through charming coastal towns, lush vineyards, and offers glimpses of secluded beaches and surf spots. 

From the misty redwood forests in the north to the sunny beaches in the south, the Pacific Coast Highway offers a well-rounded glimpse of the diverse and stunning beauty of California’s coastline.

Hana Highway in Hawaii

The Hana Highway in Hawaii is a breathtaking journey through one of the state’s most amazing islands, renowned for its scenic beauty and adventurous route. 

Spanning about 64 miles along Maui’s lush eastern coast, this highway is a winding path through a tropical paradise, characterized by over 600 curves and more than 50 bridges, many of which are one-lane. 

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As you navigate this road, you’ll be enveloped by dense rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic ocean views. 

The drive offers a number of awesome sights and stops, including the black sand beaches at Wai’anapanapa State Park and the picturesque pools at Ohe’o Gulch.

Highway 399 In Florida

Highway 399, a scenic gem in Florida, offers a picturesque drive through the Florida Panhandle’s stunning coastal landscape. 

This road stretches approximately 22 miles, traversing the narrow strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound, and is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. 

Starting near Pensacola and meandering towards Navarre, Highway 399 is renowned for its flat terrain, which accentuates the breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding waters and sky.

The drive along Highway 399 is about as beautiful as it gets from a traditional beach perspective, characterized by pristine white sand dunes and an array of pastel-colored beach homes that add a charming contrast to the Florida Panhandle’s natural beauty.

Outer Banks National Scenic Byway In North Carolina

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This scenic byway, spanning about 140 miles (225 km) along North Carolina’s barrier islands, is anything but boring. 

Traversing the slender, picturesque strip of the Outer Banks that lies between the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean, the route connects several islands. 

Travelers on this road can navigate through winding paths bordered by shrub-covered dunes, which occasionally open up to reveal soft, white sands and views of the teal ocean. 

Along the journey, there are opportunities to stop and explore various lighthouses, such as the eye-catching, striped Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Olympic Peninsula Loop In Washington State

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Up at the northwestern tip of the US in the state of Washington is the Olympic Peninsula Loop, which encircles Olympic National Park and offers excellent views of the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca along the way.

The huge national park has so much to see, from beaches to rainforests. 

And this 329-mile (529 km) loop around it is a great way to start exploring and really shows off the different types of scenery. 

The loop begins in Olympia, the state capital, and snakes back and forth between the park and the coast. 

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Along the way, you’ll pass by inlets, Washington’s picturesque beaches, and little coves with rock pools where you can stop and find sea life.

The “Tree of Life” on Kalaloch Beach is one of the most interesting stops you can make on this trek.

17-Mile Drive In California

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The 17-Mile Drive in California is an iconic scenic route winding through the Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove areas on the Monterey Peninsula. 

This famous drive, spanning 17 miles, is celebrated for its captivating coastal landscapes, stunning ocean views, and majestic forests. 

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As you travel along this route, you’re treated to sights of dramatic waves crashing against rugged cliffs, the famed Lone Cypress standing guard on its rocky perch, and the luxurious mansions dotting the coastline. 

The drive also offers views of world-renowned golf courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Seward Highway In Alaska

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The Seward Highway in Alaska is a stunningly scenic route that offers a unique blend of natural Alaskan beauty. 

Stretching approximately 125 miles from Anchorage to Seward, this highway is known for its dramatic landscapes, which include towering mountains, pristine lakes, and lush forests. 

As you drive, the Turnagain Arm’s breathtaking views, with its dramatic tidal fluctuations and rugged cliffs, are a highlight. 

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Wildlife sightings, such as moose and eagles, are common, adding to the route’s wild charm. 

The highway also passes through the Chugach National Forest and near the Kenai Peninsula, offering chances to view glaciers and, during the right seasons, the spectacular Northern Lights. 

US Route 1 In Maine

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U.S. Route 1 in Maine offers a quintessential New England experience, renowned for its scenic beauty and charming coastal towns.

This historic highway runs along Maine’s rugged coastline, providing breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, picturesque harbors, and quaint fishing villages. 

As you journey along this route, you’ll pass through iconic towns like Kennebunkport, Camden, Bar Harbor and the very underrated Winter Harbor, each brimming with unique character. 

It’ll also take you past lesser-known but just as beautiful parts of Maine’s Bold Coast, including hidden gems like Schoodic Point and one of the more unique beaches in the country, Jasper Beach.

The drive is adorned with lighthouses standing sentinel on rocky outcrops, lobster boats dotting the harbors, and stretches of dense forests that really represent the quintessential Maine experience.

Point Reyes National Seashore In California

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The northern stretch of coastline above San Francisco, while not as renowned as its southern counterparts, possesses a unique, serene charm. 

This section of the Pacific Coast Highway meanders through pastoral landscapes dotted with grazing dairy cows and goats, leading to a coast adorned with mudflats, salt marshes, delicate golden beaches, and dense cypress forests. 

Notable spots for exploration and relaxation are Tomales Bay, famed for its oysters, and Point Reyes Station, a quaint location featuring a few select businesses, including a local creamery and a bustling café.

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Be sure and check out the awesome Cypress Tree Tunnel while here as well.

Final Word

For more like this, check out this guide to California’s Best Hidden Beaches or this Maine’s best hidden gem beach that sits right off of US Scenic Route 1.