U.S. Road Trips: The South
Roadside diners, Blueridge mountains, Main Street, biscuits, banjos, and more. With the help of friends and admired travelers, we compiled a list of weekend road trip destinations in the southern United States. Are we there yet?
Head to St. Augustine if you're in the mood for a historic, laid-back beach town with a hippie artists' colony vibe.
Route to take: I-95 to the Jacksonville Beaches, then scenic A1A down the coast.
Good to know: Grab lunch at the famous Columbia Restaurant, and shop for ceramics at Market to Market on historic St. George Street. Casa Monica hotel is right in the center of the action, and those trolley tours are worth a spin, too.
Head to Palmetto Springs if you're in the mood for a weekend romp in the woods.
Route to take: I-85 south from Atlanta.
Good to know: Serenbe is a sustainable farming community and inn nestled just outside the city limits, with incredible on-site dining dens — The Hil and The Farmhouse.
While in the area: See our Love Letter to Serenbe.
Head to Asheville if you're in the mood for stunning mountains, music, and eats. A perfect evening involves a nibble at Cucina 24 followed by some live music at the Orange Peel. Wedge brewery down by the railroad tracks is the best in town.
Route to take: Anything that passes through the Blueridge mountains. Bonus points if you make a stop along Virginia's Crooked Road heritage trail (banjo optional).
Good to know: Flex your artsy muscles at Penland School of Crafts.
Head to the Appalachian forests of North Carolina, Bristol (Virginia), and Tennessee if you're in the mood for scenic mountainscapes across three states. Late June brings the blooming of Roan Mountain's rhododendrons. September brings stunning hues of deciduous leaves.
Route to take: Start just north of Asheville. Zip-line through the leafy canopy at Navitat; later, stretch your legs with a hike off Route 143 in Roan Mountain State Park. Don't miss a homemade Southern-style breakfast at Early Girl Eatery and a local brew at Barley's Taproom — Asheville was just voted America's Beer City for the fourth year running. Drive through Roan Mountain State Park, straddling the NC-TN border.
Good to know: Bristol's main drag, State Street, has the distinction of falling along the Virginia-Tennessee border. Great burgers can be found at The Burger Bar, a local institution since 1942.
Head to Wrightsville Beach if you're in the mood for boogie boarding and flip-flops.
Route to take: Zip down from Raleigh (two hours).
Good to know: There are 44 public access points along the stretch of Wrightsville, and four public parking lots with restrooms. Amenities like public volleyball nets, Vito's Pizzeria, and Rita's Water Ice are clustered around Johnnie Mercer's Pier, as are slightly bigger crowds.
While in the area: Check out our Wrightsville Beach itinerary.
Head to Charleston if you're in the mood for a culinary hotbed in the prettiest southern town. Drop off your bags at historic Planters Inn, Fulton Lane Inn, or John Rutledge House Inn. If love is in the air, check into Vendue. (It's one of Fathom's Most Romantic Hotels in the USA).
Route to take: After your city fix, drive for an hour to Kiawah Island, a stunning nature preserve.
Good to know: Book tables at Husk, F.I.G., The Macintosh, The Grocery, and Butcher & Bee.
While in the area: See our Charleston itinerary.
Head to Chattanooga if you're in the mood for southern-style cool. Check out the chic Bluff View Art District's cafes, historic buildings, and galleries. Warehouse Row has recently become a haven for shopping, dining, and strolling.
Route to take: It's about 130 miles (or a two-and-a-half hour drive) southeast of Nashville. You can zip down I-24. If you've got a boat, you can make a grand entrance via the Tennessee River.
Good to know: Bluff View Inn, beautifully appointed rooms in three restored turn-of-the-century homes. There's a free shuttle line to help you get around the district.
While in the area: See our list of Chattanooga hot spots.
Head to East Tennessee if you're in the mood for The Great Smokies, bluegrass, and country kitsch.
Route to take: The one that leads you to Dolly's homeland.
Good to know: Hike Mount Lecont and rest your toes at Leconte Lodge. Take a spin around Dollywood during the day (your visit earns you life long music street cred) for some rides and bluegrass music a plenty. Dine in this log cabin at night. Splurge at Blackberry Farm.
Head to Leiper's Fork if you're in the mood for a funky little country town.
Route to take: Drive 30 minutes south of Nashville on the heavily wooded, historic Natchez Trace Parkway.
Good to know: Drop by Serenite Maison to scout antiques. Have lunch at Puckett's Grocery, a meat-and-three with nightly live music. Pick up provisions at Joe Natural's Farm Store and Cafe.
While in the area: See our Nashville guide.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
Visit our Road Trip shop and pack up the car.
MORE FATHOM-APPROVED GETAWAYS
Have you seen our list of the Most Romantic Hotels in The South?
Special thanks to contributors Tiffany Davis, Becca Dollan, Kate Donnelly, Brooke Lewy, Laura Siciliano Rosen/Eat Your World, Beth Silverman.
Photos: Courtesy of Navitat; courtesy of Husk.