Virginia, Coastal Carolinas and Appalachians.
My wife and I are taking and 2 week trip to the mid east coast for the second half of May. Neither us have been to this part of the states
We have two priority stops. 1) The outer banks NC and 2) Savannah, GA
Heres what i have planned so far. Basically we'll be going over to the coastal carolinas. trickling down to Savannah Georgia and then back up though the mountains.
Departing from Toronto, Canada
The first day I think well just drive as far as comfortable possible. Hoping to get to as far south as about Washington DC. Some suggestions Ive seen say to go really wide around washington. I through a mental dart at the map and thought we might stop in winchester, VA that night which will be quite west of washington on our way down.
Also altho some auto-route programs say to come down through pittsburgh and over Im planning to do something different since that interstate will part of the return journey.
Hoping to make it all the way to the Virginia beach area and camp there. Not too versed on the area. Perhaps better to stay in norfolk or elsewhere. I need to do some more research.
Day 3, 4, 5
Driving to Cape Hatteras where we will camp at frisco woods campground just before memorial day weekend so we'll avoid the crowds
We were thinking of taking the ferries off the outerbanks to cedar point, NC and onto the mainland that way. Ideally Id love to make it all the way to wilmington this day. Ive had a good look at the ferry schedules but i cant get a clear answer as to how busy the ferries get or how many times we could expect to get bumped to later scedules. I guess its luck of the draw. Im sure we can ejoy ourselves on Ocracoke for an extra 3 or 6 hours if we need to . Just i wont be able to prebook accomodations further down the coast without knowing. It will be the wednesday before memorial day so im hopeful the ferries wont be too jammed.
All i know about day 7 is that we want to get to hilton head near savanah on day 8. So we're looking at stopping somewhere along the trek from wilmington to there.
Ive heard some opinions about skipping the busy tourism of myrtle beach and this sounds appropriate to our tastes. Wth one exception. Being from the great lakes and never having had the opportunity Ive always wanted to try surfing. I wondered if any of the grandstrand has nice beginner waves and rentals. Otherwise I was thinking we will probably take the detour inland and get to charleston.
Day 8 We're booked for a day at hilton head.
Day 9, 10 and 11. Staying in Downtown Savannah (Memorial day weekend)
Might take a ghost tour or the river ghost tour?
We're going to visit a relative of my wifes in Bessemer city near charlotte NC. Where to stay? Is charlotte nice. Hoping for cheaper accomodations from this point on as we will have spent a lot of money at our savannah accomodations. Camping would probably be some financial relief.
I saw a travel book that said Boone NC is an interesting university town in the mountains. Might stop there from charlotte.
This is where Im not sure to go. The coastal stops easier to imagine from reviews while the mountain towns all sound similar.
I figured we might camp around New RIver Gorge State Park? It'll be the final moutain stop before making the hike back up to toronto
Is there any other faves people have in this area?
Oh i was also wondering will mountain camping be pretty cool this time of year? We only have summer tent.
A bit of demographics of my wife and I.
We're both around 30 years old. I like watersports. She likes antiques, and is a foodie. We both love the beach.
Originally we were planning on going all the way to the Florida Keys but after looking at the routes i realized that was just too much driving for us in two weeks.
Thanks to anyone taking the time to read this and any insights
Affordable hotels in large cities tend to be in less desirable parts of town - I'd probably stay in Gastonia instead of Charlotte.
Winchester would be a good place to stop if you can make it. I'd probably take US-219 out of Buffalo, then 153 to 80 to 322 to I-99 - then I-70 to Hancock, then down 522. That would be 430 miles from TO to Winchester, probably about 10 hours. From there to VA Beach - 81 to 66 to 17 to 95 to 64.
Thanks for the advice. That works out perfectly since our stop is in gastonia/Bessemer city.
I have done all the things on your list.
Things I liked best: Fredericksburg, Virginia. Quaint little town
The outer banks are desolate, and in most places you cannot see the beach without parking your car and walking over the dunes. This is great to keep it a pristine sea shore but not much for scenery except for lighthouses.
I did enjoy the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kittyhawk
I loved Oracoke, but you can see it all in 30 Minutes. The ferry ride to cedar Island was wonderful. You need reservations for the ferry
It's a long haul from there to Charlotte and then back to the beach again. Makes me wonder if the trip to the outer banks is worth it.
You might enjoy the part of the blue ridge parkway in NC til you get to Boone, then to Hickory and then Gastonia. Beautiful drive!
I would pass on Myrtle Beach (nice board walk & shopping), but you will love Hilton Head. I wouldn't mind a few days there.
I can't see 3 or 4 days in Savannah, Maybe 1 day in Charleston. 2 in Savannah
But you know what you like.
Have a good trip from a Tennessee guy who loved the Canadian Rockies.
NC beaches and mountains
A few thoughts spring up as I read about your planning process:
As to overnighting in the Virginia Beach area, if you're camping, you've pretty much got to go to the Oceanfront or to First Landings State Park on the Chesapeake Bay. If there is camping available in Norfolk, it's news to me and I'm not sure I'd want to camp anywhere in the city of Norfolk to begin with. Be advised the whole of Tidewater is a highly urbanized area, so a relative lack of camping facilities is not a surprise. There are one or more commercial campgrounds along the Oceanfront, and the First Landings SP is pretty nice and much quieter (as it's 6-8 miles from the Oceanfront). I think VA takes reservations for campsites in their state parks.
If you want to try surfing, I'd look at doing that somewhere in the Nags Head area enroute to Ocracoke. Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Southern Shores are shoulder to shoulder towns along the US 158 bypass and are heavily developed with a number of surf shops. I think it's safe to bet the waves would be somewhat better there than down in SC, too. An early departure from the VB area would have you at Nags Head in < 2 hours down the new VA 168 expressway connecting to NC 168 and US 158 near Coinjock (which is the main route to the Outer Banks (OBX) for folks from the northern US and Canada). Oh, and speaking of other tourists, arriving at the OBX on Saturday or Sunday can be a crush--moreso after Memorial Day as Saturday-Saturday and Sunday-Sunday weekly rentals have changeover on the weekends. Perhaps not so bad pre-Memorial Day, but just be aware.
The Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet just south of Nag's head features a long catwalk which provides fisherman's access. No reason a non-fisherman couldn't or shouldn't stretch his legs and get a stellar view from well above the inlet and surrounding dunes. And there are quite a number of parking areas within the Pea Island Nat Wildlife Refuge on the south side of Oregon Inlet, before Rodanthe. It is correctly noted you must park and hop a few yards across the dunes to see the ocean, but it's not a real burden to most.
Unless there have been changes, the Hatteras Village-Ocracoke ferry is free and is first come-first served. It takes about 45 minutes dock-to-dock. Ocracoke is but 18 miles in length so unless you really stop at the pony enclosures for a long time, you're there in no time. I happen to like Ocracoke Village a great deal so would want to spend the night there and eat, walk about the village, or rent a bike.
The Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry strongly suggests reservations for the 2.5 hour ride. On behalf of another RoadTrip Forum user, I called the reservations line last year (1-800-NCFerry) and a very nice lady there confirmed it.
Once back on the mainland near Cedar Island, you'll pass through a fairly urbanized area including Beaufort, Morehead City, and Cape Carteret. But, a foodie would enjoy the waterfronts and restaurants of Beaufort and Morehead City, and Atlantic Beach, just across the causeway from MC is on the ocean and I suspect surfboard rentals can be found there.
At Wilmington, you're but a handful of miles from Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. I've surfed CB before and Bert's Surf Shop had rentals the last time I was down there (some 5-6 years ago). One could also grab "one more ferry" from Fort Fisher to Southport, itself a nice little waterfront town.
On the return side, by all means consider Boone or Blowing Rock, NC. My alma mater is Appalachian State University in Boone so I am an unabashed promoter of the area. Camping opportunities abound along and near the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Particularly well-enjoyed facilities are at Julian Price Park, in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain about 6 miles from Blowing Rock. I believe there are canoe rentals available on the lake. I would give consideration to cutting through Damascus, VA enroute back towards I-81 (Damascus is along VA 91 just north of Mountain City, TN, close to the point at which TN, VA, and NC join, so US 421 north out of Boone has you to Mountain City, TN within 25-30 minutes). There you can take about a 1/2 day "glide" down a 17 mile all downhill former railroad line from the crest of the Blue Ridge all the way back to Damascus. The ride is part of the Virginia Creeper Trail and is a super way to see some streamside scenery and just generally enjoy the Blue Ridge. Shuttle service and bike rentals are available in Damascus.
Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip!
Thank you so much for all this advice. I've been amazed while browsing the RTA forums of the generosity of strangers to take time, and share their expertise.
I'll definealty look at that damascus excursion. Sounds like a blast. And the Carolina Beach surfing sounds good. They dont take reservations but we'll just take our luck. Midweek should be ok.
Thanks again for all the tips. Ill get on reserving the VA camping too.
My family and I used to vacation near Myrtle Beach every year, usually in July. The only time I ever saw waves large enough for surfing was just when a storm was blowing in. We stayed in Garden City Beach just south of Myrtle Beach. That area is more family oriented than the party palaces just up the road at Myrtle and North Myrtle. There was a state park within a few miles of there that had a campground. The beaches at Surfside and Garden City aren't near as crowded as at Myrtle. Murrell's Inlet, Pawley's Island, and Georgetown had lots of shops for antiques and whatever, and it is a seafood lover's dream.