The words South Atlantic states conjure up images of quaint towns, tall pines, and sweet tea. While interstates offer easy access to some of the region’s most picturesque and well-known attractions, it’s worth traveling off the beaten path and down a few byways to fully experience all that the region has to offer. Here are eight spots you shouldn’t miss during a road trip through the South Atlantic states. These one-of-a-kind attractions are guaranteed to make your heart sing and add punch to your road trip.
Yorktown, located on the York River, is a quaint destination in Virginia’s Tidewater region. Only a few miles away from Williamsburg, this pleasant colonial village is known for being the site of Charles Cornwallis’s surrender to George Washington. Overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, Yorktown is one of those places that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Yorktown is situated at the end of the Colonial Parkway and forms the third corner of what’s known as the Colonial Triangle -- Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. The area is appealing for its history and natural beauty.
Furthermore, touring is a delight. Begin your visit at the Yorktown Battlefield and immerse yourself in the revolutionary events of 1781. Once you’ve completed your visit, catch the free trolley to town, where you can explore the Riverwalk Landing and enjoy waterfront dining and colonial architecture.
Yorktown keeps a full calendar of events and reenactments, so plan a visit to coincide with one of these occasions if you’d like to take a trip back in time. It’s not unusual to find yourself in occupied Yorktown surrounded by Loyalists or hearing fifes and drums in the distance.
Yorktown’s colonial character and riverfront beauty make it a place you should definitely consider stopping on your road trip through the area.
Located in south central Virginia is Patrick Henry’s final home and resting place, Red Hill. Tucked away in a rural part of the state approximately two hours southwest of Richmond, Red Hill is dedicated to telling the story of one of America’s most famous founding fathers. Guests can enjoy a 15-minute video in the visitor’s center before touring the museum, seven outbuildings, and Henry’s burial place.
Red Hill maintains its late-18th-century character and is much the same as it was when Patrick Henry occupied the home overlooking the Staunton River. In addition to its regular daily operations, Red Hill hosts special events throughout the year, including a July 4 celebration featuring fireworks and a reenactment of Patrick Henry’s famous speech, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Red Hill is one of those off-the-beaten-path destinations that will please any history lover.
Thomas Jefferson had a vision that one day his beloved Virginia would produce wines to rival -- and even surpass -- European wines. More than 200 years later, his dream has come to fruition.
The Monticello Wine Trail boasts 33 member wineries all located within 25 miles of Charlottesville and Jefferson’s mountaintop home, Monticello. The wineries vary in size, scale, and amenities, and touring them is an enjoyable experience. The region nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect mélange of scenery, history, and delicious, award-winning wines -- wines that indeed compete with those old-world wines Jefferson aspired to challenge.
You won’t regret taking this delightful detour through the region that is considered the birthplace of American wine.
In 1895, George Washington Vanderbilt II welcomed his first guests to his spacious estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Today, Biltmore is one of the most-visited attractions in the state.
Known as America’s largest private residence, the grand home designed to resemble a French château is an iconic landmark. Its breathtaking architecture, four acres of floor space, and period furnishings will have you thinking you’ve stepped onto the set of Downton Abbey. The self-guided tour details the home’s history, but it’s worth it to splurge for the audio tour to fully appreciate this magnificent estate.
Speaking of estates, Biltmore is much more than just the house. It’s possible to spend an entire day touring the home, grounds, gardens, winery, and shops. Make it a complete experience by staying at the hotel and enjoying one of the many packages offered.
Biltmore is a sightseer’s paradise where fresh mountain air, elegance, and photo opportunities abound.
There’s a lot to see and do in the capital of North Carolina, but one of my favorite destinations is the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA). With a permanent collection rivaling those of art museums in larger cities, the NCMA features works from ancient Greece and Rome and the Italian Renaissance. It also houses American art, contemporary works, a Rodin Garden, and a restaurant in its over 181,000 art-filled square feet spanning two buildings.
Not only is the museum esteemed for its permanent collection, but it is one of only a few art museums in the world to boast an extensive outdoor art park featuring acres of trails and an amphitheater.
Located off of Blue Ridge Road and with easy access to the interstate, the NCMA would make a wonderful artistic stop on your road trip through the South Atlantic states.
Wilmington is an idyllic coastal town situated on the Cape Fear River. The Wilmington Riverwalk, a 2-mile scenic boardwalk, is located on the waterfront in the town’s downtown historic district. Shops, restaurants, bistros, boutiques, and a variety of other attractions dot the pedestrian pathway and beckon to visitors to stop in and sample.
The Riverwalk is a hub where a variety of walking and carriage tours begin and where seasonal celebrations take place. It’s also a focal point of the historic district, since it provides access to the Cape Fear River. Board one of multiple river tour boats at the docks and let the salty breeze blow through your hair as you learn the history of the waterway while taking in views of the U.S.S. North Carolina battleship moored in the harbor.
South Carolina is home to many gorgeous beaches, but there’s something magical about Pawleys Island. Located at the southernmost end of the Grand Strand, Pawleys has eschewed the high-rise condominiums and hotels that are synonymous with beach towns in order to maintain a more rustic, remote vibe, or as the locals say, “remain arrogantly shabby.”
Just 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach, 70 miles north of Charleston, and minutes from the tasty seafood in Murrells Inlet, the sleepy beach town stubbornly preserves its historic cypress-sided cabins, palm trees, rope hammocks, and unspoiled beauty. Pawleys Island is the perfect stopping point for those who love beach time and relaxation without the big crowds. The town is a Low Country coastal gem.
Rainbow Row, Fort Sumter, and antebellum homes come to mind when you think of a road trip to Charleston. However, while you’re in the Holy City, don’t miss out on a fun night at the theater.
The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre in the heart of the historic district offers delightful evening entertainment featuring voluntary audience participation.
The cozy theater puts on original productions that are clean comic whodunits. Crowd-pleasers with titles like Inspector NoClue’s Murder Mystery and Sherlock’s Other Brother by a Southern Mother are hilariously entertaining.
Each show lasts about two hours and makes a perfect outing for a couple or a group. A trip to the theater is a howling good complement to any visit to Charleston, and the laughs are worth the price of admission.
Anna Marie Jehorek is a wife, mom, Irish dancer, and pug lover living in Raleigh, North Carolina. On her website, Pull Over and Let Me Out, she covers destinations in the Southeastern United States and beyond. She’s also the author of the travel-inspired fictional novel The Cottage on Lough Key, and her second novel will be published later this year.