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Even if you’ve traveled the world, what could be more satisfying than cruising American’s far-flung byways, especially if you’re at the wheel of a classic car. By taking a road trip along each of the four corners of the U.S., you’ll be among an exclusive few who can make that boast. So, pack up, get in your favorite classic car and, one at a time, explore these iconic east, south, west and north All-American Roads—officially designated scenic byways.
Acadia All-American Road
Starting in the upper right-hand corner of the U.S., there’s Maine’s Acadia All-American Road. Heading south from Trenton, a bridge leads you to Mount Desert Island, where this 40-mile scenic byway winds through fishing villages along the coastline and through Acadia National Park.
This Gilded Age summer retreat of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts is best visited in spring through autumn. Bar Harbor, the largest town on the island, is the logical place to stay since it features top-notch accommodations like the five-star Bar Harbor Grand Hotel and the four-star Claremont Hotel or Harborside Hotel.
Day trips from Bar Harbor can include sights right on the North Atlantic, such as:
- Bass Harbor Light House in Tremont
- Sand Beach with the Granite Mountains in the background
- Otter Cliffs, a spectacular headland
- Thunder Hole, named for the roar as waves hit this below-surface cavern
And don’t miss dawn on Cadillac Mountain. Its high peak makes it the place where the rising sun is first visible in the U.S. every day.
Florida Keys Scenic Highway
Just south of Miami off the mainland, you find another All-American Road, the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. This 106-mile stretch follows the route originally used for Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad in the early 20th century. In late autumn or early spring, you avoid the worst of the winter crowds and summer heat.
With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west and 42 bridges to cross, it’s like no other U.S. roadway as it spans the Florida Keys from Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and the lower keys to Key West and the southernmost point of the U.S.
Along the way, stop to:
- Commune with nature by deep-sea fishing or visiting the only living coral reef in the U.S.
- Enjoy watersports like scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing and kayaking.
- Revisit big-screen adventure with a drink at the Caribbean Club where Key Largo was filmed, a cruise on the actual African Queen and a drive over the Seven-Mile Bridge of True Lies fame.
Big Sur Coast Highway
On the opposite side of the country, California’s Big Sur Coast Highway, another All-American Road, lets you hug the rugged yet breathtaking Pacific coastline that lies south of San Jose and north of Los Angeles. On the north end, this byway officially starts in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you can enjoy wine tasting, art galleries and fabulous food. If you want to add Monterey to your itinerary, it’s only four miles north of Carmel.
The 91 miles of Big Sur Coast Highway lead from Carmel down to San Simeon, home of the famous Hearst Castle. In between, you can stop to enjoy these quintessential California sites:
- Garrapata State Park to view redwood trees
- Bixby Bridge and its smaller counterpart, Rocky Creek Bridge
- The historic Point Sir Lighthouse
- Pheiffer Beach with its photogenic natural arch
You have your choice of accommodations in Carmel, including those that harken back to the glamour of early 20th century architecture, such as L’Auberge Carmel (built in 1929), La Playa Carmel (built in 1905 as a private mansion) and the Vagabond’s House (in a 1920s building). You can visit almost any time of year, but remember that autumn is wildfire season in California.
Alaska’s Seward Highway
For your northwest road trip, there’s no need to be confined to the lower 48 states. Stretch yourself to the farthest corner to explore one of Alaska’s two All-American Roads—Seward Highway. Not for the faint of heart, this highway starts in Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city, where you can set off on local day adventures, such as flightseeing, glacier cruising and wildlife viewing.
Once you’re ready to motor along Seward Highway, you head south through Turnagain Arm, which features a combination of jaw dropping shoreline and majestic mountain peaks. Then, it’s through the Kenai Peninsula until you reach Seward, whose town motto is “where mountains, ice and ocean meet.”
Without stops, it takes about two and a half hours to drive the length of this All-American Road. Unless you like driving in snowy conditions, it’s best to tackle this road trip some time between late spring and early autumn.