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  • Scenic Front Royal in Chester Gap Cellars near Winchester, Virginia
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    Starting Point: Winchester, Virginia

  • Rolling hills in the countryside of The Plains, Virginia
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    Leisurely Stop at The Plains, Virginia

  • At dusk along the waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
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    Waterfront Adventures in Washington, North Carolina

  • Tryon Palace Gardens, beautiful setting for living history attraction, in New Bern, North Carolina
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    Embrace History in New Bern, North Carolina

  • Gleaming waterfront district in Wilmington, North Carolina
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    Gorgeous Surroundings in Wilmington, North Carolina

  • Beautiful Brookgreen Gardens near Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with trails, sculptures and a zoo
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    Eclectic and Upscale Pawleys Island, South Carolina

  • Boardwalk at Shem Creek Park in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
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    Outdoor Adventures in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

  • Seeing the sites via a trolley tour in historic Savannah, Georgia
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    Take in Southern History in Savannah, Georgia

  • In St. Simons Island, Georgia, breathtaking views are never in short supply
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    Enjoy Fresh Catches in St. Simons Island, Georgia

  • Strolling the waterfront grounds at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia
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    Final Stop: Jekyll Island, Georgia

Peaceful kayaking in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
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Coastal Highway Route 17

  • Route distance:
    1346km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Experience the gems of the Southeast on a leisurely drive

One of the best ways to experience the scenery of the South is by driving along U.S. Highway 17, known as the Coastal Highway. This stretch of road runs almost 1,932 kilometers from Florida to Virginia and passes through many small towns – some directly on the Atlantic Ocean coast – that are filled with hidden gems you'll want to experience. Hop in the car and follow our path to a lovely, unforgettable journey.

01
Scenic Front Royal in Chester Gap Cellars near Winchester, Virginia
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Starting Point: Winchester, Virginia

Getting to this quaint Shenandoah Valley town, the northern terminus of Highway 17, is an easy 67-kilometer drive from Washington Dulles International Airport. Winchester’s biggest event, the Apple Blossom Festival in late April and early May, is a celebration of the star crop and features concerts and a parade. If you’re not in town then, there’s still plenty to do. Stroll the brick and cobblestone pedestrian downtown mall of Old Town Winchester. Known as the artistic hub of the region, a town highlight is the First Fridays Art Walk. While downtown, browse craft and antique stores and relax over a meal at a local restaurant. Your last stop should be the impressive Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, where you can learn about the history of this beautiful region. On your way to the next destination, stop at Sky Meadows State Park in Paris, Virginia, and step onto the famous Appalachian Trail in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

57 km
1 hour by car
02
Rolling hills in the countryside of The Plains, Virginia
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Leisurely Stop at The Plains, Virginia

Continue south along 17 through the beautiful Virginia countryside and you’ll arrive in the charming town of The Plains with distinctive historic architecture. If you’re visiting The Plains in mid-September, you’re in for a treat at the annual Virginia Wine Festival. No matter the season, you’ll love the drive through beautiful horse country. Enjoy a leisurely lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch to sample local fare, and make a stop to pick up provisions for the road trip ahead to North Carolina. To experience what The Plains is really about, take a horseback riding lesson at MadCap Farm, where you can also shop the selection of vintage clothing, jewelry and collectibles in the farm’s 350-year-old chateau. Extend your stay by taking a trail ride or watching polo matches at The Great Meadow Equestrian Center. A fall visit isn’t complete without a stop at the Corn Maze; the design and shape changes each year. Enjoy a local organic burger, a sweet ear of corn and pumpkins galore as you wind your way through the maze.

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465 km
5 hours by car
03
At dusk along the waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
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Waterfront Adventures in Washington, North Carolina

Cross over into North Carolina to Little Washington, a quaint coastal town with a beautiful waterfront area that is a popular Inner Banks stop for sailors and power boats. Take a walking tour of the historic downtown district, founded in 1776 and named after General George Washington, the first U.S. president. Stroll the boardwalk and wander by stately homes and into boutiques before indulging in tasty Southern seafood. One of the biggest draws is the North Carolina Estuarium, showcasing the second-largest estuary in North America. The attraction features movies and more than 200 exhibits detailing where the fresh water and sea water meet. This area acts as a nursery for various fish, crabs, birds and specialized animals. If the season is right, enjoy a guided river cruise to take in the natural landscape. A few steps away from the waterfront, visit the charming Turnage Theater, which pre-dates World War I and is a performing arts center that hosts a variety of community events, movies and concerts.

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61 km
1 hour by car
04
Tryon Palace Gardens, beautiful setting for living history attraction, in New Bern, North Carolina
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Embrace History in New Bern, North Carolina

After passing through Bridgeton on Route 17 and heading toward New Bern, cross the Neuse River Bridge. Stop and look around for the best panoramic view of historic downtown New Bern. At its mouth, the Neuse is the widest river in America. You'll want to stop at two of New Bern's major downtown attractions: Tryon Palace, where you can participate in living history experiences, and the Birthplace of Pepsi, where you can relax and enjoy a Pepsi cola drink at the recreated soda fountain. You can find art and antiques downtown at places like Baxter's Gallery and Carolina Creations. At Peacock's Plume, browse women's designer boutique clothing and shoe selections. As you leave downtown, stop to eat at a local restaurant. Local tip: Choose one that serves Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue with the meat slow-cooked over oak coals, then chopped and served with a vinegar-based sauce.

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151 km
2 hours by car
05
Gleaming waterfront district in Wilmington, North Carolina
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Gorgeous Surroundings in Wilmington, North Carolina

If you didn’t stop to eat on the way out of Bern, pull over in Pollocksville and try Southern fare like fried catfish, fried okra and peach cobbler. Once you're in Wilmington, shop and enjoy lovely views while strolling the Riverwalk, a scenic boardwalk downtown along the Cape Fear River. While you’re downtown, tour the historic Bellamy Mansion to learn more about antebellum architectural mastery. Just across the river from downtown is the USS North Carolina Battleship, the most decorated battleship of World War II. Step aboard to see the crew quarters, engine rooms and museum. History buffs might also want to stop at Fort Fisher, a key battle spot during the Civil War. Drive east toward Wrightsville Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll find Airlie Gardens, a perfect spot to enjoy a summer concert, beautiful gardens, wildlife and walking trails. Speaking of gorgeous flora, stop at the New Hanover County Arboretum to see what's in bloom for the season before leaving North Carolina.

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158 km
2 hours by car
06
Beautiful Brookgreen Gardens near Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with trails, sculptures and a zoo
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Eclectic and Upscale Pawleys Island, South Carolina

On the way to Pawleys Island, visit beautiful Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Landmark on Highway 17 in Murrells Inlet, and stroll among 3,642 hectares to see a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve. This sets the scene for the laid-back Pawleys Island with its 40 kph speed limit, gorgeous beaches and attractions on and off of the water. Twelve houses dating from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, when rice planters settled the area, remain in the historic district. If you don’t stay overnight at one of the lovely historic inns – there are no large chain hotels on the island – reserve time to sample Southern cuisine and seafood. Great choices include the signature pimento cheese at circa 1937 Sea View Inn, crab cakes at upscale Chive Blossom and barbecue at rustic Hog Heaven. Back on the mainland, stop at the Georgetown Historic District and see its eclectic shops and charming homes before heading south.

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103 km
1 hour by car
07
Boardwalk at Shem Creek Park in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
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Outdoor Adventures in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

More beautiful beaches and fun times await you in Mount Pleasant, where old oak trees shade streets, a World War II-era aircraft carrier can be toured and festivals abound in waterfront parks. If you’re hungry, stop in for simple, delicious fare at a locally owned café, burger joint or hot dog stand. Afterward, see the gorgeous scenery inside the Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, America’s most photographed plantation. Pick strawberries, tomatoes and pumpkins at the plantation’s agricultural arm, Boone Hall Farms, which also sells goods at a local market. And because you can’t stop in Mount Pleasant without taking advantage of the water activities, visit Coastal Expeditions to explore the array of possibilities, including kayak and paddleboard tours, boat charters and a ferry ride to Bull’s Island.

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178 km
2 hours by car
08
Seeing the sites via a trolley tour in historic Savannah, Georgia
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Take in Southern History in Savannah, Georgia

As you leave rolling countryside and enter the oldest city in Georgia, you will see cobblestone streets, 21 historic squares and period architecture, but time doesn’t stand still here. Established in 1733, this lively city is a top travel destination thanks to its blend of Southern charm, sophistication and eclectic experiences. The best way to see Savannah is through a trolley or carriage tour through the city’s beautiful Historic District, the largest national historic landmark district in the United States. By water, take a Savannah Riverboat Cruise and enjoy dinner, dancing and live music. Feeling hungry? Visit the City Market, a four-block open-air market with restaurants, shops, galleries and entertainment venues in restored warehouses. Admire wondrous beauty and stained glass windows of the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Georgia, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Catch a show inside the historic Savannah Theatre, the oldest theater in America. See how honey is produced and sample some sweetness at the Savannah Bee Company. Creative work by students, staff, and alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design is sold in local shops. Reminisce about everything you saw while driving to your next stop.

146 km
2 hours by car
09
In St. Simons Island, Georgia, breathtaking views are never in short supply
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Enjoy Fresh Catches in St. Simons Island, Georgia

Before you get to St. Simons Island, stop for dinner at the Old School Diner near Townsend, where Chef Jerome cooks up tasty treats and the staff will take your picture to place on the wall. Once you’ve arrived in St. Simons, you’ll immediately embrace the casual lifestyle along wide, natural beaches void of excessive development. Walk on the fishing pier to see what the locals are catching. Bike or drive the length of the island. Along the way, step inside a myriad of local restaurants to sample freshly caught fare. Golf enthusiasts should schedule a tee time at the challenging course amid forests and salt marshes at King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. For a dose of history, take a trip to the Fort Frederica National Monument and learn about the 1742 conflict between Spanish and British forces. Have some time to spare? Drive to Brunswick to board one of the Lady Jane boats for a two-hour afternoon cruise. You’re rewarded with the promise of eating what you catch, so get fishing, shrimping or crabbing and fuel up for a short jaunt to your next stop.

27 km
1 hour by car
10
Strolling the waterfront grounds at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Final Stop: Jekyll Island, Georgia

Crossing Fancy Bluff Creek via the Sidney Lanier Bridge, you’ll see that the final stop on this coastal journey is a beauty, a tranquil place made famous in the late 1800s as a private retreat for the ultra-rich. Today, everyone is welcome on Jekyll Island to enjoy the beauty of one of the largest preservation projects in the southeastern United States. You’ll want to stroll the wide-open majestic beaches, so take a picnic to Driftwood Beach, where the haunting old trees provide a unique backdrop for exploration. Walk on the Historic Jekyll Island Wharf in the Landmark District and consider a seafood splurge at its Latitude 31 restaurant. Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to learn all about this shelled sea creature.  If you’re in town in late September, don’t miss the annual Shrimp and Grits Festival; enjoy a cook-off, shrimp boat tours and sampling one of the South’s most famous dishes. Ready to go home after soaking up Southern culture along Highway 17? Drive 105 kilometers south to catch your flight leaving from Jacksonville International Airport.

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