Stretching from Maine to Florida and running parallel to U.S. Highway 1, it’s the most direct path from north to south along the stunning Atlantic Ocean—it also happens to be the one and only main Interstate Highway on the Eastern United States Coast, not to mention an all-time favorite route for avid road trippers hoping to have themselves some fun. Get your journey on by cruising towards the frequent pit stops all along the infamous I-95, which by itself, offers tons of terrific spots to stop, rest, and enjoy local culture at--with everything from historic little towns offering quaint shopping quarters, tasty meals, and super comfortable beds, to an awesome array of museums, stadium tours, aquariums, parks, gardens, fast food restaurants, and so much more.
Put the pedal to the metal by taking a long ride down from Houlton, Maine, to Miami. Sure, it may be almost two thousand miles, but this classic stretch of all-American highway offers trekkers more than enough must-see hotspots to keep busy with. Here are eight awesome places to stop and stay along i95.
i95 Road Trip: Plan the Ultimate East Coast Road Trip with this i95 Guide
Known for its more than rich American history, with notable sites such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was immortalized by "Rocky” himself, Pennsylvania’s largest city is a consistently developing town offering newly constructed buildings, restaurants galore, and some of the best kid-friendly activities on the planet. After taking a drive along the scenic Schuylkill River, why not head one over with the munchkins to the Philadelphia Zoo, which is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and endangered, including zebras, western lowland gorillas, vampire bats, Sumatran orangutans, snow leopards, red pandas, and polar bears. Be sure to check out the McNeil Avian Center, a protected area featuring lush walk-through environments where you can spot more than a hundred variety of birds from all around the world (including a black-bellied whistling duck with a high-pitched, otherworldly call). There are also some mighty tasty treats over at the Tiger Terrace (which is open year round!) to enjoy after all that wild adventuring.
For older folks, the possibilities are equally as endless, as Philly is truly a place of contrasts. Fine French haute-cuisine restaurants, and eighteenth century national icons stand under the shadows of soaring modern skyscrapers. You’ll find everybody from Quaker folk to sassy socialites and sports fans in P-Town, especially in and around its diverse array of suburban neighborhoods, such as Fairmount, Fishtown, or Frankford. So go haggle over hard-to-find goods over in South Philly's Italian Market, or have a nice family picnic in one of Germantown’s parks. Your i95 trip isn’t complete without making a pit stop at this road trip favorite.
Located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, this i95 stop is the only place along the route where you can go swimming with sharks —at the Adventure Aquarium, of course. There’s also the Battleship New Jersey (which saw every major battle of the last century) to take a tour of on Fridays and Saturdays. You can even stay overnight on the historical BB62! So step away from driving for a few hours to learn more about the sea and the life of a sailor. Camden’s the place to stop at just for a little while.
One of the country’s oldest cities, Virginia’s capital is a true national treasure, with an array of distinctive architecture, intriguing galleries, and Civil War monuments to gawk and gaze at. Make sure to make a stop at the new Quirk Hotel, which is housed in a former department store, or to take a stroll through the nearby neighborhood of Jackson Ward. You can’t forget to check out the superb shopping in Carytown, a mile-long shopping district west of downtown with hundreds of hip, locally owned indie boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops that are all housed in colorful multi-story buildings. Coffee shops, wine bars, ethnic eateries, bakeries, burger joints, diners, and galleries can also be found all along Broad Street and in the Church Hill neighborhood. There’s even the famous Byrd Theatre, the fifty-two-mile-long Virginia Capital Trail, and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens at exit 83B.
For the ultimate Richmond experience, make sure to stay at one of the many pre-Civil War houses turned B&B’s such, as Linden Row Inn, a nice Greek Revival-style space with twelve-foot ceilings, antique furnishings, granite bathrooms, as well as free Internet and breakfast. It’s even been said that Sir Edgar Allen Poe played in the inn’s garden! Delicious dining can be found at chic hangouts such as Rappahannock, a farm-to-table restaurant run by the folks who grow Rappahannock River Oysters. It’s got some of the best seafood around, especially since all of its oysters are carefully grown in the pristine waters of Mobjack Bay.
If you find yourself cruising through Virginia and want to check out something radically different, such as a gigantic pencil or a big old helping of LOVE, head on over to Wytheville or Lambsburg. The former boasts a thirty foot long pencil that was constructed in the 1960’s by the original owner of Wytheville Office Supply. Over the years it’s gone through a series of face lifts and to this day, keeps in tip top shape as the local go-to office supply store.
Another roadside attraction that’s positioned well and moderately easy to find would be the Giant LOVE Sign, found right off I-95 northbound at the Lambsburg Welcome Center and rest area in Lambsburg, Virginia. Not only does the area have a humungous LOVE sign that’s totally Instagram worthy, but it’s also got bunches of picnic tables, restroom facilities, and tourism information areas—a more than nice place to take a bathroom break after hours and hours of nonstop driving.
The North Carolina-South Carolina border is home to one of the most famous rest stops, South of the Border—where you’ll find a two-hundred-foot-tall neon sombrero-shaped spaceship looming over this fan favorite pit stop for kitsch and photo ops. Road trippers all around seem to love the ubiquitous billboard-boy Pedro, especially the kiddies who’ll delight in exploring the amusement rides, the video arcades, and the reptile lagoon (the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the U.S.) over at Pedroland Park. There are even an array of shops selling gifts and souvenirs, as well as six different restaurants (ranging from casual dining to a steakhouse), and even a motel, an inn, and a campground to stay for the night. What are you waiting for?!
Take a slight detour off I-95 (heading fifteen miles west on US-378) by going down to Sumter, a historic town named after General Thomas Sumter, the “Fighting Gamecock” of the American Revolution. The town is home to Shaw Air Force Base and boasts a rich African-American heritage that dates back more than two centuries. Be sure to tour the well-maintained and city-operated Swan Lake Iris Gardens, 120-acres of pathways and boardwalks that wind beneath cypress trees and around a botanical landscape of camellias, azaleas, day lilies, and Japanese irises. There’s even a lake on site where you can sneak a peek at eight species of swans — from royal white mute to black necked! It’s definitely worth a trip just to seen those trumpeter swans dip up and down in the clear waters, all while singing some of the goofiest of mating tunes.
What’s more is that there’s also a butterfly garden, a Braille Trail for sight-impaired visitors, and --- wait for it--- a chocolate garden! Yes, that’s right, a space filled with chocolate-smelling flowers. What could be better?! Plus, with a historic downtown offering an array of shops selling antiques, collectibles, gifts, musical instruments, and brightly colored fashions, this South Carolina city is hands down a fine little stop to make on any i95 road trip. And if you travel there during the holiday season, the town’s nighttime Fantasy of Lights is the largest display in the state, featuring over a million colorful lights and almost two hundred lighted figures.
Exit 49 leads straight to this coastal pit stop at the mouth of the Altamaha River about fifty miles south of Savannah. It’s a nice little seaside village offering a truly old-school vibe—and for a town that has fewer than two thousand residents, there’s actually quite an array of activities to enjoy here (it’s especially famous for shrimpin’!). Serving as Georgia’s second oldest planned city, after Savannah, it’s the perfect reason to get out of the car to take to stretch out those legs. Make sure to check out The Purple Pickle for some tasty sandwiches served hot and fresh with a southern hospitality, or visit Skippers’ Fish Camp, a riverfront restaurant and bar offering overly fresh seafood, steak, ribs, and shrimp to go along with breathtaking views of the Darien River.
If you really want to explore the local sites even more, the Darien Waterfront Inns provides fancy rooms with riverfront porches in a rehabbed centuries-old warehouse along Broad Street. You’ll also find yourself amidst a modest collection of shops selling everything from art, antiques, crafts, jewelry, gifts, and wine, to locally produced artisan cheeses, spices, barbecue sauces, hand-rolled cigars, and too much more. Nature lovers will no doubt want to flock over to Sapelo Island, a 6,000-plus-acre barrier island with a restored lighthouse, an antebellum mansion, a historic African-American community, as well as plenty of marsh and beach walks. Plus, when you’re ready to say adieu, Darien is only a one-hour drive south to Jacksonville, Florida, a popular end spot for those embarking on the i95 route.
Speaking of Florida, who can forget that beach?! Once you hit the Florida border, there’s Jacksonville Beach at exit 341 and Daytona Beach at exit 261. Both are more than family-friendly and offer great restaurants, as well as lots of space to play. Don’t forget to pack up a kite, since the ocean breezes at both coastal spots are ideal for kite flying!
Other picture perfect beaches along I-95 include New Smyrna Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Cocoa Beach with the ever so famous Ron John's Surf Shop. Get ready to get wet n’ wild with sun, sand, and ultimate surf!
This article was written by Pamela Chan. Image credit: Aleksandr Kozlovskii.