Our Top East Coast Destinations for Traveling Families
After being on the road for over two years, we thought it might be fun to look back at our favorite places we've visited. To keep things manageable (for us and you) we decided to break them up into general locations. So we shall begin with the East Coast!
- Lynchburg, VA
- Outer Banks, NC
- Acadia National Park
- Savannah, GA and Yessammee, SC
- Dry Tortugas National Park
The first time we stayed in Virgina it was a perfect storm of cramped campsites, sweltering humidity and a single lone Air Conditioner in our 37’ 5th wheel. Bad first impression to say the least!
Thankfully, a stop in Lynchburg, VA redeemed the state for us. Why? Bike trails. Someone had the genius idea to turn a bunch of old railroad lines into smooth, paved trails that connect all around the city and the downtown area.
One day I’m sure we’ll get into mountain biking, but at the time we had one kid who couldn’t ride a two wheeler and the other who was just learning. So these easy to ride trails were perfect.
And they were gorgeous! Winding in and out of forests, over wooden bridges and through cave-like tunnels there was always something new to see. We put a lot of hours on the bikes the two weeks we stayed and loved every minute of it.
Just a couple of hours away was the Natural Bridge. Though a little pricey, the 220 ft tall rock formation was truly awe-inspiring. After a history lesson at the base, we were free to hike the short trail to a waterfall at the end. On the way there, we came across a replica of a Monacan Indian Village.
This turned out to be almost as cool as the bridge, with volunteers there explaining how they made rope, pottery and clothes back in the day. The kids were fascinated by the whole thing and they learned a ton.
Maybe you’re more of a beach bum? Keep reading.
The Outer Banks
This is one of those places that we had heard of, but never really paid attention to. I’m so glad we changed that with this trip. A long strip of islands off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks is home to Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Hatteras Island.
Our home base was right in the middle at Camp Hatteras, and we loved the close access to the beach with beautiful ocean and bay side views on each side. Having a bonfire on the beach and ghost crab hunting was especially fun at night.
The islands are home to several light houses and we made it to the Bodie Island one. Ada was too small to climb to the top, but we found one further north (Currituck Beach and Lighthouse Museum) that was safe for younger kids. Making it to the top and looking out over the ocean was amazing.
Finally, if you’re in the area make sure to go to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Next to White Sands they were the most magnificent sand dunes we’ve ever seen. The kids had so much fun running sliding and playing in the endless sea of sand. Make sure you go later in the day so you don’t burn your feet. We went at sunset and it was perfect. Bring a kite, too!
Overall, the laid back beach vibe was right up our alley - and with so many activities accessible up and down the islands we had plenty to do. Highly recommended.
Acadia National Park
I had no idea just how beautiful Acadia was until we were there right in the middle of it. Way up on the very northeastern tip of the United States is this amazing national park full of lakes, mountains, trails and trees.
Jordan Pond is still one of our favorite family hikes. The crystal clear water and varied terrains on the trail kept things super interesting for the kids without being overly difficult.
The coasts were all just breathtaking. The rocks and sheer cliff drop-offs were made up of a stone color and texture that I’d never seen before. That combined with the water make me want to go back every time I look at a picture.
Schoodic Point is a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. The crowds don’t flock here like they do the main park and there’s more opportunities to get close to the water and waves with those unique rocks.
Finally, if you can swing it, get up at 4:30 AM and drive to Cadillac Mountain one morning. It’s the highest point along the North Atlantic Seaboard and the first place so see the sunrise in the morning. You’ll freeze your butt off and cheer with everyone else as the sun slips up over the mountains.
Savannah & Yessammee
We weren’t expecting too much when we visited the line between Georgia and South Carolina - except maybe mosquitos and humidity - but we found some delightful spots in the area.
The Sheldon Church Ruins - a parish that got burned and rebuilt multiple times over the last 300 years - was perfectly surrounded by Spanish Moss trees and creepy graves. Too bad we weren’t there for Halloween!
Down in Savannah we biked the Spanish Moss Trail which is actually right on the water and just simply a gorgeous ride. We also went to Old Fort Jackson which had a great musket demonstration and a perfect view to watch the massive container ships go by in the canal.
Over near Hilton Head Island, we stumbled on Hunting Island State Park. The beach was covered with the coolest dead and gnarled trees - there was even a lighthouse you could go up in on the property as well.
And on your way back, make sure you stop at the Riverfront in Beaufort for great food, ice cream and a view of the harbor. Perfect end to the day.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Whenever someone asks where our favorite place we’ve visited has been we all answer, “The Dry Tortugas!” and then we get weird looks because no one’s ever heard of it.
So now you have! It’s a National Park on a remote island 70 miles off the coast of Key West, FL and houses the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Which is crazy, because it’s on an island in the middle of nowhere!
We tent camped for two nights on the island and it was simply magical.
The snorkeling was out of this world, the water was unbelievably clear and once the ferry tourists cleared out every afternoon you pretty much had the island to yourself.
The fort itself is a massive, hulking structure with incredible brick work and fascinating stories of how it was built and who lived there. And at night, the stars come out and you can walk the moat around it and feel like you’re walking in outer space.
At night millions of hermit crabs emerge and the ground comes alive. You have to watch where you walk!
Why else should you go here? To catch a glimpse of the crocodile washed up on the island during a tropical storm a few years ago? To snorkel around the pylons of an old dock and marvel at the coral reefs and schools of fish? To see the glowing bioluminescent organisms shine blue in the ocean at night?
Yeah it’s a pretty unforgettable place.
Do you have a favorite place to explore on the East Coast? Let us know in the comments!