Great Southern Road Trips: Coastal Cruising

The rubber meets the sand on these car-friendly Southern beaches

Photo: Amy Dickerson

On the sand in New Smyrna Beach. Bathing suit by Hermés. Chair by Lawn Chair USA. A 1965 Volkswagen Riviera restored by Stratton Motorsports.
  • Amelia Island, Florida

    This southernmost Sea Island is perhaps best known for its coastal golf courses, lush maritime forests, and picturesque downtown. But at several locations along the slow-paced beach near the Georgia line, you can roll right up to the water’s edge. Note: Four-wheel drive is recommended on the sand.

  • Holly Beach, Louisiana

    After being leveled by Hurricane Audrey in 1957, and then again by Rita, Ike, and Gustav, Holly Beach adopted the motto “built to be rebuilt.” You won’t find many tourists or posh resorts, just quiet spots to read, wildflowers blooming near the shore, and an ideal avenue for a slow beach drive.

  • New Smyrna Beach, Florida

    The tradition of beach driving goes back more than a century at New Smyrna Beach and its rowdier neighbor, Daytona Beach, where the wide, hard-packed sand once served as racetrack in the early days of NASCAR. Today you need to take it slow, but you can still tool around from sunup to sundown.

  • Outer Banks, North Carolina

    Driving on the beaches is permitted year-round in most spots hereabouts. For some of the most pristine shoreline in the country, take the Hatteras Island ferry to Ocracoke Island and park your car on the sand. You might have the whole place to yourself.

  • Port Aransas, Texas

    The only established town on Texas’s Mustang Island allows beach driving as well as small campfires. Keep your eye on that guy with the metal detector—local lore claims a hoard of treasure is buried somewhere on the island in a chest marked with a Spanish silver dagger.