The South's Best Scenic Drives

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Pack the car and set out on an unforgettable adventure. The South's best scenic drives invite travelers to experience the landscape up close as they wind through cities and tiny towns, beaches and mountains, rolling countryside and deep forests. Some of these drives are short, others are much longer, but no matter the length of your getaway, don't forget to allow some time for side trips . Small towns, state parks, hiking trails, and historic markers await travelers willing to make a stop and set out on a rambling route to somewhere new. Keep the camera handy, because panoramic vistas, fields of wildflowers, and sandy beach scenes are just some of the sights to look for and marvel at as you navigate these scenic drives across the South. Once you've begun the drive, you'll know that on these memorable Southern routes, the journey truly is the destination.

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Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway (AR)

Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway, Highway 21, Arkansas
Arkansas Tourism

A drive along the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway takes you from Clarksville, Arkansas, and the deep forests of the Ozarks' Boston Mountain range to the Buffalo National River. The road passes several popular hiking trails—including the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail—as well as streams and rivers that are popular for fishing. It's a perfect drive for those looking for vibrant fall foliage unfolding across unspoiled landscapes.

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Overseas Highway (FL)

Terra's Key Road
Blacktip Aerial

You don't get much closer to the water than a drive on Florida's Overseas Highway. The 113-mile highway extends U.S. Route 1 (US 1) through the Florida Keys from mainland Florida to Key West at its southernmost reach. Large sections of it run alongside the historic Overseas Railroad route, which brought visitors to the Keys between 1912 and 1935. On your drive, look to either side, and you'll see the ocean stretching out into the blue horizon.

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Bluebonnet Trail (TX)

Bluebonnet Trail, Texas
Neal Wilkerson

Head to the Texas Hill Country to see the flowers in bloom. Ennis, Texas, has been designated the "Official Bluebonnet City of Texas" and, as such, it is home to the state's official bluebonnet trail. Throughout the month of April, visitors flock to Ennis to drive the town's 40 miles of mapped trails and marvel at the bluebonnets in blossom.

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Outer Banks Scenic Byway (NC)

Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, Down East, North Carolina
Getty Images

This North Carolina drive meanders along the Outer Banks, North Carolina's string of beaches and barrier islands, passing through 21 coastal villages as it stretches from Nags Head to Beaufort with the Atlantic on one side and Pamlico Sound on the other. The route also includes two ferry rides, one between Hatteras and Ocracoke and the other between Ocracoke and Down Easts Cedar islands.

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Skyline Drive (VA)

Skyline Scenic Byway
Robbie Caponetto

For a dreamy drive, look no further than this Virginia road. Skyline Drive extends for 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park, following the crests of Blue Ridge peaks as it goes. That means vistas galore with views over the rolling Virginia landscape. It's also a lovely place to watch the seasons change; visit in autumn to see the leaves turn.

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Florida A1A (FL)

Florida, Hutchinson Island, Jensen Beach, high rise buildings, modular home community, State Road A1A
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If sunny skies are what you're after, there's no better roadway than Florida's A1A. The route stretches the length of Florida's Atlantic coast, from Key West through Miami and all the way north to Fernandina Beach. Stop in the Sunshine State's laid-back beach towns as you drive, and you'll soon have your fill of beach breezes and the charms of life on the coast.

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Lookout Mountain Parkway (AL/GA/TN)

Fall Foliage on Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway
John Dersham

Easily accessible from several states and a great day trip, the route along Lookout Mountain Parkway runs from Gadsden, Alabama, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and passes through Georgia in the process. It's 93 miles long, and travelers are invited to stop for the nearby attractions—including waterfalls, canyons, and national parks—along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for scenic vistas as you make your way along the route.

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Bayou Teche Scenic Byway (LA)

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway
Louisiana Office of Tourism

This Louisiana byway reaches through three of the state's southern parishes—St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary—as it winds through Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin from Morgan City to Arnaudville. Travelers can make stops along the byway's 183 miles to explore inviting small towns, go kayaking in Breaux Bridge, and enjoy authentic local Cajun food in the destinations along the route.

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Natchez Trace Parkway (MS/AL/TN)

Natchez Trace Parkway in Franklin, Tennessee 08
Matthew Maxey (Visit Franklin)

This road runs 444 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The historic thoroughfare follows an ancient travel corridor used in centuries past. (You can learn about its deep history here .) Nowadays, it's a gateway to ideal spots for hiking and camping, as well as biking, fishing, and horseback riding.

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Little River Canyon Rim Parkway (AL)

Mentone, Alabama
Robbie Caponetto

In Northeastern Alabama, you'll find a lovely little scenic drive that winds along the canyon rim in Little River Canyon National Preserve. Located near Mentone, Alabama, this drive stretches 22 miles along the forested preserve and on maps can be identified as Route 176, Dekalb County Road 148, and Cherokee County Road 275.

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Talimena National Scenic Byway (OK/AR)

Talimena Scenic Drive Arkansas
zrfphoto / Getty Images

A drive extending through Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Talimena National Scenic Byway is one of the area's best. As it zig-zags through the Ouachita Mountains, the byway spans Rich Mountain (one of Arkansas' highest peaks) and runs through Queen Wilhelmina State Park, as well as the Rich and Winding Stair mountains as it stretches 54 miles from Mena, Arkansas, to Talihina, Oklahoma.

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Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (TX)

Texas Canyon
DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

For those visiting the Rio Grande region of Texas, there are plenty of scenic routes to take to see the sights. One of the most popular is Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a stretch of road with historic sites and geologic wonders everywhere you look, including overlooks, canyons, and cliffs rising above the river.

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Cherohala Skyway (TN)

Cherohala Skyway
JillLang/Getty Images

Rising in eastern Tennesse is Cherohala Skyway, a National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway route that provides vistas aplenty as it curves through both the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests. The drive extends 43 miles from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is a popular stretch for seeing fall foliage.

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Scenic Highway 30A (FL)

Seaside, Florida
Robbie Caponetto

Gulf-goers know and love State Road 30A, a Florida panhandle drive that winds through laid-back beach towns and bustling tourist destinations, with easy beach access along the way. It stretches 24 miles along the shoreline and offers up plenty of fresh seafood restaurants in addition to countless other coastal draws.

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Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway (GA)

Chattahoochee National Forest
James Randklev/Getty Images

This beautiful drive runs 40 miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest of North Georgia and offers access to Brasstown Bald and its mountain vistas as well as hiking trails to waterfalls and overlooks. There are also many area streams for fishing and nearby access to the southern end of the Appalachian Trail.

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Southern Swamp Byway (LA)

Louisiana Bayou
Juan Reed/Getty Images

Set out on a drive in southern Louisiana to see the swamps, bayous, and scenic waterways along the Southern Swamp Byway, a 70-mile route through small towns, wildlife preserves, and more delicious restaurants than you can shake a stick at.

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Tail of the Dragon (TN)

Tail of the Dragon
Eifel Kreutz/Getty Images

You can probably guess how this curving byway got its name. The snaking roadway meanders through eastern Tennessee forests that are deep green in spring and a patchwork of colors in autumn. It's a popular route for motorcycles and sports cars, as it has 318 curves over 11 miles, and it's guaranteed to provide an adventure for road-trippers passing through.

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Blue Ridge Parkway (NC/VA)

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Peter Frank Edwards

It's no surprise that the Blue Ridge Parkway always tops lists of the South's best scenic drives. The state-spanning route winds through western North Carolina and Virginia, passing dramatic overlooks, forested vistas, and winsome mountain towns along the way as it curves north towards Shenandoah National Park. Along this mountain road, you'll find that the pleasure is truly the drive itself.

Plan your trip .

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