From New York to Miami by car – 2 week road trip itinerary in the US
I’m starting to tell you about a very interesting route along the East Coast of the United States – from New York to Miami by car, which we drove personally. Of course, many people say that it is difficult and expensive to rent in New York. But we will refute that opinion and tell about our own experience how to fly to New York, rent a car right at the airport and drive it safely to Miami.
Driving from New York to Miami by car
A trip from New York to Miami is a two-week round trip across North America through the major attractions of the U.S. East Coast. The trip can be done independently in a rental car. You will travel through 13 states, with little rest and lots of movement, but there is so much to see!
On the trip New York – Miami – New York we visited the following interesting places:
The main facts about the trip
- Distance: 3400 km from New York to Miami + 2700 km from Miami to New York. We got a total of 3,799 miles or 6,113 km (this is the exact figure).
- Travel time: 2 weeks round trip or 1 week one way only (+4 days in New York).
- New York car rental price: $450 for 12 days (new Toyota Camry).
- Gas costs: $288, with an average gas price of $2.8 per gallon.
- Went to 13 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Also drove through the states of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia without sightseeing.
- We saw the sights: 4 national parks, 1 national road and 3 national monuments, 5 towns, 7 beaches.
Roads, gas stations, parking lots, and rental cars
- Roads in the United States are known worldwide as the best roads. The asphalt on the main highways is perfectly flat, and traffic on the roadway is almost everywhere one-way. It is very comfortable to drive a car with cruise control, and it is convenient to overtake. In the right places on the highway arranged two-level intersection with entry and exit lanes, parking for recreation with clean toilets and vending machines with food and drinks.
- Toll roads (called Turnpikes on the East Coast) are an alternative to free highways and interstates. On some highways near cities, some of the fast lanes are tolled or can only be driven with 2 or more passengers. In New York City, many bridges are also tolled, but it is possible to plan your route in advance so that you can avoid them without paying.
- At the entrance to each state there are visitor centers with large parking lots, where you can get the necessary information about your route and plan your leisure and recreation absolutely free.
- Gas stations are fairly common on U.S. roads. There are almost always islands with gas stations, motels and café-restaurants near the exits to even small cities right near the highway. Gasoline in the U.S. is generally inexpensive; the price varies from state to state. In large cities it will generally be more expensive than on the highway.
- For the most part, parking in the United States is free, except in downtown areas and at paid parking lots near interesting attractions. The best way to find free parking in a major U.S. city is to use Bestparking.com.
Rent a Car in New York
It is best to rent a car in New York to travel around America right at the airport (as we did). We recommend looking at options and comparing prices on Rentalcars.com
You can also use a special car rental search form.
When is the best time to travel in the U.S. by car?
May, June, late August, September and October are the best times to travel around the U.S. by car. We chose late spring and early summer, which means late May and early June.
- At the very end of spring there are still not many tourists going through the cities and parks, and the weather is already pretty good, not hot in Miami, but warm in the mountains, where there is already no snow.
- But at the end of May, there is one downside – Memorial Day falls on that day and the weekend that is attached to it. This is the beginning of the summer vacation season and school vacations in the U.S., which lasts until September, so a trip to America for summer and early fall and especially for holiday weekends should definitely be planned well in advance and book hotels on Hotellook.com in advance.
What to see on the way from New York to Miami
There are two options for traveling across the U.S. from New York to Miami:
Option 1 – along the Atlantic coast through historic U.S. cities
Option 2 – through U.S. national parks along a mountain range, away from the beaches
We couldn’t decide what we wanted to see more, because we love U.S. national parks and, having visited most of the West Coast parks, had long wanted to see Great Smoky Mountains Park, the most popular national park in America, but we couldn’t resist visiting historic and beach towns either. That’s why we combined these two itineraries into one circular route. And ended up driving through U.S. East Coast National Parks on the way to Miami, and returning to New York along the beautiful coastline.
New York to Miami by car – detailed itinerary for every day
The New York-Miami route by car is the most convenient and inexpensive way to travel independently along the U.S. East Coast and see the most interesting sights around New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Miami, as well as visiting national parks, the best beaches of Miami Beach, and small historic cities along the Atlantic Ocean.
The following is a day-by-day description of our route from New York to Miami and back by car and highlights the most interesting places and attractions.
Day 1: JFK – Harrisburg New York Airport
- Distance: 300 km
- Travel time: 4-5 hours (Departure from New York + Expressway).
- Roads: Williamsburg Bridge, Holland Tunnel (both free westbound), I-78
- States: New York (NY), New Jersey (NJ), Pennsylvania (PA)
- A good hotel in Harrisburg: Red Roof Inn
This part of the trip will be individual for everyone, as flights from Europe arrive at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) around the clock.
Immediately after going through all the border formalities, we went to get a rental car. We were in a hurry to get out of New York before we hit the evening traffic. And we were lucky: within 30 minutes of landing, we were standing in the Alamo office picking up our car, a new 2018 Toyota Camry
Tip: We chose a car for our trip around the U.S. 1.5 months in advance at Rentalcars.com
We left JFK airport with no problems, but got caught in traffic in Brooklyn and then Manhattan. It took us about two hours to get around New York. And for about an hour we stood in front of the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River in the direction of New Jersey. By the way, the passage from Manhattan to Jersey City through the Holland Tunnel is free. And it was also convenient for us, since we had to take Route 78 to Harrisburg for an overnight stay.
But if you decide to go straight to Miami along the coast, this tunnel is not suitable. In that case, it is easier to go to Staten Island first, and from there to New Jersey.
Important to know: Most bridges in New York City are tolled.
Here are the tolls for the bridges in New York City that you may encounter on your way out of Long Island (where JFK Airport is located):
- Verrazano Narrows Bridge – $17 (westbound only, that is, from Brooklyn to Staten Island)
- Outerbridge Crossing – $14 (eastbound only, that is, from New Jersey to Staten Island).
- Whitestone Bridge – $8.50 (round trip).
- George Washington Bridge – $15 (round trip)
- Goethals Bridge – $14 (round trip).
We drove through Staten Island on the way back to New York. We first drove from New Jersey into Staten Island over the Outerbridge, and then from Staten Island into Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge, and thus only paid $14.
As for the first night’s stay, we pre-booked for $55 a nice, inexpensive Red Roof Inn in Harrisburg, away from New York City and closer to Shenandoah National Park, which was at the beginning of our itinerary.
In Harrisburg, we also stopped at the Walmart supermarket on the way and bought ourselves groceries (food and drinking water) for camping life, as well as a gas tank for the burner. For an overnight camping trip, we brought along all the essentials (tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, and sundries) that we had bought last time in Los Angeles for one of our previous trips to U.S. national parks.
All in all, it was a long day for us and after shopping we only had time to eat and go straight to bed.
Day 2: Harrisburg – Shenandoah NP
- Distance: 230 km to the national park entrance + 82 km on the Skyline in Shenandoah NP
- Travel time: 2.5 hours on trails + 1.5 hours in the park (no stops)
- Roads: 81, 66, 340, Skyline Drive
- States: Pennsylvania (PA), Maryland (MD), West Virginia (WV), Virginia (VA)
- Overnight stay: at Big Meadows Campground or at a hotel near Shenandoah National Park
Starting in the morning, we drive toward Shenandoah National Park. The first part of the drive through Pennsylvania is pretty boring, although the views along the road are beautiful – green fields and white neat cabins. Then the scenery becomes more cheerful, with forests.
At the entrance to the park, you can buy an annual pass, which allows you to enter all national parks in the United States. It costs $80. We already had the Annual Pass from our last trip to America. But it is still worth calculating before you buy if it will be beneficial on this particular trip. On this trip we will visit only four national parks and one national monument (but not all of them are paid): $10 + $25 + $10*2. Total is $55. That is, for this trip alone it is not profitable to buy an annual pass, it would be cheaper to pay at the entrance to each park.
Good to know: It costs $10 per car to enter Shenandoah Park.
We decided to split our visit to Shenandoah into two parts so we could drive through all the iconic viewpoints without rushing and go to the simplest of haikis. And at the same time, spend the night right in the park to meet the sunset and watch the beautiful sunrise there.
Day 3: Shenandoah NP – Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Distance: 675 km (of which 87 on Shenandoah National Park road + 592 on trails)
- Travel time: 6 hours on the track
- Roads: Skyline Drive, 64, 81, 26, 40
- States: Virginia (VA), North Carolina (NC)
- Overnight stay: at Balsam Mountain Campground in Great Smokey National Park
Mountains, but also conveniently stay in hotels in Cherokee City, such as the Stonebrook Lodge
The third day of the trip from New York to Miami was also roughly divided into two parts. From early in the morning we drove through the viewpoints of Shenandoah Park along the beautiful Skyline Road. In the afternoon, we left Blue Ridge Road to get to the Great Smoky Mountains on the expressway faster. On the way, we stopped at Walmart again to restock our food supply. We also visited the North Carolina Visitor Center, where we had a good rest and also read some useful information and picked up the maps we needed.
Toward evening we pitched our tent at the cloud-shrouded Great Smoky Mountains Park. We were very pleased with the serpentine road to Balsam Mountain Campground, which had some beautiful views of the mountains. Right before we arrived, it had rained and the mountains were in milky clouds. It was an amazingly gorgeous sight!
Day 4: Blue Ridge Parkway
This day is all about exploring the sights of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the road that connects the two national parks, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. We chose the southern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the one closer to Great Smoky Mountains, around the towns of Ashland and Cherokee.
Most of the waterfalls (Soco Falls, Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls and Mingo Falls) and lookouts are around roads 276 and 19.
At first we didn’t have much luck with the weather – it was overcast and nothing to see. But closer to lunch, the sun came out and we enjoyed both the waterfalls and the gorgeous views of the mountain peaks.
By evening we were back at Balsam Mountain campground again.
Each morning we saw different, but always beautiful scenery, in the Great Smoky Mountains
Day 5: Great Smoky Mountains NP National Park
Day 5 of the trip is all about exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and one of its most interesting parts, the Cherokee Area. There are scenic waterfalls on Deep and Chastin Creeks. And we also drove to the park’s main lookout point, Clingsman Dome (the highest point is 6,643 feet, the third highest mountain in the Apalachees), then drove down to Tennessee, which has beautiful Rainbow Fall and Grotto Fall waterfalls.
While we walked through the woods to the falls, a thunderstorm came from the other side of the mountains. It didn’t hit us, but the town of Gatlinburg (that’s the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains Park on the Tennessee side) was almost flooded!
Fun fact: Statistically speaking, Great Smoky Mountains is the most interesting national park in the United States. Eleven and a half million people visit it each year, twice as many as come to see Grand Canon Park. By the way, entry to the Great Smoky Mountains is completely free. Is this a major factor in its mega-popularity among tourists?
In the evening, when we returned to our campsite on Balsam Mountain again and caught it dry but in a cloud, we realized that the elements were raging that day only on the Tennessee side. And we didn’t get a little rain until the night before.
Day 6: Great Smoky Mountains NP – Sweetwater National Park
We continue to admire the legendary Great Smoky Mountains Park. We pack up our tent first thing in the morning and take Route 441 through the mountains. Once again we cross the North Carolina/Tennessee border. This time we were in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains, nestled among the mountains in Cades Cove, where the early settler homes, churches, and watermill are still standing! It was such a picturesque place that even rain and overcast skies couldn’t stop us from strolling there. I can imagine how beautiful it is in the fall, during the riot of color!
In the evening we leave the park, which we already loved, and head toward the town of Townsend, on Route 321. And we spend the night in Sweetwater Township in a cozy room at the Rodeway Inn on the lake shore.
Day 7: Sweetwater – Miami
- Distance: 1500 km.
- Travel time: 14 hours on highways.
- Roads: I-75, 1
- States: Tennessee (TN), Georgia (GA), Florida (FL)
- Overnight stay: 4* hotel in Miami Beach on the coast – The Marlin
The seventh day of our U.S. trip is completely on the road. A very long transfer, but we arrive in Miami and start to enjoy the ocean.
The crossing was extremely difficult because of the heat. I don’t advise everyone to do it again. Better to split in two and spend the night somewhere in the coastal towns of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. By the way, the fastest road in Florida – from Miami to Orlando – is a toll road called the Frorida Turnpike. And we took the free Interstate 75 along the Gulf of Mexico, also with almost no stops, but we wanted to go faster.
We also stopped for a rest at the Florida Visitor Center along the way, and were immediately treated to a refreshing grapefruit juice. This is the most convenient place to plan your itinerary of Florida attractions in detail.
In the evening we check into a nice hotel in Miami near the beach with fresh rooms – The Marlin – and stay for three nights.
Day 8. Sunny Isles, Everglades and Biscayne NP National Parks (Miami, Everglades NP, Biscayne NP)
Early morning visit to Everglades National Park, home to alligators and flamingos in the Florida Everglades. There is a fee to enter the park, $25. We have an annual pass, which no one checked at 7 a.m.
We decided to be sure to visit the Pa Hay Okee Lookout Tower, where it’s convenient for bird watching, and take the classic Anhinga Trail. And there we saw live alligators!
Important to know: Unfortunately, at this point, due to the aftermath of the Florida hurricanes, the part of the park where the flamingos lived has never been restored. And we weren’t even advised by the Ranger to go there, as there is nothing of interest there now. So our tour of the park was quite short.
The next point of our visit to Florida was Biscayne National Park, also in the south of the state. This is a great place to travel to the Miami Keys. The Keys are unique reef islands, somewhat like the Maldives. There’s nothing else like it in the United States. And you can also go scuba diving in Biscayne Park if you’re certified, or book a tour of the mangroves and unique islands.
We were unfortunately late for the Keys trip, but we still appreciated the beauty of Biscayne Park by taking a sightseeing trail and watching an interesting movie at the Visitor Center.
We spent the evening at Sunny Isles’ cool beach. It really is incredibly beautiful and picturesque, and the apartments in the skyscrapers are owned by many pop and movie stars. Hotels also keep up and offer an unforgettable vacation in Miami, and the best of them is the Acqualina Spa Resort.
Day 9. Miami Beach
The next day was totally devoted to the beautiful beaches of Miami. We went to South Beach and Ocean Drive. We also went to Bal Harbour and Surfside.
Miami’s beaches are certainly a loud feast! Lots of Latin food, especially Cuban food, all the vacationers taut and relaxed, lots of music and laughter!
I advise you to plan a vacation in Miami with more time (5-10 days). We only had two weeks for our trip and had to drive back to New York. However, if you end your road trip in Miami, there is just enough time left! All that’s left to do is choose how to drive: the way I described above through the national parks or the coastal route I described below. Read on and find out which of these two ways you prefer.
Day 10. Miami – Savannah
- Distance: 790 km
- Travel time: 8 hours on the highway
- Roads: I-95
- States: Florida (FL), Georgia (GA)
- Overnight stay: in Savannah, breakfast hotel – Quality Inn Midtown
We relaxed a bit on the beaches of Florida, but now we begin the return trip, from Miami to New York. The first day, or the ninth overall trip, is quite a long drive.
As of this morning, had it not been for a sudden downpour, we would still have rested on the beach. Still, it was time to go! It was overcast on the way and we took a long time to get away from the rain. It only cleared up when we were in the Delray Beach area, where we gladly turned around and walked some more of the Florida beaches.
And in the middle of the day, we make another stop in San Agustin (or, as it’s called here, St. Augustine), where we visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a historic 17th century Spanish fort. Admission to the fort costs $10 per person. But if you have an annual pass to U.S. National Parks, you don’t have to pay. Parking near the fort is also a fee, $2.50 per hour.
After a walk through the old town of St. Augustine, we left for the city of Savannah. We spent the night at our favorite Quality Inn, but the best place to stay was downtown at the Andaz Five or right on the riverfront at the all-famous Hyatt Regency.
Day 11. Savannah – Myrtle Beach
- Distance: 365 km
- Travel time: 5 hours on highways.
- Highways: 80, 17, 95, 378, 501
- States: Georgia (GA), South Carolina (SC)
- Overnight stay: KOA Myrtle Beach campground or DoubleTree by Hilton beach hotel
In the morning after breakfast we walk for 5 hours through Savannah, one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., its many squares and Forsyth Park, admiring the stunning architecture, and turning off at the waterfront and floating on the river in a pleasure boat.
We left the car in the parking lot at the Visitor Center-the first hour is free, and then it’s one dollar an hour (pay at checkout). You can walk around the city enjoying the beautiful architecture, take a special tour bus on your own (free) or go on a paid sightseeing tour by trolley.
Savannah is green and offers refuge from the heat in the many parks and gardens.
Toward evening we arrived in the beach town of Myrtle Beach, perfect for families with children. Beach again, sun again. Also, Myrtle Beach is said to be a town similar to Las Vegas with its entertainment and shows, but with beach charm. But I think that’s an exaggeration, although we didn’t go to the shows. However, there are plenty of rides, water slides, and interesting activities for kids.
We suggest staying near the beach on the south side of town, near the Family Kingdom Amusement Park at the Westgate Oceanfront Resort, or closer to the Ferris wheel at the South Bay Inn & Suites.
Day 12. Myrtle Beach – Quantico
- Distance: 645 km
- Travel Time: 8 hours by road
- Roads: 501, 410, 242, 74, 95
- States: South Carolina (SC), Virginia (VA)
- Overnight stay: in the town of Quantico near Washington, DC, a nice hotel with breakfast – Ramada
After another walk on Myrtle Beach in the morning before breakfast and in the afternoon, watching the fishermen and their catch, a tiny shark, we leave for Quantico in the evening. We didn’t want to see anything special here, although this is where the FBI Academy is located, we just chose a town closer to Washington. Overnight at the Ramada Hotel with a hot breakfast.
Day 13. Quantico – Washington – New York
- Distance: 692 km
- Travel time: 9 hours on highways and New York City.
- Routes: 95, 1, 287, 440, Outerbridge Crossing, 440, 278, Verrazano Bridge, Belt Parkway
- States: Virginia (VA), District of Columbia (DC), Maryland (MD), Pennsylvania (PA), New Jersey (NJ), New York (NY)
- Hotel in New York: 2 subway stations away from Manhattan, with hot breakfast – Howard Johnson
We’ve been driving to Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States since early morning, but we’re chased by rain, and instead of putting the car in the parking lot and exploring the monuments of American democracy, we just drive between them, only occasionally running out for pictures.
We had made a route for the sights of Washington, DC in advance and would quickly see the most interesting things in the U.S. capital – the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Aviation Museum. But bad weather prevented us. And also, judging by the number of police officers on the street, the president was receiving an important delegation. In general we did not manage to see the city at once. But now will be an excuse to come to Washington D.C. again, having booked a hotel somewhere closer to the city center.
From here we continue on to Philadelphia. We had been here before, and we didn’t have much time left, so we just drive through it and head for New York.
The New Jersey pike is a toll road, so we take the free Route 1 and incidentally, pass by Princeton, one of the best universities in the United States.
Already in the evening we return to New York, leave our things in our hotel, and then turn the car in at the airport. and return to the subway. That’s it, the car trip is over, now it’s on foot in New York City!
As always, we stopped at the Visitor Center in Pennsylvania, to get directions on the free roads to New York.
Day 14-16. New York
You can take as many days as you want to spend in New York. We spent the remaining days of our trip to America in this particular city, which is the cultural capital of the United States, and some say even of the world. We’ve set aside four days for New York City and will once again be walking around the never-sleeping city.
In my opinion, one of the secrets to a successful vacation in New York City is choosing a good hotel. Personally, we stayed in a clean and comfortable hotel two subway stations from Midmountain near the Queensboro Bridge – the Howard Johnson with a good hot breakfast (our review).
But before finally choosing it, it took a long time to find the right one. Following the search for the best hotel in New York for value for money and wrote the article How to choose a hotel in New York, which will help all travelers to arrange their trip to New York to the best!
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