24 SECRET BEACH GETAWAYS

From stretches of pink and white sand to pristine lakefront shorelines, the best beaches in and around the United States are often the ones you've never heard of. Below is our list of 24 favorite sandy spots, plus local tips on what to do (and where else to go) once you get there.

F. Ermert

F. Ermert

CAPERS ISLAND
Charleston, SC

For a glimpse of what Charleston's coastline looked like pre-development, steer your boat or kayak to this three-mile-long isolated barrier island. Free camping permits are available year-round so stock up on overnight essentials, like a Jacob Bromwell copper flask from The Commons, before you skip town.

Capers Island, Alistair Nicol

Capers Island, Alistair Nicol


ROUTE 30A
Florida Panhandle

Scenic Route 30A is a quick 19 miles long, but it passes through some of the most epic bits of Panhandle landscape: salt marshes and wetlands, mountain-high dunes, big-blossoming Magnolias and the kind of turquoise water glassbottom boats were built for cruising. Pitstop through any of the 12 villages that dot the route, including Rosemary Beach, Watercolor and cottagey Seaside, where you'll find plenty of beach reads courtesy of Sundog Books. One of our favorites, Saints of Old Florida, is about as beautiful a dissection of the timeless appeal of coastal Florida life as you'll ever come by.

Rosemary Beach, Celesta Buchanan

Rosemary Beach, Celesta Buchanan


THE REAL JERSEY SHORE
 

"Our hometown, Spring Lake, is a quaint suburb right on the beach: lots of green grass and trees, good waves and huge beaches, no traffic lights. The Parker House in Sea Girt is one of the best beach bars in the world. The outdoor back porch is a local haven, with $9.99/lb lobsters all day everyday. There's also Asbury Park, the summer home of Bruce Springsteen, which was the best spot on the Jersey shore in the 1950's and 1960's and then fell on hard times. It's had a huge revival over the past few years. The new Asbury Hotel is one of the best in the state. In the next few years, we predict it will start competing with the Hamptons as the place to be seen at the beach." - Alex Faherty and Mike Faherty, FAHERTY


SINGING BEACH
Manchester by the Sea, MA

You'll find a mix of respite-speaking Boston-area college students and day-tripping beachcombers at this old-school beach an hour outside of Beantown. A 1920's bathhouse and charming snack bar cement the timeless New England beach vibe. And then there's the unique crunch of the sand, which resembles something akin to a musical squeak at low tide (hence the name).


THE BEST OF NANTUCKET

Hit up Murray's Toggery or Chubbies in town for swim and vacation gear, then start beach crawling. Galley Beach is the spot for drinks and a sunset perch. For a more expansive DIY experience, set up camp at Smith's Point in Madaket. You'll need to bring your own cookout supplies, but the haul is worth it for the view of the sky when day turns into night. Cisco Beach boasts big surf, plus proximity to Bartlett's Farm and Cisco Brewers, both great places to refuel after a day in the sun. In town, you'll find Children's Beach, which is exactly what it sounds like: a park for kids that just happens to be a beach, complete with things to climb on, bathrooms and a French-fry-and-grilled-cheese-stocked concession stand. Steps Beach has almost no surf, but what it lacks in breakers it makes up for in curb appeal: This is where you go to pick out your dream house.


GIN BEACH
Montauk, NY

Ditch Plains may get all of the glory Out East, but there's something to be said for the calm waves lapping this sandy slice of shoreline along the Block Island Sound. No surfers or summer-sharers to crowd the beach; just a wide carpet of clean sand on which to spread out your towel. Still, you don't have to forego the scene entirely. Suit up in summertime vintage—clothing, kikoys, beaded rope necklaces—from Melet Mercantile; then refuel at one of the bayfront picnic tables at Duryea's Lobster Deck.


JASPER BEACH
Machiasport, ME

Roughly two hours north of Bar Harbor, Jasper Beach is a wild wonder tucked at the end of a country road. It's known for its abundance of smooth, round stones, buffering bluffs and lagoons, but the seclusion is the real draw here—and it extends to the surrounding town, too. Machiasport is a classic quiet Down East fishing village, but head back down to Bar Harbor and you'll find plenty of activity.

Jasper Beach, Ciera Holzenthal

Jasper Beach, Ciera Holzenthal


EAGLE BEACH
near Juneau, AK

From Juneau, head north on Glacier Highway until you reach this remote state park, a 570-acre expanse known for its abounding views and awesome wildlife sightings. Come at the height of summer, when flocking salmon attract bears and the beach's namesake eagles, who hunt during low tide. For a $15 campsite fee, the park is yours to roam. Stock up on last-minute camping supplies at the 40+ year old Foggy Mountain Shop before taking off from downtown Juneau.


PIER STREET BEACH
Lakeside, MI

"Coastal dwellers may tell you the ocean provides easy escape, but we Midwesterners know that true heaven lies in that first ripple on the glassy surface of a Great Lake. At the tail end of Pier Street in Lakeside, Michigan, there's a small stretch of freshwater beach, where the minute my toes touch the sand, I'm transported. Tim Allen is narrating my own private Pure Michigan commercial. It's relatively unpopulated no matter the day of the week, nor the time of year. The locals refer to it as Pier Street Beach; you'll want to call it home. And down the street is one of my other favorite places in the world, AP Shop." - Max Wastler


LAKE COEUR D'ALENE
Coeur d'Alene, ID

A destination since its days as a lumber town, the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene (pronounced "core-duh-lane") is the final resting place for a few Model T's, whose unlucky owners misjudged the winter freeze. During warmer months, the idyllic Idaho Panhandle lake stretches 25 miles, offering plenty of room to pontoon in peace. For lunch, follow the locals to Hudson's, a family-owned favorite prized for its griddle-cooked burgers.

Lake Coeur d'Alene, Traveling Otter

Lake Coeur d'Alene, Traveling Otter


NESKOWIN BEACH
Neskowin, OR

Just two hours west of Portland rests an undisturbed stretch of rugged beauty. The beach is best known for Proposal Rock, where, as legend has it, a nineteenth-century sailor proposed to his homesteader love. While many couples have followed suit, it's best to get the heart pounding on a hike up the Cascade Head trail, where the coastal views never fail to stun.



FORT FUNSTON
San Francisco, CA

A challenging coastal terrain of sand dunes made this an optimal military lookout spot during World Wars I and II. Today, the shifting landscape is part of the now-public recreation area's allure. Trails weave throughout, offering paths for hikers, mountain bikers and runners. And good news for pups in tow—Funston is the only off-leash park in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On your way, drop in at Mollusk for a surf report... or maybe just a hat.

Fort Funston, Ed Brownson

Fort Funston, Ed Brownson


PFEIFFER BEACH
Big Sur, CA

Cutting off from the west side of the PCH is the unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road, a narrow passage leading to this rarely crowded Big Sur beach. Watch closely or you'll miss the turn. This sandy gem is not to be confused with the southerly neighbor, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and her oft-Instagrammed McWay Falls. Here, Pacific waves crash against rocky sea stacks and beachcombers stick around for an incredible sunset before trekking out for Ambrosia burgers at nearby Nepenthe, which offers a prime lookout of the surrounding Big Sur landscape itself. Note: Recent wildfires in the area have caused closures of many places in Big Sur, including Pfeiffer Beach. Check here for updates

Pfeiffer Beach, Ben Stein

Pfeiffer Beach, Ben Stein


ON THE BEACH: EYEWEAR DESIGNER GARRETT LEIGHT

How would you describe California beach life?

"There's a different energy here, a mix of locals and tourists. People go to beaches every day. They are like our watering holes. In California, many people's schedules revolve around the beach. There's always something going on. It's an every-hour-of-the-day thing. You see the same people at the same spots. Kids grow up on the beach here."

Can you describe an early memory of going to the beach?

"My dad was a surfer and we'd go every weekend. Zuma, Malibu, Seal Beach. I'd get an Egg McMuffin and sit out and watch. It was mesmerizing. One time a guy stole my dad's keys and robbed his car."

You've lived most of your life in Venice. How do you describe the neighborhood?

"Venice has always led with originality. Artists set up shop here. The Dogtown guys, they changed skateboarding. Snapchat. Every 10 or 15 years there's been a significant creative endeavor that's changed things. It's that clash of high and low that makes Venice. Creativity is at the core."

What's your beach vendor in Venice?

"There's a taco truck called La Isla Bonita. It's been at 4th and Rose for 30 years. Order the ceviche tostada."

Last question: What is the ultimate California surfing beach?

"None is more iconic than San Onofre. California beach boy style—in and out of the water—developed here and in Malibu, and you can still paddle alongside generations of influencers on any given day. Waves break gently for long stretches, providing a forgiving environment for anyone just giving it a try, and a venue for others to showcase some seriously stylish traditional surfing."


BIG BEACH AND LITTLE BEACH
Maui, HI

If you want to watch big wave surfers in action—or test your boogeing skills against some of the best swells on the west coast—head to Big Beach (Hawaiian name: Makena) in Maui. It's not far from the resort beach crowds, but it feels like hidden Hawaii. On Sundays, climb over the hill to Little Beach to witness free-spirited locals perform fire dancing rituals—occasionally in the nude, since LB is known for its exhibitionist nature.


LIGHTHOUSE BEACH
Eleuthera, Bahamas

If you want pink sand, wild vegetation and a destination with just the right amount of comfort and amenities without the tourist population that usually accompanies that kind of hospitality, Eleuthera is the place. Stay at The Cove, a former hippie lodge in a pineapple field that New Orleans developer Sidney Torres rebooted a few years ago. It's pretty much paradise. The best part: At any given moment, you might find yourself hanging with frequent (and super-friendly) regular, Lenny Kravitz.


ISLA HOLBOX
Quintana Roo, Mexico

Like a proto-Tulum, Isla Holbox is a two-hour, backcountry drive from one of Mexico's prime party hubs, Cancun, but it's worlds away in terms of the remote, bohemian vibe it gives off. And it's separated from the mainland by a postcard-perfect shallow lagoon, enhancing the distance between the solitude-minded folks here and anyone amped for Spring Break up the coast. Stay at the charming boutique hotel, CasaSandra, and take long roams down the barely developed beach morning, noon and night. 

Isla Holbox, Taylor Bruce

Isla Holbox, Taylor Bruce


SANDY CAY
British Virgin Islands

Uninhabited Sandy Cay is pretty much the closest thing to having your own private island beach. Owned by a member of the Rockefeller family until 2008, this tiny Caribbean gem is a virgin destination. Accessibility is limited to boaters, but it's worth the extra effort to make the trek. In addition to white sand beaches and incredible snorkeling spots, there's a short hiking trail and a salt pond smack in the center of the island.


CAYO COCO
Cuba

Now that Cuba is fair game for U.S. travelers, it's worth rediscovering some of the preserved-in-time places that have been off-limits to outsiders for decades. First up: Cayo Coco, a tropical hotspot located off the mainland in the Jardines del Rey Island chain. Stay at the just-opened Accor Pullman which, though large, blends in with the natural landscape surprisingly well thanks to its location in the center of the island's eco park. Settle in, then set out: You'll find optimal diving waters, coral reefs, lagoons worthy of any movie set and a record-breakingly large colony of pink flamingos.

ANDREW MARIANI, CALIFORNIA WINEMAKER

WILDSAM QUESTIONNAIRE

The vintner and Scribe Winery owner on childhood travel memories, where he goes to disappear and how seeing the world expands his own sense of place and terroir. 

Alanna Hale

WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST TRAVEL MEMORY?

I remember being six years old and watching my Uncle Jack grill squid on the beach in Bodega Bay, California. He cleaned it, removed the ink and grilled it over a beach fire.

WHAT IS ONE PLACE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN?

Ever since I was 12 years old and saw Legends of the Fall in the movie theatre, I’ve wanted to go to Montana. And for whatever reason I’ve never made it. Maybe I’m worried that I'm not ready to fight a bear.

WHAT IS ONE PLACE YOU'LL NEVER VISIT AGAIN?

That motel by the Amtrak station in Savannah.  Yikes. 

NAME YOUR ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP SOUNDTRACK.

Ten years ago three friends and I bought a ’76 Westfalia in Queens and drove it slowly and indirectly for a month or so to Santa Barbara. It only had a cassette player and the previous owner had left Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger in the van. We listened to that cassette all the way down to Richmond, Virginia, west to Tennessee’ s Smoky Mountains, down to Mobile, Alabama, and then on to some gas station in west Texas where we finally got our shit together to buy a couple more cassettes. We picked up a Hank Williams' Greatest Hits tape and that UB40 tape with the “Red Red Wine” song. By the time we were back in California, we were back on Willie. Perfect road trip tape.


"THE MORE WE RECOGNIZE THE THINGS THAT MAKE OUR PLACE DISTINCT, THE MORE WE CAN CELEBRATE THEM."
 

TRAVEL AND MOVIES GO HAND IN HAND. IF YOU COULD TAKE ONE CINEMA TRIP, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

The Wizard of Oz.

WHOSE HISTORICAL FOOTSTEPS WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO RETRACE 

One of my favorite country albums is Juarez by Terry Allen, from 1975. I’d like to retrace the route of the characters in the dark Western story that the album tells: San Diego to Los Angeles to Cortez, Colorado, to El Paso, to some town know as ‘LoveTest,’ then to Juarez and Guadalajara. The story is vague but that drive seems like a classic Western, and the album is great on repeat. And I’d probably drive a Buick like the main characters, Sailor and Spanish Alice.

WHAT IS THE BEST MEAL YOU'VE HAD IN A RESTAURANT IN THE LAST YEAR?

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington. Long drive, sketchy ferry ride, totally worth it. The food is very specific to what is grown or caught on the island: Dungeness crab in pine nut milk, perfectly cooked wild mushrooms, great wines from the Northwest. It was so comforting.

YOU'RE LOOKING TO DISAPPEAR FOR A FEW DAYS. WHERE DO YOU GO?

To my house on Moon Mountain in Sonoma.  Or if it’s too hot in Sonoma, then to Sea Ranch, out on the Sonoma Coast.

TELL US ABOUT ONE MEMENTO YOU CHERISH FROM TRAVELS.

The raw leather Il Bisonte wallet my wife got me in Rome. It sits in the back pocket of my jeans everyday.


"I LOVE THE ENERGY OF A PLACE WAKING UP. THERE'S SO MUCH POTENTIAL."
 

DESCRIBE YOUR LUGGAGE.

I have this little blue canvas bag that I got in Kyoto, Japan. I was traveling with our wine distributor, and he told me that whenever Francis Ford Coppola is in town he goes and buys a new bag at this shop. So naturally I wanted one, too. As in most things, Francis Ford Coppola has great taste in bags.

WHAT'S THE ONE LOCAL SPOT YOU ALWAYS SHOW OUT-OF-TOWNERS?

At Scribe we have great chefs from around the world come and cook with us on the vineyard; for wine release dinners, wine club events, wine pairing dinners, etc. I usually take them to Tortilleria Jalisco, just outside of downtown Sonoma, for a second, late-night dinner. They make tortillas during the day, and at night they roll out the taco cart and make delicious tacos: Carnitas, asada, lengua, cabeza. Jalisco tacos and Modelo Especial is always the best pairing.
L: Alanna Hale R: Allan Zepeda

L: Alanna Hale R: Allan Zepeda

HOW DOES TRAVEL IMPACT THE WORK YOU DO?

It helps me recognize and appreciate what is culturally and ecologically distinct about the part of the world where I live. As a winemaker, I’m capturing a place and a time in the bottle and then sharing it. I want our wines to represent our land, and the more we recognize the things that make our place distinct, the more we can celebrate them.

WHEN YOU TRAVEL, DO YOU PREFER EARLY MORNINGS OR LATE NIGHTS? 

I love the energy of a place waking up. There’s so much potential.

FANCY HOTEL IN THE CITY, LOG CABIN IN THE WOODS OR COTTAGE ON THE BEACH?

I live way out in the country so I’m a sucker for the fancy hotel in the city these days. Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, Nomad in Manhattan. But the beach is always calling.

IN A FEW WORDS, WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR MOST AS A TRAVELER?

Good wine. 
Click here to learn more about Scribe and their beautiful winery in Sonoma.

THE NEW AMERICAN OASIS

A look at how "it" spots enter the zeitgeist and which ones are poised to become the next Marfa.

When the delay of a new Ford Roadster stranded Ernest Hemingway in Key West in 1928, the writer developed a near instant obsession with the then-remote Florida fishing village. Its easygoing charm and crystal waters offered hard-to-come-by inspiration in the dark days of the Depression; plus, Papa loved his fishing. During the three-week layover, he polished off the last of A Farewell to Arms; and a few years later, after he and his cats had become a more permanent fixture, he immortalized the town in his hard-luck tale of a boating captain gone wrong, To Have and Have Not. Eventually, of course, word got out and by the 1950s, Hemingway's secret refuge went mainstream.

His wasn't the only spot whose pull would later draw the crowds. Take the just-budding glamour of Joan Didion's mid-century Honolulu (the beginning of a decades-long fascination with Hawaii at large, a lost paradise, in her mind at least, whose evolving contradictionsVietnam, commercializationshe chronicles in In the Islands). Then there was Aspen's countercultural moment in the 1970s, followed by Nantucket's easy money eighties boom, followed by Santa Fe's Ali Macgraw-fueled nineties rise (a back-to-the-land shift that was really just a replay of Georgia O'Keeffe's discovering Taos 65 years earlier).

These days, that list also includes a new crop of travel constellations: Marfa, Montauk, Tulum, Ojai. So what's next? Is there anything left to be discovered? And what sort of special sauce will flavor the oases of the future? In the age of Instagram, these are curious questionsespecially if travelers are looking to get lost in a lesser-known spot. To divine the next frontier of great American destinations, we consulted a network of trusted tastemakersand our own internal maps. The resulting five hideaways deliver on the qualities this moment's travelers are jonesing for the mostwell-being via cultural capital, a sense of undiscoveredness and a lot of heart and soul.


TODOS SANTOS, MEXICO

An hour north of Cabo, on the Baja peninsula, you'll find this coastal villagewhose name translates to All Saintsat the base of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. The landscape is remote and rugged, the swells large and surf-ready. A mix of surfers, fishermen and yogis imbue the place with a spirited eccentricity that recalls the stardust of earlier peak spots like Tulum. All but abandoned by the 1840s, it's now enjoying newfound prosperity thanks to an emerging art scene and a spate of new boutique hotels such as Hotel San Cristóbal, the soon-to-open beachfront jewel from Liz Lambert's Texas-based hotel group, Bunkhouse (El Cosmico, Hotel Saint Cecilia).

Courtesy of Tres Santos Baja

Courtesy of Tres Santos Baja


WATCH HILL, RHODE ISLAND

For a long time, this pedigreed beach town was a summertime colony that tony Rhode Islanders kept to themselves. Today, however, it's no longer members-only, and the private clubs have given way to a more democratic selection of bars, restaurants and shops. Visitors still mostly rent cottageswhich contributes to the enduring low profile of the placeor post up at the Ocean House, one of just two remaining hotels, which shed its fallen angel status in 2010 after a big time renovation. Either way, the draw to Watch Hill is her end-of-the-road, seaside-hamlet vibe. Towels spread along Carousel Beach, yachts and sailboats bob in Watch Hill Cove, and vacationers wave the 20-plus miles across Long Island Sound to the more-crowded Montauk. 


SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

Sure, Savannah outranks these other destinations in size and age, but that just makes its emergence all the more noteworthy. It all started with the Savannah College of Art and Design, which has methodically restored a huge swath of blighted downtown buildings and ensured an annual infusion of youthful vigor and big ideas. The chefsHugh Acheson, Mashama Baileycame next, shedding the white tablecloths and fried green tomatoes that had come to define the local flavor. After that, it's just a matter of time before the sister town to Charleston gets her day in the sun.

I always think people follow artists, and this is a town rooted in creativity, art and history. One of the most cathartic things you can do in Savannah is to simply wander the squares.

- Benjamin Towill, restaurateur, Basic Projects


BEACON, NEW YORK

Pete Seeger's outspoken environmental activism helped put this blighted postindustrial Hudson Valley town on the map in the early aughts. Then came an outpost of the New York City neo-art-gallery Dia. Coupled with a population of land-hungry New Yorkers in flight, the formula was ripe to transform Beacon into a high-minded weekend retreat, part Woodstock, part Williamsburg. Today, there are polished coffee shops, reinvigorated stretches of retail and, the rarest of all upstate commodities, affordable (by NYC standards, anyway) properties still for sale.

Peter Gonda

Peter Gonda


JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA

Venture a hundred miles east of Los Angeles to reach the high desert hub of Joshua Tree, the Earth Mother antithesis to manicured Palm Springs. Made famous by the National Park and Gram Parsons, and, more recently, photogenic locations like the Pioneertown and the Station (both favorites among magazine editors), the expansive landscape here, peppered with endless wild-armed Joshua trees, is home to a cross-section of artists, rock climbers, drifters, healers and designer types. Their common trait: A deep connection to the desolate beauty of the Mojave. 

You have to scratch below the surface in the desert. But once you do, it's always unfolding, offering beautiful rewards. 

- Jay Carroll, designer, Wonder Valley


HOW A TRUE EXPERT DOES BRIMFIELD

The secrets to navigating America's oldest and largest outdoor antique show and flea market like a seasoned pro.

Brimfield photo: Jenna Zerbo

Brimfield photo: Jenna Zerbo

For a week each May, July and September, an estimated 6,000 dealers take over 21 grass fields in central Massachusetts, luring serious bargain-hunters with rare finds and killer deals. Simply put, Brimfield is a vintage paradise, the place where Vogue editors stock up on gone-era Louis Vuitton steamers, and Ralph Lauren riggers source all shapes and eras of leather club chairs with perfect patina. It was during his time with the latter brand that veteran designer Lee Norwood first learned his way around the show. Now, decades later, the Polo wunderkind turned creative director of Oobe, one of the South's top emerging outdoor brands, shares his tips for cutting to the treasure-laden heart of Brimfield's massive shoppingscape.

  1. Don't attempt the whole week unless you're a professional antiques dealer. In July you're also contending with scorching heat, so hydration and sunblock are essential.

  2. Opening times vary by field and day, and some fields require tickets. Start with the Meadows on Tuesday. Park in the lot down Warren Rd./Rt. 19, right behind the Sturtevant's field. Buy a bag of Faddy's doughnuts; then head straight to my favorite vendor, Eneby Antik, for beautiful Swedish antiques.

  3. Heart-O-The-Mart is probably the show's most famous field. It opens at 9 AM on Wednesday and covers 17 acres. I always go see the Ross Bros., who specialize in nautical collectibles and 19th-century canoes and wooden boats.

  4. You can spot Brimfield newbies immediately. They're decked out in a trendy Bohemian look and cowboy boots. Trust me, go for comfort and wear running sneakers. Your feet will thank you.

  5. Personally, I only do the show in May, and only on Tuesday and Wednesday. Arrive the Monday before to attend the Sturbridge Vintage Fashion and Textile Show (same goes for September). Minnesotans Bruce and Lynda Tomlinson have become the star attraction, selling vintage clothing from the 1800s to the 1960s.

When you go: Longtime visitors like Norwood typically rent lakefront cottages in the surrounding woods (check out airbnb.com and lakelashawayrental.com for more). For newcomers, there are also plenty of standout hotels and motels in nearby Sturbridge. Either way, the quickest way in is a flight into Boston, followed by a quick hour’s drive west.

BEST AMERICAN BACKROADS

Our definitive list of epic U.S. routes for unforgettable road trips

These are the roads less traveled. From the stark beauty of California's Mojave Desert to the booming fall color in Vermont's North Country, the best of America is most often found by scrapping Google's advice and taking the backroads. These blue highways cut a glorious swatch through the country's cultural heart, and open up the most scenic—and significant—reasons for exiting the interstate. Windows down, radio up. 

Bob Wood

Bob Wood

MOJAVE HIGHWAY 62

Route: Palm Springs, CA to Las Vegas, NV Map it.

Miles: 234

Record: Calexico, Edge of the Sun

Mars via the Mojave. From Palm Springs, push deep into the desert expanse via Highway 62, and take this three-hour back way to Vegas (an old favorite of off-duty Marines stationed at Twentynine Palms) to avoid as much I-15 time as possible. Early on, the route passes through Amboy – a once-bustling throughway town where travelers would spend one last night at roadside motels like Roy’s before arriving in Los Angeles. Today it’s a dust-caked relic of yesteryear worth exploring for its abandoned refuges. From Amboy, it’s a left on Kelbaker that’ll take you through the heart of the Mojave National Preserve.


Dave Hensley

Dave Hensley

WEST TEXAS ROUTE 90

Route: Fort Stockton to Marfa, TX Map it.

Miles: 57

Record: Ryan Bingham, Mescalito

The world splits wide open here in West Texas—and the trio of towns along US Route 90 shows off an area steeped with an enduring mystique and charm. Drop in via 385 S if you’re headed from Fort Stockton, and pick up the route just outside of Marathon, known equally for the adobe-elegant, 1927-built Gage Hotel and the Texas equivalent to Ansel Adams, photographer James Evans. From there, head west toward Alpine, a railroad town home to the rancher go-to Big Bend Saddlery and the entry point to Big Bend National Park. Race the classic Sunset Limited train, visible from the highway, onward to tiny Marfa – former retreat of artist Donald Judd which now has cred with the international art crowd. 


Hank Word

Hank Word

OLD BLUES HIGHWAY

Route: Memphis, TN to Vicksburg, MS Map it.

Miles: 356

Record: Muddy Waters, Hoochie Coochie Man

The blues were born along this southbound stretch of fabled Highway 61. The two-lane ribbon runs its way through flat horizon Delta farmland and story-laden small towns, none more revered than Clarksdale. At the crossroads of 61 and 49, a trio of guitars marks the spot where Robert Johnson is said to have swapped his soul to the devil himself for a 12-bar style that would father what we know as the Blues. Pay homage by catching a set at Red’s Lounge or the New Roxy Theater. And farther south, stop off in Greenville for tamales and a Porterhouse at Doe’s Eat Place, a no-frills family steakhouse that lives in the pantheon of all-time American classics.


Apalachicola

Apalachicola

FLORIDA'S FORGOTTEN COAST

Route: Tallahassee to Mexico Beach, FL Map it.

Miles: 111

Record: Jimmy Buffett, Songs You Know By Heart

Leave the spring breakers behind and drift along the Forgotten Coast – a rural 80-ish-mile slice of Highway 98 lined with seafood shacks and fish camps, dappling nostalgia for simpler times in sun-baked old Florida. Head south from Tallahassee, sliding down to Alligator Point and Carrabelle and Apalachicola—a port city known for its robust fishing industry. Apalach’s other claim to fame? It’s the birthplace of the ice machine, invented and patented by hometown physician Dr. John Gorrie. Follow 30A along the St. Vincent Sound to Indian Pass Raw Bar for saltines and fat, tasty oysters, before rounding the Panhandle up toward Mexico Beach and its endless turquoise Gulf views. As you drive tune into a Southern Foodways Alliance oral history recorded over a decade ago with Tommy Ward of 13 Mile Oyster Company. His timeless stories of working the briny waters bring to life the historic “Mile” communities outside Apalachicola. 

Michael Janke

Michael Janke

BURR TRAIL ROAD

Route: Boulder to Bullfrog, UT Map it.

Miles: 73

Record: America, America

A testament to the Desert Southwest’s surrealist beauty, this Utah back route—which starts paved and ends up covering hard sand—is characterized by extreme switchback cuts and sandstone canyon views. Named after cattle-driving landowner John Burr, the path winds across the northern shoulder of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and exits out near Lake Powell. Photographers take note—time your trip to hit Long Canyon by mid-morning to best capture the sandstone’s orange glow. Need inspiration? Check out this motorcyclist's video capture


Jeff Turner

Jeff Turner

ANGELES CREST HIGHWAY

Route: Los Angeles to Joshua Tree, CA Map it.

Miles: 169

Record: The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Los Angelenos, here's your escape route. Dynamite and determination etched out the first attempts at a pass through the canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains back in the 1800s. Today, the winding two-lane road—a scenic, get-lost-for-a-while path to Joshua Tree—is readily accessible from La Canada Flintridge, offering an elevated alternative to LA’s parking lot pace. Cruise through Douglas firs and California walnut trees, then thank your lucky stars this eastbound stretch avoided the fate of being turned into a freeway.


Wayne Silver

Wayne Silver

MICHIGAN'S SHIPWRECK COAST

Route: Marquette to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI Map it.

Miles: 45

Record: Sufjan Stevens, Michigan and Aretha Franklin's Aretha Now

It’s a fatal mistake to underestimate the Great Lakes. Especially Superior, the largest of the five, which has laid claim to hundreds of shipwrecks, washing up broken vessels along the shoreline of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for as far back as men have dared to attempt the voyage. Yet Superior’s unpredictable violence also shapes some of the region’s most spectacular natural sights along the coastline drive. From Marquette, take M-28 eastbound to the Pictured Rocks—40-plus miles of sandstone cliffs sculpted over time into majestic caves, arches, and formations. And if feeling adventurous, continue the exploration through the peninsula's inner woodlands via 123 until you reach Whitefish Point, a gone-era lighthouse that still beacons all vessels entering and exiting Superior’s waters.   


Ben Roffer

Ben Roffer

NANTUCKET'S GREAT POINT

Route: Wauwinet Gatehouse to Great Point Light, Nantucket, MA Map it.

Miles: 4

Record: Sea Shanties, Rousing Songs from the Age of Sail

It’s worth every bit of maneuvering to make it to this barely-touched Nantucket beach, which requires first, having a 4x4 vehicle, and second, snagging an oversand vehicle permit from the gatehouse attendant. Bring friends to split the $65 day pass. Once you've covered those two bases, head over to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge (pronounced “co-skate-uh coat-oo”) for the four-mile dune bumble. Pro-tip: Lower the tires to 12 PSI and make sure to bring a shovel in case you get into the really soft stuff. And remember, this beach is beloved by conservationists, striped bass anglers and towel-toters alike, so be kind to her wavy grasses and skittery shorebirds. Before sunset, trek out to the Great Point Light, which beacons out from the northernmost point of the island despite having been rebuilt three times since its first inception in 1784.  


Hei Pei

Hei Pei

SMUGGLERS' NOTCH

Route: Route 108 from Stowe to Jeffersonville, VT

Miles: 17

Record: James Taylor, Greatest Hits Volume I and II

Pick up the narrow and twisting Route 108 in Stowe, and follow its ascent to the historic pass once used by fugitive slaves and Prohibition-era smugglers trying to reach Canada. Stop there for a hike through Smugglers’ Notch State Park, a network of trails with vistas stunning any time of year but particularly during autumn. (All important e-foliage tracker here.) Then, continue down the mountain to Jeffersonville, a base camp postcard town filled with local art galleries and vibey general stores such as Hanley’s. Note: This two-lane stretch is mostly impassable once winter hits, but come the springtime thaw, you’ll be able to maneuver the turns once again.


JT Wall

JT Wall

WHIDBEY ISLAND SCENIC WAY

Route: Seattle to Whidbey Island, WA, via Deception Pass State Park. Map it.

Miles: 126

Record: Pearl Jam, Live on Two Legs

From Seattle, head north on I-5 until you hit Burlington; then, hang a left onto state route 20, which, along with 525, comprises the only national designated Scenic Byway on an island in the entire country. This westward stretch, appropriately named the Whidbey Island Scenic Isle Way, gets increasingly picturesque from Fidalgo Island on. Skip the ferry—which early 20th century settlers used to summon by banging a saw with a mallet—and cross via car over Deception Pass Bridge, a heartstopping wonder spanning the Puget Sound and some of the most stunning landscape in the PAC Northwest. Fun fact: It cost more to repaint the bridge in 1983 than it did to build it in 1935, but you’ll never hear anyone who’s driven it complain.


THREE MORE FAVORITES

- Highway 1 in California. Nine out of 10 travelers hit SF and blaze an interstate trail inland towards Napa and Sonoma, missing out on the magical curves weaving through Mount Tam and Muir country, Bolinas, and Tomales Bay's dreamiest little roadside stopover, Nicks Cove

- Texas Hill Country, Ranch Rd 337. One of the famed "twisted sister" roads west of San Antonio, this wild flower trek passes through town charmers, Medina, Vanderpool, Leakey and Camp Wood, home a fresh-spring swimming hole that's secret to most. It's called the Quince, a few hundred yards off River Road. 

- Kebler Pass between Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado. Home to one of the largest Aspen groves in the world, County Road 12 is a mostly dirt-and-gravel road that shimmers a brilliant gold in September and October. Ten thousand feet never looked so gorgeous.