You could easily spend a few days exploring the many scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and picnic spots along Skyline Dr in the Blue Ridge Mountains © Rob IJsselstein / Shutterstock
From the mountains to the coast – with miles of rolling countryside, small towns and vibrant cities in between – Virginia offers a wealth of lovely landscapes to explore.
The commonwealth is fairly compact and crisscrossed by major interstates, making it ideal for day trippers. Whether you have just a few hours or a free weekend to fill, here are some of the best road trips in Virginia.
Enjoy stunning mountain vistas on Blue Ridge Mountain scenic roadways
Front Royal to Roanoke; 225 miles
Searching for breathtaking mountain vistas? Two renowned Virginia roadways were literally designed for pleasure drives: the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Dr. Both roads wind through the Blue Ridge Mountains, meeting at Afton Mountain at Interstate 64: Skyline Dr goes north through Shenandoah National Park, while the Blue Ridge Parkway goes south all the way into North Carolina. (The Parkway is free; there is a $30 entrance fee for vehicles to use Skyline Dr.)
Both roads encourage leisurely drives, with speed limits ranging from 25 to 35 miles per hour. You could easily spend a few days exploring the many scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and picnic spots along the way, stopping for the night in nearby towns like Staunton, Lexington and Bedford.
The Blue Ridge Parkway during fall must count as one of the most beautiful drives in the US © Anton Ermachkov / Shutterstock
Sip fine reds and whites (and bring a designated driver) on the Monticello Wine Trail
Barboursville to North Garden; 32 miles
With more than 300 wineries scattered across Virginia, you’re never far from a tasting room. There are dozens of wine trails to explore, but our favorites might be the Monticello Wine Trail. Situated among the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this pastoral region is known as the birthplace of American wine. You’ll find 40 wineries in the compact area surrounding Charlottesville, most of them inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of winemaking. Pippin Hill, Barboursville, Veritas, Keswick and King Family Vineyards are just a few of the many standouts. Download the Monticello Wine Trail Passport to track your progress, and claim a free wine glass after visiting 10 wineries.
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Travel back in time on the Colonial Parkway
Yorktown to Jamestown; 23 miles
Explore Virginia’s rich colonial heritage with a tranquil drive on Virginia’s short but sweet Colonial Parkway. The 23-mile drive connects the towns of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown – also known as the commonwealth’s “historic triangle.” The route is free of commercial development, meaning drivers (and cyclists) can enjoy unobstructed views of habitats ranging from coastal woodlands and tidal channels to marshes, ponds and rivers. Along the way, visit the site of America’s first permanent English colony at Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown Battlefield. Plan to stop for a meal or an overnight in Williamsburg, where the quaint historic district is packed with restaurants, hotels and shops. And if you need a break from all that history, the Colonial Parkway also takes you conveniently close to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.
The Northern Neck has charming fishing villages, nature trails, pristine shoreline – and plenty of oysters © Ariel Skelley / Getty Images
Slurp Chesapeake Bay oysters along the Northern Neck
White Stone to Colonial Beach; 66 miles
For landlocked Virginians seeking a waterfront escape with a side of oysters, the Northern Neck is a bit of a hidden gem that’s typically quieter and less crowded than the coast. Part of Virginia’s River Realm, where the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers meet the Chesapeake Bay, the Northern Neck peninsula is peppered with charming fishing villages, historical sites, nature trails and pristine shoreline.
An easy road trip from both Richmond and DC, it’s the perfect place for getting lost on scenic back roads – although you may want to bring an actual map in case you lose cell service. Some must-dos for your itinerary: slurping oysters beside the water at Fish Hawk Oyster Bar at the Tides Inn, sipping wine at Dog & Oyster Vineyard in Irvington and hunting for ancient shark’s teeth at Westmoreland State Park.
Escape the DC hustle on the Georgetown Pike and George Washington Memorial Parkway
Mount Vernon to Great Falls; 37 miles
One of the most popular road trips from DC and Northern Virginia, the Georgetown Pike and George Washington Memorial Parkway are two scenic roads just outside of the nation’s capital. The Georgetown Pike, which begins in the town of Great Falls, was in fact Virginia’s first scenic byway. The George Washington Memorial Parkway is managed by the National Park Service and was developed as a memorial to the country’s first president. Winding through dense woodlands and alongside the Potomac River, this route will take you through sites like Riverbend Park, Great Falls Park, Arlington National Cemetery, Lady Bird Johnson Park, Old Town Alexandria, River Farm and Mount Vernon.
Driving down Virginia’s Eastern Shore, you’ll likely encounter Assateague Island’s famous wild ponies © Kevin Fleming / Getty Images
Go from beach to beach along Virginia’s Eastern Shore
Norfolk to Chincoteague; 112 miles
A little sliver of Virginia floating between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Eastern Shore is a wild stretch of coastline dotted with charming towns and abundant farmland. Start your drive in Norfolk, where you’ll hop on the 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel – known as one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, US Rte 13 will take you all the way up the Shore, with quick and easy detours along the way.
Be sure to stop by Kiptopeke State Park for beachcombing and kayaking, then swing by the historic town of Cape Charles for fresh-caught seafood at The Shanty before a walk on the public pier or Bay beach. A bit farther up the road, Onancock is a good stop for coffee and shopping. Then wrap up your road trip in Chincoteague and Assateague, where you can cap off your journey by admiring the island’s famous wild ponies.