5 must visit destinations on the East coast for West coast visitors

Lubec, ME - West Quoddy light sits on the shores of Maine and is the easternmost point in the United States.
Lubec, ME - West Quoddy light sits on the shores of Maine and is the easternmost point in the United States. /

Making a cross-country trip from one coast to another can trying. In fact, traveling to the East coast from the West coast could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The question you have to answer is what places do you need to see and what should you skip?

No one wants to go home and say, “I should have gone and visited pace X”. Travel regrets happen all the time. A few years back my family took a northern East coast trip to Maine. We hit a lot of the places on our list but honestly, we didn’t cross into Vermont and now, we look back and wonder why the state is blank on our RV sticker map.

I have some friends on the West coast and we often talk about making the trip across the state. Assuming you would fly, which would buy you a lot more time to spend on your trip, where should you go? Today, we are going to look at the Eastern United States and see what five destinations should be the absolute must-see trip.

While it is not entirely impossible and a lot easier to do on the west coast, traveling from upper Maine to Key West will take you quite a long time. We are going to assume you have a two-week travel itinerary and that everything on the coast is open and ready for your enjoyment.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 30: A view of the Manhattan Skyline as seen from Battle Hill, the highest natural point in Brooklyn as Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn hosts the first Flashlight Tour since February on the day before Halloween on October 30, 2020 in New York City. Many Halloween events have been canceled or adjusted with additional safety measures due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images) /

New York City

You can say you have been to San Francisco, L.A., or San Diego. Heck, you can say you have been to Seattle but you have not been to NYC and frankly, you need more than a few days to really dive in and enjoy it.

NYC is a must-see even if you are simply going to skip the city altogether and just drive through. There are very few places in the U.S. that are as awe-inspiring as the NYC skyline and if you are traveling along I95 you won’t miss it.

If you have time to stay in NYC for a few days, anything you do will be rewarding but know this, you will have a lot of regrets if NYC is a couple of days on your itinerary. Why? You can’t see or experience all of it in a few days.

Gloucester, Ma.
Fishing vessels are docked by Fisherman’s Wharf in Gloucester, Ma. /

Boston, Massachusetts

I wasn’t sure if I should include Boston on this list but to be honest, you almost can’t make an East coast trip without stopping. Boston is historically incredible and if you even have a couple of days to spend, you won’t be disappointed.

A Mayflower replica is in the Boston Harbor, the Old North Church still stands, and you follow the ride of Paul Revere and visit historic early homes that predate the revolution. Slightly to the north of the city, you can visit Salem, famous for the witch trials. A little further you have to drive out to Gloucester and view the quaint fishing community.

Boston also has a great aquarium and so much more to offer including some of the best East coast cuisines you will find.

Cadillac Mountain
The town of Bar Harbor, Maine sits along the coast below Cadillac Mountain. /


Take your pick. From Portland to West Quoddy and Lupec, Maine is probably the most beautiful state you can see without ever getting off the highway. The state boasts high cliff overlooks in the north and some of the best damn lobster rolls you will ever have in your life.

Inland, you can visit the mountains and the evergreens forests that smell like Christmas trees through your car window. If you are lucky, you can see a moose. From the town of Bar Harbor, you can charter a tour to see puffins on an island off-shore.

Maine is an amazing state but not so much in the winter months for obvious reasons.

Washington monument
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 07: The U.S. Marine Corp’s Iwo Jima Memorial can be seen as the morning sun begins to rise behind the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument on November 7, 2020 in Arlington, VA. With many critical battleground states still not announcing the results of their vote count, the presidential election is still too close to call. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images) /

Washington D.C.

This is a throwaway of course. If you are planning an East coast trip from the west, Washington, D.C. has to be on your list and as the cities before this, a day isn’t going to get it done.

If you have only one day, Washington provides a great opportunity to simply “drive-through” You don’t have to get out of your car to enjoy D.C. if you are crunched for time. The Washington Monument and Capitol Building can all be seen by vehicle. You Lincoln Memorial can be seen but you can park nearby and walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial in under an hour, be back on the road for your next stop.

D.C. is a lot of fun if you have the time to explore the museums, walk to the White House, and take in the nation’s history. But again, if time is slipping away, driving through is something you have to do. While in D.C., check your schedule to see what kind of time you have remaining. Williamsburg, Va., and Jamestown, Va. is really where this country got started and it is a quick trip you can make as you head south.

The South

Much like on the West Coast, the East coast is a split of culture and everything changes quite a bit the further south you go from Washington, D.C. Is there one place that you should go to before any other? I did say I was going to give you five places to go, so I owe you one more.

I have spent most of my life in the southeastern parts of the U.S. and I tend to visit northward more often than not. That being said, I love the southeast of the states.

Unlike California and the west coast, there is now U.S. route 1 to take along the coast. Here, you have to reach the outer islands by ferry and yes, you can take your car on the ferry boats. I often wonder if I would recommend the Outer Banks to a visitor from the west. There are beautiful beaches and a lot of lighthouses, some historical markers like Kitty Hawk and Cape Hatteras but is it a “must-see”? That, like all of this, is subjective to the traveler.

Key West
KEY WEST, FLORIDA – MARCH 25: The Southernmost Point Buoy is seen as the city government takes steps to fight the coronavirus outbreak on March 25, 2020 in Key West, Florida. Most tourists have left Key West as the city closed hotels or short-term vacation rentals and asked restaurants to only serve take-out. Beaches and parks have been closed and starting Friday non-residents may not enter without proof of employment or property ownership in the Florida Keys as city officials attempt to contain COVID-19. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) /

For my money, I’m heading all the way south and visiting the Everglades National Park and then onward for another three hours to Key West. You are on the East Coast shouldn’t you visit the southernmost point in the entire country? If you went to Maine, you likely visited the easternmost point in the U.S.

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You can’t go wrong either way and if the drive leaves you with some time, there are plenty of attractions along the coast to warrant getting off the highway. A stop in Miami to see Biscayne Bay may be worth a nice overnight rest or perhaps a day at Disney World instead of Disneyland.

I suppose looking back at all this, there is so many things to do that whatever you decide, can’t be a mistake. If it’s a history you want to take, then Philadelphia, Boston, Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, and New York City should be your list. Still, what a trip it would be.