Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains road trip

You are currently viewing Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains road trip

Shift the bone-white beaches of Miami for forests as thick as they come in the Great Smoky Mountains. Adding to this epic itinerary, theme parks and historic cities beckon along the way.

Disclosure: All listings are independently selected. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more ›

Head north from Miami but detour inland for epic theme-park action in Orlando. Then continue on the boring but efficient Interstate 95 to explore the historic trio of Amelia Island, Savannah and Charleston.

Inspired by stirring stories, leave the coastline behind and drive west into the rising Appalachian Mountains. Asheville is a picture-perfect mountain town along the Blue Ridge Parkway with plenty in store.

Gatlinburg hugs Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s border and makes an ideal base for exploration. After checking in at your hotel, enter the park via the Sugarlands Visitor Center just south of town.

Map showing the scenic route from Miami to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Click for interactive mode.
  • Total distance: 998 mi / 1,606 km
  • Total driving time: 16 h 30 min

1. Miami, FL

Not ready to go quite yet? There’s no shortage of sights to enjoy in Miami before setting off for the Great Smoky Mountains.

Highlights:

  • South Beach – Discover Miami Beach’s most iconic neighborhood, making jaws drop with its Art Deco architecture, expensive cars, buzzing nightlife scene and, of course, glittering strip of sand.
  • Wynwood – Pick your favorite mural wandering around this influencer-loved enclave of former warehouses turned into art exhibitions.
  • Everglades – Join fellow nature lovers in the vast Everglades, filled with all from hungry alligators to exotic birds.
Car parked in front of vivid murals depicting strange characters in Wynwood, Miami
Take in Miami’s Wynwood.

2. Orlando, FL

236 mi (380 km) / 3 h 45 min

Sure, if you don’t care for theme parks, follow the coastline and continue directly to Amelia Island. Yet if you like theme parks, Orlando is a must on your Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains itinerary.

Highlights:

  • Disney World – Say hello to Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and all the others in what very well could be the happiest place on Earth.
  • Universal – Ride your way through your favorite movies and series, ranging from Harry Potter to The Simpsons.
  • LegoLand – Experience myriad lego-themed attractions built with the child in focus in Winter Haven, some-50 miles south of Orlando.
The red torii of Itsukushima Shrine at the Japan Pavilion of Disney World, Orlando
Marvel at Disney World, Orlando.

3. Amelia Island, FL

175 mi (282 km) / 2 h 45 min

When you cruise north on Interstate 95, it’s too easy to miss Amelia Island. Be sure to exit and drive 15 miles (24 km) east to find one of Florida’s most unique settings.

Highlights:

  • Fernandina Beach – Delve into 50 blocks of buildings dating from the 1800s to early 1900s where shopping, dining and culture brilliantly come together.
  • Fort Clinch State Park – Appreciate engaging Civil War history blended with Atlantic scenery involving all from undulating sand dunes to ancient oaks
  • Main Beach Park – Spread out a towel at Main Beach Park and enjoy some final sand under your feet before entering Georgia.
The sun setting over a bridge connecting Amelia Island to the mainland during sunset
Recharge on Amelia Island.

4. Savannah, GA

127 mi (204 km) / 2 h

Streets lined by antebellum homes, live oaks decorated with Spanish moss and European-like squares — the romance factor is high in Savannah. Let the car rest for a while as you tour the picturesque Savannah Historic District.

Highlights

  • Forsyth Park: Tick off the historic district’s crown jewel, defined by its moss-draped oaks and eye-popping Parisian-inspired fountain.
  • Savannah’s Waterfront: Relish Southern Hospitality as you sample the restaurants and bars along the pretty Savannah River.
  • Tybee Island: Relax like a local on Tybee Island, boasting a stunning beach complete with a historic black-and-white striped lighthouse.
Brick wall in Savannah Historic District, Georgia
Tour Savannah Historic District.

5. Charleston, SC

108 mi (174 km) / 2 h

While including Charleston adds 1.5 hours’ drive to the itinerary, the reward is big. This Lowcountry hub houses countless historic spots of national significance.

Highlights:

  • The Battery – Feel the breeze in your hair wandering along The Battery, a landmark seawall and promenade framed by imposing antebellum homes.
  • Fort Sumter – Sign up for a boat tour to the five-sided Fort Sumter, built on an artificial island in Charleston Harbor and known as the stage of the battle that began the Civil War.
  • Plantations – Marvel at one or several history-steeped plantations — Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place and Boone Hall are all top contenders.
The Battery lined by stately mansions to the right and Charleston Harbour to the left
Wander along The Battery.

6. Asheville, NC

267 mi (430 km) / 4 h 15 min

You’re finally up in the mountains. Let the mountain atmosphere wash over you as you explore Asheville.

Highlights:

  • Downtown Asheville – Celebrate in the vibrant Downtown Asheville, where the many farm-to-table eateries and local brews compete for your attention.
  • Biltmore Estate – Step into America’s largest privately-owned house, a Châteauesque-style masterpiece spanning 179,000 square feet on an 8,000-acre property.
  • Pinball Museum – Play addictive pinball machines and classic video games taking you back to the 1980s.
Couple walking through indoor mall in Asheville, North Carolina
Sightsee cordial Asheville.

7. Great Smoky Mountains, TN/NC

85 mi (137 km) / 1 h 45 min

Welcome to Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains’ charismatic gateway. Here, you find an impressive lineup of hotels, restaurants and attractions just a stone’s throw from the national park adventure.

Highlights:

  • Roaring Fork – Travel along the meandering 6-mile (10 km) one-way Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail to survey all from historic structures to cascading waterfalls.
  • Clingmans Dome – Ascend to the top of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at 6,643 feet (2,025 m), for epic vistas or, if it’s foggy (as it often is), at least some bragging rights.
  • Cades Cove – Complete your Smokies visit with a trip to Cades Cove, filled with human history and a thriving population of black bears.
People taking in the view from Clingmans Dome Observation tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Clingmans Dome — the top of the Smokies.

Where to stop on your way back from the Great Smoky Mountains

Returning from the Great Smoky Mountains to Miami? Consider changing things up by visiting these places on your way back down south.

  • Drink as much soda as you can at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, GA.
  • Feel sand between your toes on St. George Island, FL (beware: major detour).
  • Tube down the river in Ichetucknee Springs State Park near Gainesville, FL.

Where to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains

There are no places to stay inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park (bar the only-accessible-by-foot LeConte Lodge). However, Gatlinburg sits in the front row, providing comfy accommodation just minutes from the national park.

Embrace the island theme at the luxurious Margaritaville Resort. Highlights include the outdoor pool area, complete with a waterslide and splash pad, and multiple firepits contributing to the snug mountain vibe.

Or, stretch your budget by checking in at the rustic Marshall’s Creek Motel. These are simple rooms, but the cabin-like interiors are spot on for a Great Smoky Mountains stay.

Best time to go from Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is a four-season destination, and your experience will be shaped by the time you decide to visit.

Arrive in spring to enjoy average high temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s (16-26°C). Oh, and many of the park’s over 1,500 plant species burst into bloom now.

Summer is the hottest and busiest time in the Smokies. Expect days in the upper 80s (31°C) when you have to venture further from the pullouts and trailheads to find solitude.

Fall attracts swarms of leaf peepers, with the fall foliage season typically peaking in October. By November, it may feel like winter at higher elevations, while the mercury in Gatlinburg frequently hits the lower 60s (16°C) during daytime.

Winter is your best chance to experience a Great Smoky Mountains dressed in white. Although the average temperature reaches the low 50s (11°C) at lower elevations, most nights dip below freezing.

If you visit between late October and early May, keep in mind that some secondary park roads (including Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail and Clingmans Dome Road) may be closed. Check the seasonal road schedule for the latest updates.

White flowers blooming in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains in bloom.

Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains FAQ

How long is the Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains road trip?

This ultimate Miami to the Great Smoky Mountains drive is 998 miles (1,606 km) long, taking 16 h and 30 min excluding the time you need for the stops along the way.

Is it worth driving through the Great Smoky Mountains?

The Great Smoky Mountains has all from engaging human history and abundant wildlife to thick forests and rushing streams. Also with countless roadside overlooks, it offers a spectacular road trip experience.

Where do you enter the Great Smoky Mountains from Miami?

When you drive from Miami, the most convenient ways into Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the Gatlinburg entrance (as on this itinerary) and Cherokee entrance.

Sign up for our newsletter to get monthly updates.

Leave a Reply