The epic Washington DC to Miami road trip

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Fall in love with both the Atlantic coastline and American South on this epic Washington DC to Miami road trip. It takes you to everything from unspoiled beaches and islands to historic monuments and plantations. With such proportions, it’s a dream journey for beach lovers and history buffs alike.

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  • Total distance: 1,345 mi / 2,165 km
  • Total driving time: 24 h

1. Washington DC

The Washington DC to Miami road trip is about to leave the station. But if you’re not a capital resident, make sure to fit in time for DC sightseeing before departing.

Discover the National Mall

The National Mall is an unparalleled park in the heart of Washington DC. It presents monuments, memorials and museums of huge national significance.

In its east the US Capitol Building, with 365 iconic steps, is a must see. At the park’s western end the Lincoln Memorial is another mandatory spot.

Between the two the Washington Monument, shooting up towards the sky like nothing else, calls for your attention.

Also with celebrated museums, you can spend days exploring the National Mall before hitting the open roads on the Washington DC to Miami drive.

How about a lineup of the National Museum of Natural History, National Gallery of Art and National Museum of American History? That’s still just a few of the many top National Mall museums.

Wave at the White House

The White House is positioned at the northern end of the National Mall. It’s the home and workplace of the president of the United States.

You can admire the president’s home from two sides: North Lawn and South Lawn.

At North Lawn, and Pennsylvania Avenue, you get the closest views of the White House. The South Lawn, facing the National Mall, is larger and doesn’t offer as intimate views.

But regardless of north or south, waving at the White House, and possibly the president, is the perfect start to your Washington DC to Miami adventure.

Steps leading up to the white Capitol Building in Washington DC
The Capitol Building in Washington DC.

Route info: This Washington DC to Miami route, which goes for maximum scenery, now leads to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. But if you’re short on time, head straight south to Wilmington instead. Although you then miss out on the unique Outer Banks setting, it saves you 139 miles (224 km) and 3 hours.

2. Outer Banks, NC

  • Driving distance: 286 mi / 460 km
  • Driving time: 5.5 h

The first and longest drive on the entire DC to Miami itinerary takes you from the US’ political epicenter to endless sand dunes. Welcome to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, or as the locals say: the paradise on earth.

Many come for the beaches. The easy-going beaches are the Outer Banks’ main attractions. But this place far away from the hustle and bustle also is where American history has been made.

Unwind at Cape Hatteras

For coastal scenery the Outer Banks is an area hard to match. From the Virginia-North Carolina border down to the tip of Ocracoke Island there is an abundance of beaches, lighthouses and towns to check out.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, preserving a delicate portion of the Outer Banks, showcases it all. Its numbers speak for themselves:

  • 70+ miles (113 km) of soft coastline.
  • 7 sleepy towns.
  • 2 proud lighthouses.

The vast Cape Hatteras, where you always find your own space, is an appreciated break from reality. When you drive from Washington DC to Miami, it’s one of those treasured places off the beaten path.

Picture the first flight ever

If you thought the Outer Banks is just about beaches, think again. This stop has played a crucial role in the history of flight.

Wilbur and Orville Wright needed a sandy, windy and isolated area for their quest towards the first human flight. The Outer Banks ticked off all three criterias, and the rest is history.

December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers took the first powered, sustained and controller airplane flight ever.

Today the Wright Brothers National Memorial, at the Outer Banks spot where it once happened, celebrates the huge feat. Learn all there’s to know about the achievement, or just visualize the first flight ever.

More info: Where to stay in the OBX

Black-and-white striped Bodie Island Lighthouse pointing towards blue sky
Cape Hatteras’ Bodie Island Lighthouse.

3. Wilmington, NC

  • Driving distance: 235 mi / 378 km
  • Driving time: 4.5 h

The Washington DC to Florida drive is a journey through the American South. In Wilmington, on the Atlantic Ocean but slightly off the radar, you can’t miss that. The city boasts both rich history and southern charm.

Tour the historic Bellamy Mansion

Not many hours from Washington DC you already appear to be in the Deep South. Welcome to Wilmington Historic District, a delightful place to park your car.

Wilmington’s historic downtown area encompasses hundreds of historic buildings and sites. Around every corner there’s something interesting to explore.

But one place that stands out, where you need to stop for a while, is the Bellamy Mansion. It was built as the Civil War was about to unfold, and every inch of it has a story to tell.

Touring the Bellamy Mansion adds unique perspectives to a Wilmington visit.

A few blocks west of the Bellamy Mansion the calming Cape Fear River flows. Wilmington Riverwalk, dotted with restaurants and bars, is a great spot to recharge before the Washington DC to Miami road trip continues.

Let the beach bum loose at Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach offers a welcome contrast to the history-filled streets of Wilmington. Here, less than 10 miles (16 km) from Wilmington Historic District, you can live your best beach life.

Is there a sweeter combo than history and beaches?

The soft Wrightsville dunes are treasured by sunbathers, while its wild Atlantic waves attract surfers from far and wide.

At the island’s southern end you find its most iconic views. There the landmark Crystal Pier shoots out into the Atlantic Ocean, offering spectacular perspectives of the salty surroundings.

Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean
Crystal Pier on Wrightsville Beach.

Additional stop: South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach is an addition to the itinerary that appeals to the beach bum. Roughly halfway between Wilmington and Charleston the city is a hub for joy in the sand and sun.

4. Charleston, SC

  • Driving distance: 176 mi / 283 km
  • Driving time: 3.5 h

The coastal Lowcountry region presents a world of islands, rivers and antebellum homes. Its biggest component Charleston is for its appreciated characteristics often referred to as America’s favorite city.

Stroll the inviting Battery

Charleston Historic District is filled with history to such a degree that it appears like a huge open-air museum. One that also has a fun ambience.

Its foundation, providing safety for the city through centuries, is the Battery. The seawall, named for its Civil War artillery battery, carefully follows the southern shores of Charleston.

As the Battery also functions as a promenade, it’s a place where the past and present stunningly intersect.

The Battery is a meeting point for locals and visitors alike. On the historic promenade, surrounded by proud palm trees and colorful antebellum homes, it’s easy to see why Charleston is called America’s favorite city.

Enter eminent plantations

Several of the most renowned American plantations are located in the Charleston area. It’s truly a golden opportunity for the DC to Miami drive.

By Ashley River three historic plantations line up: Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place.

These plantations offer glimpses of a world that no longer exists. Some parts are delightful, while the darker plantation chapters make you shudder.

Prepare for a multifaceted experience.

Pastel-colored row houses in Charleston, South Carolina
Colorful Charleston buildings.

Additional stops: The Lowcountry is a road trip adventure on its own. Charleston and Savannah are the region’s two biggest cities, but there’s much more to explore in between. Impeccable additional stops as you road trip the Lowcountry include Hilton Head Island, Beaufort and Kiawah Island.

5. Savannah, GA

  • Driving distance: 107 mi / 172 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

Georgia’s Savannah welcomes you to the southern end of the Lowcountry. Its huge oaks, cozily covered in Spanish moss, and concentration of antebellum homes offer the perfect setting for a good old time.

Have a blast on River Street

Savannah, and the entire American South, is unique in the way it welcomes visitors. Its overwhelming warmth and kindness has a name: southern hospitality.

As you walk Savannah’s River Street, you can feel it on your skin. An inviting ambience radiates out from the many eateries and watering holes that line Savannah River.

Savannah’s waterfront is an excellent location for a night out.

But for quieter moments just stroll deeper into Savannah’s historic downtown. There the moss-covered oaks, antebellum homes and jaw-dropping monuments continue to show you a good time.

Learn at Fort Pulaski

Savannah is located upriver from the Atlantic Ocean. If you head east, towards the open ocean, you encounter several Lowcountry islands.

On one of them, Cockspur Island, Fort Pulaski impressively stands. The fort represents a turning point in American military history.

Fort Pulaski’s thick brick walls was thought to protect it from attacks. However, with revolutionary rifled artillery the Union managed to breach its wall an April’s day in 1862.

Learning about Fort Pulaski’s history is intriguing.

Still history isn’t this stop’s only draw. Fort Pulaski National Monument, covering most of Cockspur Island and the adjacent McQueens Island, also showcases prime Lowcountry nature.

Sunset by Savannah River in Downtown Savannah, where Georgia Queen, a historic riverboat, has docked
Sunset by Savannah River.

6. Amelia Island, FL

  • Driving distance: 127 mi / 204 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

It’s time to exit the highway just 10 miles (16 km) after crossing the Florida-Georgia state line. Amelia Island is a hidden treasure up in the very northeastern corner of Florida.

Explore Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach is the town on Amelia Island. It’s a unique place to celebrate that you have arrived in Florida.

Overlooking Amelia River, Fernandina Historic District holds more than 50 blocks from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The striking collection of Victorian-era structures is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Homes, businesses and churches form a complete downtown area that appears to have frozen in time.

Centre Street is its main hub of activiy. There restaurants, bars and shops offer timeless experiences. As you explore the area, you might ask yourself if this really is the 21st century.

Look back on Georgia

Fort Clinch State Park covers the northernmost part of Amelia Island. Above all the park is home to the well preserved Fort Clinch, another historic highlight on the itinerary.

The strategic position of Fort Clinch is apparent. Just across St. Mary’s River the neighboring Cumberland Island is Georgia territory.

Once upon a time the possession of Fort Clinch was crucial.

But if you paid attention during your Fort Pulaski stop, you might already know what eventually retired Fort Clinch. The two East Coast strongholds, one in Georgia and one in Florida, faced similar destinies.

View of blue sky dotted with clouds through the yellow and green canopy of a palm tree
Welcome to Florida.

Related: Bookmark our ultimate Florida guide too.

7. Orlando, FL

  • Driving distance: 175 mi / 282 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

Orlando is the undisputed theme park capital. So if you’re up for some theme park fun, make sure to include the Central Florida city on your Washington DC to Miami road trip.

Make dreams come true at Disney

Disney World has provided entertainment to Orlando visitors since 1971. It’s a complex that has become both an Orlando and Florida symbol.

Here meet and greets make dreams come true every day. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck are just a few of the many favorite characters who welcome you to the magical world of Disney.

Disney World is the ultimate stop on a family road trip, at least if you ask the kiddos.

But it’s not only a happy place for younger roadtrippers. With four different theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, there’s something for everyone at Disney.

More info: Where to stay in Orlando

Characters holding hands at Disney World in Orlando, FL
Dreams come true at Disney World.

8. Miami, FL

  • Driving distance: 239 mi / 384 km
  • Driving time: 3.5 h

Well done, the final 239 miles (384 km) finishes the epic Washington DC to Miami road trip. Down in South Florida, the fun continues with the best things to do in Miami and beyond.
Vivid mural in Wynwood, Miami, depicting a shirt with the text "Miami" on the front
Wynwood mural.

Road trip from Washington DC to Miami FAQ

How long does it take to drive the road trip from Washington DC to Miami?

This ultimate Washington DC to Miami road trip is 1,345 miles (2,165 km) long. Driving it takes roughly 24 hours, not including any stops along the way.

If you just take the quickest route from Washington DC to Miami, the drive is 1,057 miles (1,701 km) and 16 hours. But then you miss out on a lot of the coastal scenery along the way.

A middle course is to save the Outer Banks for another time. That cut, which means that you go directly from DC to Wilmington, alone saves you 139 miles (224 km) and 3 hours.

Where should I stop between Washington DC and Florida?

The main stops included on the road trip from Washington DC to Florida are DC, Outer Banks, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Amelia Island, Orlando and Miami. Additional destinations along the route include Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island,

How many days do I need to take the Washington DC to Miami road trip?

With so much to see along the way the Washington DC to Miami road trip is one that deserves a significant amount of time. Just Charleston and Savannah deserve at least a couple of days each. So for the full itinerary, it’s wise to allow at least 10 days, but preferably more.

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