This van-supported grand tour of the Atlantic Coast leads past battlefields of the American Revolution and the Civil War, through our country’s earliest European settlements, and to the doorstep of the homes of two of our most accomplished presidents. We’ll also trace the history of flight, from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina — where a pair of bicycle builders known as the Wright Brothers first put wing to air in 1903 — to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Here, on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 launch took place, and four days later the spaceship landed on the moon.
But we’ll remain down to Earth for this terrific ride. Going from Key West, Florida, to the Canadian border in Calais, Maine, the Atlantic Coast Route will take us through the best of the East, a spectrum of beauty that is often subtle but at other times eye-popping. This tour is a history lesson on the go, where the past comes to life in dynamic ways.
"Let me start by saying that I would not have been in the mountains on my bike were it not for ACA. Our tour leaders were exemplary. This tour was a significant life experience for me, one that I am sure I will use as a springboard to more tours, opening possibilities that I had previously not considered."
Week 1. Key West to Fort Lauderdale, Florida
We'll meet for our adventure in Key West, Florida where Jimmy Buffet tunes will come to mind as we search for Margaritaville in the Florida Keys, that pearl-necklace string of some 1,700 islands whose "bottom" marks the southernmost point in the contiguous U.S. Each of the Keys offers its own information center with listings of local happenings and attractions. Starting at milepost 0 of U.S. Route 1, we will ride along many of the them: Key West, Big Pine Key, Marathon, Islamorada, and Key Largo. We will finish the week riding to Ft. Lauderdale.
Week 2. Fort Lauderdale to Fernandina Beach, Florida
We'll start the week in Fort Lauderdale, famous among spring breakers of yore and for an extensive canal system that's earned it the moniker "the Venice of America." From here on north, the route alternates between urban and suburban conditions. We'll no doubt detect the roar of stock cars as we pass through the Daytona Beach vicinity, birthplace of NASCAR. We'll also spend an overnight stay in Bellwood, located just six miles from the Kennedy Space Center.
We'll enjoy a layover day in the oldest continually occupied European-settled city in the U.S., St. Augustine. Continuing our self-powered journey through the past and present, we'll skirt around the congestion of Jacksonville and head to Fernandina Beach.
Week 3. Fernandina Beach to Charleston, South Carolina
After leaving the beautiful state of Florida and pedaling into Georgia, we'll pass through Brunswick, the "shrimp capital of the world" and enjoy crossing over the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, known for it's premier waterfowl viewing. Following great coastal riding, passing through the heart of Savannah's historic district and crossing into South Carolina at the Savannah Wildlife Refuge - keeping an eye out for alligators, otters and even bobcats. Passing over the Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater stream in North America, we will end the week in Charleston.
Week 4. Charleston to Ocracoke, North Carolina
We'll start this week with a well deserved layover day in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the most hospitable and beautiful cities in the South. Highlights include the wonderful parade of antebellum homes lining Battery Park, and Fort Sumter National Monument, where the first shots of the Civil War resounded on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on the federal fort located in Charleston Harbor. After a ride through some farms and swamps, it's out to the coast, traveling through the famous Myrtle Beach and onwards to Surf City which boasts the most unspoiled and uncrowded beaches on the entire East Coast. Continuing north we will take the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and explore the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Week 5. Ocracoke to Fredericksburg, Virginia
We'll take a layover day in Kitty Hawk, where we can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The subsequent ride along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a sandscape that is constantly changing due the action of wind and waves, is one you will long remember. Before we know it, we will leave coastal North Carolina and the blustery Outer Banks, heading inland to farm country and one of the oldest working farms in America; Chippokes Plantation State Park. Taking the ferry across the James River you will think we have landed in colonial America as we ride through historic Jamestown and Williamsburg. We end the week as we begin to leave the geographic "South," making our way towards Fredericksburg, where we have our first brush with a major Civil War battlefield.
Week 6. Fredericksburg to Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
Moving toward our nation's capital, we will travel along a well-utilized bike path southward to Washington's Mount Vernon, where George Washington resided until his death in 1799. We will take a layover day to visit the National Mall and other famous sites throughout the Washington DC area. Traveling across Maryland and Pennsylvania, we will traverse Amish country, undoubtedly sharing the roads with horse-drawn buggies as we make our way towards Philadelphia. We'll also visit evocative Valley Forge National Historical Park, where Washington built his Continental Army into a fighting force over the winter of 1777–78 despite ravaging cold, hunger, and disease. According to the National Park Service, the 3,600-acre park "commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability of citizens to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times."
Week 7. Conshohocken to Stafford Springs, Connecticut
In Philadelphia, we will have a chance to visit sites and attractions like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center on a rest day. We'll depart the City of Brotherly Love and ride into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area -- the Middle Delaware River makes a run of some 40 miles through a hill country so wild that it might take you by surprise. After riding through a gorgeous stretch of New Jersey along the Delaware River, we will enter Port Jervis, New York, and on to Hyde Park, New York, with a visit to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site. Roosevelt once famously said, "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River." And when you see that home, known as Springwood, and its setting, you will understand why he felt this way. Leaving the cities behind, we will enjoy the beautiful hilly rural scenery of northwest Connecticut, ending our week in Stafford Springs.
Week 8. Stafford Springs to Freeport, Maine
The start of our final two weeks finds us threading our way through the heart of (very) hilly New England by way of Connecticut and Rhode Island, visiting wall-calendar-worthy villages like Thompson and Pleasant Valley. You will shout, "the British are coming, the British are coming!" as you ride your way into colonial America and the Minuteman National Historical Park, situated between Lexington and Concord, where the opening battle of the American Revolution is brought to life through exhibits and reenactments. We'll enjoy a layover day in Boston where we'll have a chance to explore the city known for great things like Fenway Park, the bar from Cheers, or take the opportunity to walk the Freedom Trail that visits 16 landmarks in 2.5 miles. Traveling through New Hampshire and into Maine we will stop at Wells -- founded in 1643, it is one of the state's oldest communities. We'll pass by Portland, well known for its fabulous eateries, before wrapping up our penultimate week in Freeport.
Week 9. Freeport to Calais, Maine
You will be asking yourself, "Where did the weeks go?" as we pedal up the Eastern Seaboard coast of the Pine Tree State. We'll pass through larger towns like Brunswick and Bath before hitting the smaller coastal towns like Damariscotta and Camden. Bar Harbor is our next stop, with the possibility of a ride along the old carriage paths webbing Acadia National Park or a great hiking to the top of a coastal mountain. Finally, we end our long journey on the Canadian border in the town of Calais, pronounced callous. We will celebrate our newfound friendships and accomplishments with a great dinner and restful night before we shuttle back to Portland, Maine, and depart each other's company. Job well done!