Atlantic Coast

Atlantic Coast
Bar Harbor, ME to Key West, FL
7 Map Set (2615.0 mi.)
GPS | Overview | Buy
1. Bar Harbor, ME to Windsor Locks, CT (439 mi.) Detail |Addenda
2. Windsor Locks, CT to Conshohocken, PA (293 mi.) Detail |Addenda
3. Conshohocken, PA to Richmond, VA (389.5 mi.) Detail |Addenda
4. Richmond, VA to Wilmington, NC (382.5 mi.) Detail |Addenda
5. Wilmington, NC to Statesboro, GA (348.5 mi.) Detail |Addenda
6. Statesboro, GA to St. Augustine, FL (259 mi.) Detail |Addenda
7. St. Augustine, FL to Key West, FL (511.5 mi.) Detail |Addenda

History heaven

The northern sections of the Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route are excellent for history buffs, as you'll discover sites dating back to the early days of the United States and beyond.

In the Northeast, you'll enjoy the flavor of quiet Maine coastal towns, New England villages, the rural countryside, and bucolic Amish farmlands. Once you cross the Mason-Dixon Line, which is the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, you'll ride into the South and get some exposure to Civil War history by visiting the battlefields at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the city of Richmond, Virginia. Spurs lead into the various larger cities along this route. A lack of road signs can make parts of this route challenging.

Starting in the tourist town of Bar Harbor, Maine, on Mt. Desert Island, you'll bike out of town through Acadia National Park and then along occasional back roads situated near the coast. Allow some time to savor the quintessential ambiance of the coastal towns. After crossing the Penobscot River, stray off route to visit Ft. Knox, an exceptionally well-preserved unused Revolutionary War fort. Only a small portion of the route is along the Atlantic's edge in Maine. More New England beauty will be enjoyed as you head south through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In Massachusetts you can take a 30-mile spur into Boston. You'll see charming, picturesque towns that you might find on your wall calender. As you bike through New York, you'll pass through scenic farmland. The route along the Hudson River has several sites of historic significance.

Entering New Jersey, you'll ride through one of the best areas in the state for bicycling as you travel along the Delaware River. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is particularly beautiful and gives an other-world meaning to typical images that people have of New Jersey. At Lambertville, another spur extends eastward to Summit, New Jersey, where you can take a train into New York City. The main route heads west into Pennsylvania through productive farms and many hills. Downtown Philadelphia is a short distance from the route via the Schuylkill River Bike Path. You'll ride through Valley Forge National Historic Park, then enter Amish country, where "old-style" living includes horses and buggies. The route swings west around the outskirts of Baltimore, and you can take the alternate through the city if you prefer. There are more farms in northern Maryland, which will turn into suburban sprawl as you reach the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Congestion increases tremendously north of Washington, D.C. Bike paths through Rock Creek Park take you to the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River. After crossing the Potomoc, you'll ride another beautiful bike path to Mount Vernon, George Washington's residence from 1754 until his death. Then there are more urban areas in expanding northern Virginia, some quiet country roads, and increasing urbanization as you approach Richmond.

As you head southbound, you are afforded the opportunity to discover the Deep South and travel through back-road farmlands and swamps. In the South, you'll pass Baptist churches and develop a sense for that "old-time religion." In contrast, you'll eventually pass through some highly developed areas in Florida to which throngs of tourists flock and where many people have retired. There are numerous wildlife refuges to see and hike through.

Leaving Richmond, you'll head south through the farmlands of Virginia and encounter some swamps when crossing into North Carolina. If you choose to ride the Outer Banks Alternate, you'll have a treat biking along the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Oceanas well as see tools utilized by the famous Wright Brothers in their bicycle shop. Expect high temperatures and humid conditions in the summer, though beach riding will be tempered by ocean breezes. The winds can be strong (that's why the Wright Brothers flew their first plane there), and sand may blow onto the road. In the Outer Banks, there are two ferry rides, one of which is 2-1/4 hours long.

Riding southward, you'll encounter the busy city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and take another ferry ride into Southport. You'll pass through farmlands and swamps, and see the devastation in the Francis Marion National Forest left by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. There's a 39-mile spur into historic Charleston, once described as "an 18th-century painting come to life."

Heading into Georgia, there are more farms and swamps. The 60-mile Savannah Spur will take you into this charming city, which has one of the largest national historic landmark districts in the United States. The best swamp of all, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, is four miles off route on the Okefenokee Alternate. It is one of the largest and most primitive swamps remaining in the nation. There you can see numerous alligators of all sizes, stroll on boardwalks over the marshes, and take a boat ride through the swamp. As you cross into Florida, you can see some timber plantations with signs indicating when the trees were harvested, replanted, and expect to be harvested again.

As you continue south, you'll skirt around the northeast corner of Jacksonville, Florida, and begin to see the waterfront homes of retirees. Then it's beach riding along the Atlantic Ocean to St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States, which displays distinctive Spanish architecture. Starting in St. Augustine, the route alternates between urban and suburban conditions most of the way down the coast through Miami. Florida has an extensive though sometimes confusing network of bicycling facilities ranging from 2 foot bike lanes or shoulders to separated bike paths and sidewalks. For some stretches it will be better to use the sidewalk rather than the road while in highly trafficked beach areas, the sidewalks will be pedestrian use only. The approach to often nearly invisible short bridges are usually marked with "frogs", "buttons", "turtles", "slugs" or rumble strips.

Take advantage of the opportunities to enjoy the numerous beach accesses. County parks often include such amenities as picnic tables, cold water, showers and toilets and are inexpensive or free to cyclists. State Highway A1A will change names many times on its journey along the coast. This is especially true as it nears Miami. Often it is located adjacent to an aquatic preserve or wildlife refuge offering bird watching as well. South of Jupiter, campgrounds for tenting are almost nonexistent until south of Miami.

Leaving Florida City on U.S. 1, you begin a 20-mile ride with no services, potentially heavy traffic and abundant crocodile sightings. If you see what appears to be a green couch along the road, it's probably not! Always give crocs a wide berth, and be ready to sprint if necessary. Crocodiles can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour for very short distances. On the road to Key West the roadways have generous shoulders, though we recommend using the bike paths. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this section and have your camera at the ready. As you cross the many old bridges there are multiple occasions to stop and take in the scenery. Each of the Keys offers their own information center with local knowledge of available activities. If you wish to stay at one of the Bahia Honda State Park campsites, make reservations early. For those who don't wish to reverse their route back across the Keys, a loop route can be created by taking a ferry from Key West to Fort Myers Beach where it is possible to join the Florida Connector and return to Fort Lauderdale. Space is limited on the ferries, so when you make your reservations, be sure to let them know in advance that you have a bike.

Photo by Tom Robertson

The Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route is one of the more challenging routes that Adventure Cycling has to offer, as it has many hilly areas where granny gears are needed to negotiate the steep climbs. Northwestern Connecticut, the Susquehanna River area in Pennsylvania, and the country roads north of Richmond are extremely hilly. But you do have some easy riding to compensate, such as when biking the paths along the Potomac River in Virginia. While there is some hill climbing upon leaving Richmond, Virginia, generally the terrain is either rolling or flat through the southern states of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

This route can be ridden from late spring to mid-fall in the north, and all year around in the south. Expect high temperatures and humid conditions during the summer. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns. Be aware that hurricanes can occur from June through November along the Atlantic Seaboard and can close roads and services along the Outer Banks Alternate on Section 4.

Services are generally plentiful along the route. Some spur routes, such as the ones into Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, can take you into large cities for whatever you may desire. People who like to camp won't find any campgrounds in Maryland unless they do the Chesapeake Bay Alternate through Baltimore. Some cyclists may want to do the northern portions of this route during the colors of autumn. If you do, call ahead to verify campground availability because many close after Labor Day. If staying indoors, make advance reservations.

Services can be scarce in the suburban/residential areas of Florida. If camping on the Outer Banks, it can sometimes be blustery at night. There are no bike shops between Southport, North Carolina, and Statesboro, Georgia, unless you go into Charleston, South Carolina. In Florida, almost everything else you encounter, including food, will be more expensive due to the tourist nature of the beach communities. Reservations for camping and hotel accommodations are highly recommended year-round.

Some campgrounds will charge a cyclist traveling by himself less if they have hiker/biker sites, but often they will charge the price of a regular tent site, and that can easily be $10-$40/night. The maps list churches that have opened their doors to cyclists, but they aren't all that closely spaced. If you're friendly and ask around, you can often get yourself invited to camp in a yard. Our routes sometimes go through national forests (moreso in the west) and you are allowed to camp anywhere on national forest land as long as you "pack it in, pack it out." Many city parks are free to camp in.

You may also wish to sign up with Warmshowers, a reciprocal hospitality site for bicycle travelers, for other overnight options.

  • Acadia National Park, Section 1
  • Boston Spur, Section 1
  • Eleanor and F.D. Roosevelt National Historic Sites, Section 2
  • Delaware Water National Recreation Area, Section 2
  • New York City Spur, Section 2
  • Philadelphia Spur, Section 2
  • Valley Forge National Historic Park, Section 3
  • Baltimore, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Alternate, Section 3
  • Washington, D.C., Section 3
  • Mt. Vernon, home of President Thomas Jefferson, Section 3
  • Fredericksburg Spotsylvania National Military Park, Section 3
  • Williamsburg, Virginia, Section 4
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park, Section 4
  • Colonial National Historical Park, Section 4
  • Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Outer Banks Alternate, Section 4
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area, Outer Banks Alternate, Section 4
  • USS N.C. Battleship Memorial, Section 5
  • Charleston (South Carolina) Spur, Section 5
  • Savannah (Georgia) Spur, Section 6
  • Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee Alternate, Section 6
  • St. Augustine, Florida, Section 6
  • Kennedy Space Center, Section 7
  • Miami, Florida, Section 7
  • Key West, Florida, Section 7

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