East Coast Road Trip
If you’re looking to hit the road, try an East Coast road trip! The East Coast is a fabulous destination with an endless list of places to explore. From historic cities to quaint little beachside towns, we promise you won’t have time to get bored.
East, West—what’s best?
While the West Coast is known for its sheer beauty and natural sights, the East Coast will seduce you thanks to its rich history and culture, with dynamic places that have something to offer for everyone. Sure, you can travel from coast to coast, but, keep in mind the size of the country. Bus rides through the middle of the US can stretch 15 to 20 hours or even longer. If you have limited time (or patience!), it’s a safer bet to choose one region and explore it more thoroughly. The following road trip itinerary focuses on the East Coast of the United States.
Consider Going on Your East Coast Road Trip by Bus
Why? The reasons are numerous! Traveling by bus lets you leave the “how are we getting there” part of the planning to the experts, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Companies like BoltBus and FlixBus have established many routes across the country and are popular with students and budget travelers, while Greyhound, the biggest bus company in the country, has a combination of bus lines that makes it possible to go nearly anywhere. Plus:
- Taking the bus is cheaper than renting a car and paying for gas.
- It will give you the freedom of not having to find parking or pay outrageous parking prices.
- If you get stuck in traffic, you can read, listen to music, play games, and even catch up on work.
- Another bus travel perk: it’s more eco-friendly than taking the car.
East Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Now, the great thing about opting for an East Coast Road Trip is that it is possible to do a bus road trip for North to South or South to North in 12 days to over a month, depending on your itinerary. To help you kick off your road trip, we’ve put together a list of main stops with optional stops or day trips along the way. We know that mapping out a road trip can be intimidating, especially when planning to travel long distances. There are many things to see, and you don’t necessarily know where to stop or how much time to spend in each city you visit! Follow this itinerary to the letter or pick and choose what works best for you depending on your timeline, budget, and interests.
Now, let’s hit the road!
1. Visit Boston to kick off your East Coast Road Trip
If you’re heading South, a good starting point is Boston, Massachusetts. This historical city was founded in 1629 and is one of the oldest, biggest, and most interesting cities in the country. Not to mention that it has multiple bus connexions down the East Coast. It’s the largest city in New England, an educational powerhouse, and a pivotal player in American History and also a beautiful and engaging city with tons for tourists to do, see, and experience.
Why visit Boston?
Boston has excellent public transportation, which extends to the neighboring cities of Cambridge and Brookline. So, if you’re traveling around Boston, you can visit the three cities as one large metropolis. Boston is also a fabulous place for sports fans and is home to many awesome bars and food markets.
How much time should you spend in Boston?
We suggest spending two or three days in Boston.
Things to do in Boston
Spend a day following the Freedom Trail through downtown Boston to hit up most of the historical sites all in one go, including Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, and Paul Revere’s home.
- Check out the Boston Freedom Trail – a man-made path with sixteen historical sites focused on the American revolution, spread out across the city.
- Boston Common, also known as “the Common”, is the oldest city park in the US, founded in 1634. The park is filled with public artworks commemorating its 385 years of history. You can also play tennis or baseball or relax by its lovely frog pond.
- Faneuil Hall is Boston’s waterfront marketplace comprised of three historic buildings.
- The Paul Revere House, built in 1680, was the colonial house of American patriot, Paul Revere. It now holds various exhibits about Revere’s life, Boston’s history and a museum gift shop with various crafts, ornaments, and gifts.
Another great activity to do in Boston is to visit the Quincy Market. Set up in a fantastic building, the market boasts fresh food stalls, serving anything and everything from pan-Asian cuisine to vegan delights. You might also want to stop by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to browse the current exhibit, or if you’re more of a sports buff, head to Fenway Park to catch a baseball game. Check out our full Boston Travel guide for more inspiration on things to do while you’re in there.
Insider tip: Ask an MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) station manager for a free reusable Charlie Card for discounts on subway and bus fares.
Travel from Boston
Next: take the Bus from Boston to NYC
Next stop on your East Coast Road Trip: New York City! There are over 90 departures per day between Boston and New York so you’ll be able to catch a bus at almost every hour of the day. Most of the buses arrive and depart from the Boston South Station, located downtown at 700 Atlantic Ave. The bus ride from Boston to NY lasts between 4 and 6 hours, depending on the time of departure.
Bus tip: If you’re coming from the South, sit on the right side of the bus for a view of the entire New York skyline before the Holland Tunnel.
BOOK YOUR BOSTON TO NEW YORK BUS TICKETS
Optional route or day trip: Boston to Barnstable
If you feel like taking the scenic route and extending your road trip itinerary, you can try an alternate route to Barnstable, on Cape Cod.
So, why stop by Barnstable?
- Barnstable is the largest town on Cape Cod.
- It’s the perfect quiet and quaint town for a beach getaway.
- It’s located a short bus ride away from Boston (1:30).
BOOK YOUR BUS FROM BOSTON TO BARNSTABLE
If you choose to head down to the Big Apple next, note that the ride between Barnstable and New York is a little over six hours. Be careful, there are only two daily departures at 8:30 am and 12:45 pm between Barnstable and New York.
2. Next stop: check out the NYC attractions
New York City needs no introduction. It’s the economic center of the world, the setting for countless movies and TV shows and one of the most iconic places on Earth. We could not pass on this stop for this East Coast road trip.
Why Visit New York City?
Ah, New York, New York! In the Big Apple, you will find some of the world’s best museums, shopping, dining, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Step away from Times Square, and you will see that New York is more than a cliché, it’s actually a real living and breathing city. Yes, New York is a city of split personalities from trendy Brooklyn to elegant SoHo, ethnically diverse Queens and the funky lower East Side. There is a spot for everyone… and every taste!
How much time should you spend in New York
We suggest spending three days minimum in New York. It’s not much, considering how much there is to see and do in the city, but it will give you a good feel, and hey, you can always come back for more.
Things to do in NYC
There are more fun things to do in New York than can possibly be named, but one of the best ways to discover the Big Apple is to explore the different neighborhoods on foot. You can get a New York Pass, which gives you free entry to 100+ attractions, including the Empire State Building. The price depends on the duration of your pass, but it is definitely worth it if you plan on visiting some of the touristy attractions.
Insider Tip: Read up on how to visit New York on a budget if you’re a little short on cash!
Travel from New York City
Most buses arrive and depart from the New York Port Authority Terminal. To avoid any unnecessary stress, arrive well in advance as the terminal is gigantic and gets extremely busy. This will give you plenty of time to locate your bus!
Next: Bus from New York to Philadelphia
Next stop on your East Coast road trip: Philadelphia! There are departures every 15 minutes from New York to Philadelphia, most of them leaving from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The bus ride is a quick one, taking between 1h50 minutes and 3 hours. Since there are so many departures, we suggest scheduling your bus trip according to its duration, in order to maximize your time both in New York and Philly!
Bus tip: Port Authority Bus Terminal has six floors: Lower level, Subway level, Main level, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4. Bus gates are located on the Lower level, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 only.
BOOK YOUR NYC TO PHILLY BUS TICKETS
Optional route or day trip: Bus from NYC to Bear Mountain State Park
One of the best day trips from NYC is to hop on the Coach USA bus to Bear Mountain State Park. A refreshing destination to escape the city, Bear Mountain is the place to go fishing, hiking or biking in beautiful surroundings.
Bus tip: Buses leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue at 8:45 am and 11:15 am, arriving back into the city at 5 pm. On weekends, you can stay longer in the State Park if you catch the additional bus returning at 7 pm.
3. Next on the list: discover the many fun things to do in Philly
Whether you’ve decided to take a day trip out of the city or not, Philly should be your next stop down the coast. Philadelphia is a great place to stop since arriving by bus from New York takes only two hours.
Why Visit Philadelphia?
Back when Washington DC was just swampland, Philadelphia was the capital of the early United States. Now, it’s a diverse and interesting city, where skyscrapers blend with colonial-era buildings. Most of the historic sites are clustered inside Independence National Historic Park, including the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall (birthplace of the Declaration of Independence). The city is notable for its rich history and art scene so you’ll have plenty to do.
How much time should you spend in Philadelphia?
To fully enjoy Philadelphia, plan two to three days to visit the city.
Things to do in Philadelphia
A great way to visit the city is to stroll down the trail in Philadelphia’s Historic District. This walking trail features some 23 stops to discover the city’s rich history and spans from the Delaware River to 7th Street and from Vine St to Lombard St. All the stops are located in the downtown area, home to many great places to unwind, eat and drink – as well as quaint boutiques and art galleries. Seize the opportunity and take a break from the trail by making a stop at the Independence Beer Garden. This immense venue is worth the detour to sip excellent beers as you take in the view.
Insider Tip: You’ll want to try a world-famous Philly Cheesesteak while in town. Head to South Philly to try one of two major Philadelphia institutions: Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks.
Travel from Philadelphia
The Greyhound Bus Station is located a 10-minute walk from the start of the trail, which starts at the Independence Visitor Center.
Next: take the Bus from Philadelphia to Washington DC
Once you’re done taking in the sights of historic Philly, keep heading down the coast to the capital city, Washington DC. Here too, there are multiple daily departures between Philly and DC, with trips lasting between 3 and 5 hours, depending on the time of departure.
Bus tip: Most buses depart from downtown Philadelphia at the Greyhound Bus Station. However, the arrival stop may differ, depending on which bus you take. We suggest picking one that stops at Union Station in DC – since it’s located at 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 – a central location that is also well connected to all parts of the city.
BOOK YOUR PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON BUS
Optional route or day trip: Philadelphia to Wilmington
If you want to extend your East Coast road trip, you can make a stop in Wilmington, Delaware before heading to Washington DC. Located only 50 minutes away from Philly, it can also be a day trip destination. Let Wilmington’s unique blend of old and new charm you—and be sure to visit the Nemours estate and gardens!
BOOK YOUR PHILADELPHIA TO WILMINGTON BUS TICKETS
You can leave from either Philadelphia or Wilmington to DC, as both cities have over 15 daily departures for the capital. Both trips take between three and four hours.
4. Next on the list: Washington DC attractions
This is it, the nation’s capital! If there’s a stop you can’t skip on this road trip, it’s this one.
Why Visit Washington DC?
Well known for its glistening marble monuments, the President’s home address, and a whole bunch of free museums, DC also has a thriving foodie and nightlife scene.
How much time should you spend in Washington DC?
We suggest spending at least three to four days in Washington.
What to do in Washington DC?
Most of DC’s top tourist attractions are clustered together near the National Mall. Here, you’ll find the monuments, the Smithsonian Museums (all free to the public), and the Capitol Building. Take a stroll in the trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood: lively nightlife, eclectic eateries, coffee shops, bookstores, and dive bars. To really see what DC is all about, you can also explore some of the colorful neighborhoods away from the monuments. Photograph the million-dollar townhouses in Georgetown, eat amazing international food in Adams Morgan, or dance all night along the U Street Corridor. Another fun thing to do in Washington is to swing by the Mall District. This 2-mile-long park runs through the center of the city and is home to Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museum, and the White House. Oh, and one of the best things about DC is that most museums are free. Be sure to check out the National Air & Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History!
Insider Tip: Everyone snaps pictures of the monuments during the day, but revisit at night to take dramatic shots with fewer tourists in the way.
Travel from Washington DC
Most buses depart from the Washington Union Station, one of the busiest spots for transit and travel in the country, with trains, local, regional and national buses. If you’re feeling a little lost, look for the bus gates, which are located on the Mezzanine Level of the station.
Next: Take the Bus From Washington to Charleston
There is only one daily departure between Washington and Charleston, South Carolina. The trip is pretty lengthy, taking about 17 hours… But Charleston is definitely worth the wait! Plus, traveling for a long time is a good way to catch up on sleep, read, listen to music or podcasts or simply enjoying well-deserved downtime after travelling from Boston to Washington. If you fear boredom, read our article about taking long bus trips like a pro or games you can play on the road.
Bus tip: The main bus station in Washington DC is on the fourth-floor parking garage attached to Union Station. Make sure you stop inside to check out the train station’s beautiful lobby!
BOOK YOUR BUS WASHINGTON CHARLESTON
Optional route: Washington to Richmond, Virgina
Before heading to Charleston, you can make a quick stop by Richmond, Virginia! Only two hours away from Washington, it’s one of America’s oldest major cities and is definitely worth stopping for one or two nights if you can spare the time. While you’re there, be sure to walk down Cary Street, the main street of the fashionable Carytown neighborhood.
BOOK YOUR WASHINGTON TO RICHMOND BUS TICKETS
Optional route: Washington to Virginia Beach
Another alternate route between Washington and Charleston is stopping in Virginia Beach! It’s the perfect pit stop after a couple of days in the Washington museums and cultural attractions.
Enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches with a three-mile boardwalk stretching along the town’s beach-lined oceanfront. You can also take an alternate route via Richmond AND Virginia Beach, but keep in mind that there is only one daily departure between Richmond and Virginia Beach.
This departure is at 9:30 am and you arrive in Virginia Beach at 12:55 pm, just in time to hit the beach.
BOOK YOUR WASHINGTON TO VIRGINIA BEACH BUS TICKETS
5. Last stop: take a trip to Charleston
Every road trip eventually has to come to an end… And to end yours on a high note, your last stop can be Charleston, South Carolina. Whether you arrive from Washington, Richmond or Virginia Beach, Charleston is truly a great destination to wrap up your East Coast road trip. In addition to its rich history, the city is also a major culinary destination, with many fantastic southern-style restaurants.
Why Visit Charleston?
Charleston is the embodiment of old southern charm; a historic seaport town first established in 1670. It is renowned for its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and French Quarters but, unlike many southern cities, Charleston managed to escape the Civil War mostly unharmed, and is bursting with historic buildings, old cemeteries, and cobblestones. It is the best city to discover Southern hospitality and charm!
How much time should you spend in Charleston?
We suggest spending two to three days in Charleston.
Things to do in Charleston SC
Charleston has many major historical sites like Fort Sumter (the location where the Civil War began) and the old French Quarter. Consider taking a walking tour to admire the Southern architecture. And, at night, take a stroll on the Battery promenade and in Waterfront Park both overlooking Charleston Harbor for amazing views.
Insider Tip: Try to find accommodation close to the city center. This will allow you to explore the shops, restaurants, and historical sites on foot. Also be sure to splurge on a meal at Magnolia’s or Jestine’s Kitchen!
Potential day trip from Charleston
If your East Coast road trip has been filled mostly with visiting cities so far, it might be time to end on a relaxing note! Head out to one of the numerous beaches outside of the city, such as Folly Beach or Sullivan’s Island and discover the breathtaking sights of the East Coast.
If you want to keep going south, just a little while longer…
If you haven’t had enough, you can keep traveling south a little longer! Your next stop should be Savannah, Georgia, from which you can keep making your way south through Atlanta and then Florida, all the way to Key West, the southernmost point of continental US.
Bus Tip: In Charleston, the bus station is located outside of town. To get to the city center cheaply, cross the street from the bus terminal and take the #11 Airport bus towards the City Center.
Ready for your East Coast Road Trip? We bet you’ll have the time of your life! Share your bus trip itinerary and travel adventures below!