It’s a uniquely American rite of passage, documented in song and film, from Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” to the movie, Easy Rider. It’s an idea that reminds Americans that we’re never stuck at home (notwithstanding 2020). And let’s be clear: Times like these call out for a road trip.

The impulse to develop such an article struck a number of us here at beachLIFE all at once and for the same reason. Last year our parent company, 360 Blue, partnered with Natural Retreats, a travel company very much like our own in that they too offer luxury vacation homes. But there is one important difference: Natural Retreats offers homes in 16 destinations scattered throughout the country. Make sure you read about a stellar road trip to take in the Western part of the United States.

Foggy Morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at sunrise

It’s a coastal realm ruled by the ocean and tides. This strand of barrier island of coastal South Carolina features shrimp boats cruising the maze of waterways and strands of Spanish moss floating among the limbs of centuries-old live oaks. Yachts cruise the Inter-Coastal Waterway, making their annual passages to and from the southern latitudes. A favorite port of call is historic Beaufort.

Situated on Port Royal Island, Beaufort was home to Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, and his memoir, The Water is Wide. His books were often set in South Carolina’s Low Country, along with the film adaptations they inspired, making Beaufort a favored Hollywood film location. The area is almost overwhelmingly atmospheric and populated by gorgeous historical sites such as the Chapel of Ease Ruins on
St. Helena Island. Built in 1740, this Anglican chapel was constructed by rice and cotton planters during the Colonial Period. A forest fire destroyed much of the building in 1886, but its 280-year-old “tabby walls” of shells and lime remain. Like so many of our favorite stops in the South, it’s haunted.

Heading northwest from the Low Country, we’re off to Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Wears Valley, and Pigeon Forge in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. The morning fog drifts through century-old trees in this land where they’ve turned back time. And yet, it’s something of a blend of seclusion and the modern. Distinctly traditional homes built with treetop timber, for example, have incorporated hot tubs on wrap-around decks and wood-burning fireplaces in a celebration of 21st Century mountain culture.

The historic town of Gatlinburg serves as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The greater area offers museums, hiking, ziplines, rafting and even a ski resort. It’s all about
family fun here. Make no mistake: This is Dolly Parton country. Born in a nearby one-room cabin, the child prodigy first performed at church and went on to become one of the great American singer/songwriters, with much of her work reflecting the very essence and the beauty of everyday life here in the Smoky Mountains.

A family walking along an empty beach on a sunny day.
Pier of Tybee Island Beach at sunrise, Georgia, USA

We now head south, taking a detour through the Mississippi Delta—home of the Delta blues—and we keep going until we reach the beach. The sand here is soft, flour-like, and blindingly white on sunny days. And it’s made of quartz. The crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, by contrast, are turquoise and seem lit from within. Where did the sand come from? The Appalachian Mountains.

Toward the end of the last Ice Age, the quartz eroded and was washed away and
carried south by the Apalachicola River all the way to the Gulf. Tides and currents then sent it westward. as far as Pensacola Pass, forming what is now known as the Emerald Coast.

Today, there’s more to the area than this thin ribbon of sand. The distinctive communities of Scenic Highway 30A offer a vibrant art scene encompassing live music, painting, the performing arts and, of course, architecture. This is the home of Seaside, Florida, one of the progenitors of the New Urbanism movement, along with WaterColor, WaterSound, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach. Destin Harbor is home to Florida’s largest charter fishing fleet.

We’re now heading northeast, nearly completing a circle that began in the Sea Islands of South Carolina. This is historic Tybee Island, Georgia, just 18 miles from downtown Savannah. Known as “Savannah’s Beach,” Tybee Island offers all the natural beauty of the Low Country and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from its lighthouse—the tallest and oldest, dating back to 1736. Fort Pulaski, a Civil War-era garrison on Cockspur Island between Tybee and Savannah, is a must-see for history buffs.

If watersports are your thing, Tybee is your island. The surrounding salt marsh is lush with spartina, making it perfect for wildlife watching by sea kayak. Chances are you’ll spot several of the area’s bottlenose dolphins. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center serves as an on-the-water classroom for visitors and groups eager to learn about the area’s marine ecosystems. The beautiful city of Savannah, “The Hostess City of the South,” is always just minutes away.

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
-–Pat Conroy

Visit our destinations pages for homes across the country to make part of your road trip plans or contact our Reservations Team for more information.


(This article first appeared in beachLIFE Magazine, a 360 Blue publication.)