Want to combine a classic summer road trip with a little sand and surf? We’ve got you covered with these 3 day trips that’ll have you traversing both land and sea.

Seattle to San Juan Island

The American San Juan Islands are an archipelago located just off the coast of Washington State, a little more than an hour’s drive from Seattle, and are known for their stunning coastlines, beautiful farmland, historic ports, and orca whales. 4 of the San Juan Islands are serviced by car ferries. From Seattle, head out for 85 miles on I-5 N to Anacortes, WA, where you can drive aboard a San Juan Island-bound ferry (we recommend making a reservation and purchasing your ticket in advance).

Arrive at San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor, hop back in your vehicle, and start the byway loop, passing by Jackson Beach and continuing on a scenic drive that’ll take you by 25-acre Pelindaba Lavender Farm, the historic Cattle Point Lighthouse, and on to Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park), one of the best places in the world to view orcas from land. Shake the sand out of your shoes and get back in the car for more beauty as the route wends by an alpaca farm, the National Historic Park, English Camp, and Westcott Bay’s outdoor sculpture park. Grab a bite to eat in the fishing village of Roche Harbor before heading back through the San Juan Vineyards, ending full circle at the ferry dock at Friday Harbor.

Los Angeles to Balboa Island

Located just off the coast of Newport Beach in Newport Harbor, Balboa Island is just about an hour’s drive (traffic notwithstanding) from downtown Los Angeles. Take a scenic day trip from the city and travel down the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway, checking out the surfers and one of the West Coast’s longest piers at Huntington Beach. From there, continue coasting south on CA-1, looking out for signs for Marine Ave and the Balboa Island Ferry. Even with a car, the ferry provides an inexpensive and scenic 8-minute harbor crossing onto Balboa Island (be warned: the ferries accommodate only 3 cars at a time; so there may be a wait). Once you’re on Balboa Island you’ll probably want to ditch the car for at least for a little while and check out the sights: there’s shopping, the boardwalk, the Balboa Island Fun Zone (home to the island’s 75-year old Ferris wheel), and plenty of classic beachy treats (including Balboa Island’s famous frozen chocolate banana on a stick).

North Carolina’s Outer Banks

Just off the coast of North Carolina lie the state’s gorgeous barrier islands, known as the Outer Banks, an almost 200-mile expanse comprised of charming fishing villages, breathtaking beaches, and rare wildlife. Start your trip at the northern end of Highway 12, by the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla. Keep your eyes peeled for wild horses as you drive south toward the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Make a pit stop outside Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head to explore their giant sand dunes. Finally, be sure to catch the ferry at Hatteras Village for the 40-minute boat ride to Ocracoke Island, where 16-miles of drivable, pristine national seashore await you.

Travel hacks | Destinations


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.