U.S. Route 1 stretches 2,400 miles from the “America’s First Mile” sign in Fort Kent, Maine, to the Mile 0 marker at the tip of the Florida Keys. The highway traces most of the old Atlantic Highway, predecessor to U.S. 1, hugging the coast in some states and meandering inland in others. As you make your way along the route, watch for signs of pre-interstate highway tourism like motor court motels, single-pump service stations and roadside diners.
Driving U.S. Route 1 From Maine to Florida
Unlike Interstate 95, its nearby neighbor, Route 1 is not a limited-access highway. The road passes through big cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., and Miami, where drivers encounter heavy traffic and red lights, but it also allows them to enjoy driving at a slower pace. Roadside attractions unseen from the interstate entice travelers to stop and stretch their legs. Farm stands offer fresh local food. And mom-and-pop businesses promise a bit of local color.
Because Route 1 meanders through populous states, travelers are never far from services in a small town or big city. If you’re an anxious traveler who needs to know where the next gas station is, augment your GPS with an app like GasBuddy that displays nearby stations and finds the lowest fuel price. Keep your family and friends in the loop with Life360, an app that tracks your location. Use AAA Mobile for roadside help and Hotel Tonight to find last-minute deals.
Where to Eat Between Maine and Florida
One of the joys of a long road trip is the opportunity to eat local and explore the regional specialties you won’t find in a chain restaurant at an interstate exit.
Stop for a lobster roll at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine. This seasonal lobster shack has been featured on the Travel Channel, on CBS Sunday Morning and in USA Today. For anyone who isn't a seafood lover, the restaurant serves burgers and fries.
Hite’s Bar-B-Que, ranked “legendary” by Jane and Michael Stern, authors of “Roadfood,” serves pit-cooked pork ribs, smoked chicken and pulled pork sandwiches in Columbia, South Carolina. This is the place to try Carolina’s mustard-based barbecue sauce. Visit the Roadfood website for reviews of local restaurants in every state.
At the end of the drive, dine al fresco at Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West. The restaurant, inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s “Blue Heaven Rendezvous,” serves Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken and barbecued shrimp. Don’t be surprised by the chickens wandering through – Key West is famous for them.
Places to Stay From Maine to Florida
Travelers with an idea of how long they plan to spend on the road each day can make reservations for hotels and motels along the way. But, if the purpose of your road trip is to be free from planning, download an app like TripAdvisor that’ll let you know what lodging is available at your destination and how other travelers rate it.
If you’d like to spend a few days seeing the sights in Washington, D.C., but don’t want to spend a fortune on lodging, Greenbelt Park in Maryland has reasonably-priced campsites and shuttle service to the city’s subway system.
You may feel the need for pampering midway through the road trip. The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina, has an elegant 14,000-square-foot spa where you can soak in a tub or get a massage. If you’re in the area between Monday and Friday morning, you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to use the spa.
End your trip with a one-of-a-kind overnight stay at Dry Tortugas National Park. Dr. Samuel Mudd, convicted of conspiring in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, was imprisoned at Fort Jefferson, 70 miles west of Key West. The park’s campground can only be reached by water, and campers must pack in and pack out everything they need.