Monticello, Eastern Shore, Skyline Drive - Favorite Virginia Scenic Drives

March 12, 2014

Three of the Best Scenic Drives in Virginia

Most people zoom through Virginia on its two chief highways: I-95 and I-64. Yet those who take the time to venture onto country roads find a state of picturesque vineyards, mountain overlooks, quiet beaches and charming towns. If you want to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, try one of these favorite Virginia scenic drives.

The Hills are Alive: Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Skyline Drive | Compare.comRunning 105 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive is exactly what it sounds like. Its 75 overlooks offer endless views of rolling blue mountains, picturesque valleys, and rocky outcroppings. The best known of all scenic drives in Virginia, Skyline Drive also provides abundant opportunities to see wildlife up close, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and wild turkeys. You can get driving tips and a map from the National Park Service.

While the speed limit is a leisurely 35 mph, it only takes about three hours to traverse Skyline Drive. If you want to extend your drive, continue onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south toward the Great Smoky Mountains.

Best side trip: To get nose-to-nose with a wildebeest, visit the Virginia Safari Park. In Natural Bridge, just off the parkway, the safari park is a drive-through zoo where visitors can not only see, but feed zebras, camels, antelope, ostriches and many other exotic animals.

Best time to make this scenic drive: Fall is the most popular time on Skyline Drive, but the spring and summer offer wildflowers and prime picnic weather.

Birds,Beaches and Ponies: A Virginia Scenic Drive on the Eastern Shore

Virginia's Eastern Shore | Compare.comBegin your driving tour in Virginia Beach and head for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an awe-inspiring, 17.6-mile span over the bay. (Don’t let a bridge phobia deter you; driving escorts are available three times a day, free of charge. Schedule your escort ahead of time.) Stretch your legs by walking around quaint Cape Charles or bird watching in Kiptopeke State Park. Continue north on U.S. 13, pausing in the tiny town of Accomac to admire the Colonial architecture.

At the northern end of Virginia’s eastern shore, you’ll come to Chincoteague, home of the famous annual pony swim. Each year, saltwater cowboys round up the wild ponies living on Assateague and swim them to Chincoteague, where the foals are auctioned off for charity.

Best side trip: Midway up the peninsula, catch the ferry from Onancock to Tangier Island. It doesn’t count as a Virginia scenic drive, because no cars are allowed on the island, but this historic, peaceful island is well worth the trip.

Best time to make this scenic drive: September/October for watching migratory birds, or the end of July for the pony swim.

Wine and presidents: The Monticello Wine Trail

Virginia's Monticello |“I am as happy no where else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787. It’s easy to see why on any drive through Virginia’s Piedmont, home of rolling hills, lush farms and the homes of three presidents.

A great way to see, and sip, the Piedmont is the Monticello Wine Trail, a Virginia scenic drive that passes more than 30 wineries, mostly along routes 29, 33 and 810. Wine tastings and driving don’t mix, of course. Make sure you have a designated driver, or splurge on a limo.

Best side trip: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monticello is a must-see destination on any central Virginia scenic drive. The surprisingly modest, yet beautiful house and gardens illuminate the life of the third president and his complicated legacy.

Best time to make this scenic drive: Spring in the Piedmont is beautiful, but cozy wineries can make for a cozy winter road trip.

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