5 Epic Coastal Motorcycle Roads

BY BILL BELEI                                                                                                                                                  

Nothing beats a ride along the coast. Whether at sunrise, at sunset, in the middle of the day or even at night, the majesty and tranquility that go along with the sights and sounds of relentless crashing waves and the lights reflecting off the water is a magical experience. Below is a collection of some of the most awe inspiring coastal roads in the United States … routes that shadow the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and even the Great Lakes.

In the United States, the granddaddy of all coastal rides is the world famous Pacific Coast Highway. This world-class scenic route takes you along the famed California Route 1 starting (or ending) in Monterey and ending (or starting) in Morro Bay.

The route is one of nine original U.S. routes to be named by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an “All American Road” which is a designation given only to the very best scenic roads in America (see America’s Byways program). Along with the great scenery, you’ll have access to some amazing stops along the way.

In fact, there are seven state parks, a state reserve, a botanical area and many historical areas of interest such as a preserved 18th century Spanish mission. Additionally, you’ll be passing through many vibrant tourist towns along the way such as Morrow Bay, Carmel by the Sea, and Monterey. One of the must stops is California’s most visited tourist site ,The Hearst’s Castle. This mansion was built for publisher William Randolph Hearst at the beginning of the 20th century and took nearly 30 years to be complete.

When you think of coastal drives, you probably don’t think of the Midwest. However, the Tunnel of Trees Road on the east coast of Lake Michigan is not only a great coastal ride, but it is simply one of the most popular motorcycle roads in the entire USA! The original author of this route, Craig Northouse said, “This road hugs the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan through a dense forest. On one side you get glimpses of old summer cabin homes tucked back in the forest and on the other side you get brief glimpses of the Lake Michigan shoreline. This is a very narrow and twisty road that runs through the dense forest of trees and is literally one of those roads that you always see photos in travel magazines that make you crave to drive down.”

A listing of U.S. coastal motorcycle roads would not be complete without a ride through the Florida Keys. The route starts in Key Largo, Florida, and heads west for just shy of 100 miles of roads and bridges that connect the string of the Florida Keys while you take in the magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico on both sides of the road. The route ends in the famous and vibrant tourist mecca of Key West.

South of Charleston and north of Savannah along the Atlantic Coast is a great coastal ride called “Beaufort Scenery.” This route is described by its original author, Jim Strickland, like this: “Water, water everywhere. Beaufort has a small historic district, rivers, barrier islands, a state park (Hunting Island) with oceanfront camping and cabins for rent, a fishing pier, wildlife viewing areas, boardwalk style nature walks and a number of scenic areas… most roads into Beaufort are recently expanded, bridges into town are new. The pace is very slow in Beaufort and I see safer driving than usual…a nice change of pace.”

Off the coast of Maine lies Mt. Desert Island home of the Acadia National Park, the town of Bar Harbor, and a coastal motorcycle ride called the “Mount Desert Island Loop.” This route is 35-mile loop around the island offering great coastal views from both the roads that line the water’s edge as well as the roads that wind through the island’s high country.

The route’s original author, Ron Hackley, describes the scenery on the island and particularly in Acadia as follows: “The park has dense forests, a 1,530 foot mountain and plenty of shoreline driving. While on the island, make sure you travel to the top of Cadillac Mountain to get a great 360-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean.” He goes on to say, “Overall a nice winding road with some slight inclines and declines.

Depending on the time of the year and local tourist activity, the road can get a little crowded. The wonderful town of Bar Harbor is nearby this route and offers first class vacation and tourism accommodations.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: To see the complete guide to the above coastal rides as well as maps, photos, videos, and reviews for these and other great U.S. motorcycle roads, visit  www.MotorcycleRoads.com.

Bill Belei joined the military in 1986. He started a website listing the best motorcycle roads in the U.S. after constantly moving and having to find new roads to ride. Over the years his website grew to what is today’s MotorcycleRoads.com,the site boasts more than two million annual visitors, over 30,000 site members and thousands of documented motorcycle roads both in the U.S. and abroad. His website recently began listing motorcycle events, clubs and places. Bill retired from the military in 2011, moved to Colorado with his wife and four children, and works at Peterson Air Force Base, as a program lead for cybersecurity.