Your Chattanooga Summer Travel Guide
Looking for summer travel ideas that are within a day’s drive from Chattanooga? Look no further! We’ve compiled a guide of amazing beach towns and hidden-gem small towns that are perfect for your southern summer road trips from Chattanooga. So pack your bags and hit the road for a memorable summer adventure! Chattanooga’s central location is definitely a huge benefit in the summertime when you’re getting the itch for a getaway but don’t want to go far.
1. Hilton Head, SC
Hilton Head: Southern Charm & Luxury All-In-One
Are you searching for more of a luxurious destination that offers activities for the whole family? Look no further than Hilton Head, South Carolina! This beautiful location is just ~7 hours away and boasts a tight-knit community with exciting annual events such as the Shelter Cove Harbour Fest and Hilton Head Shrimp Festival. Families will love the unique experiences available, such as taking a dolphin tour or exploring the historic Haig Point Lighthouse. With many beach options to choose from, we recommend Forest Beach or Palmetto Dunes to check out. While you’re here, don’t overlook the many local restaurants and shopping opportunities – and remember to leave room in your car for souvenirs!
2. Alys Beach, FL
Alys Beach: A Luxurious & Flourishing Coastal Community Summer
Looking for a private, luxurious beach retreat to add to your summer road trips for Chattanoogans? Alys Beach, located just minutes away from Rosemary Beach, is an exclusive destination reserved only for owners and visitors. With breathtaking architecture, scenic parks and plenty of well-known local restaurants and shopping, Alys Beach offers an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss the chance to catch a show at the Alys Beach Amphitheater or take a bike ride on the Alys Beach Nature Trail during your stay. Plus, Alys Beach is located just 6.5 hours from Chattanooga, making it a convenient summer road trip destination.
3. Jekyll Island, GA
Jekyll Island: The small town beach paradise of the South
Jekyll Island is a hidden-gem town for the laid-back travelers and families. Spend your days exploring over 10 miles of pristine beaches, including popular spots like Driftwood Beach and Great Dunes. For a taste of local culture, check out the Georgia Sea Turtle Center or Mosaic: Jekyll Island Museum. If you need to beat the summer heat, spend a day at the Summer Waves Water Park before renting a bike & heading to one of the many nearby dining options. Jekyll Island is a town steeped in history and natural beauty – well worth the day’s drive from Chattanooga this summer!
4. Orange Beach & Gulf Shores, AL
Orange Beach & Gulf Shores: The ultimate beach duo that you don’t want to pass up this summer
For the ultimate beach getaway with the closeness of the city, Orange Beach & Gulf Shores offer some of the most beautiful beaches in the region. These beaches are known for their white sands and bright blue water that will take your breath away. Families traveling from Chattanooga can count on Orange Beach & Gulf Shores to provide everything they need for a great visit. This summer destination offers exciting beach activities such as parasailing, dolphin cruises, diving, and even Sand Castle University! After soaking up the sun, check out the vibrant arts & music scene by visiting one of the many museums or attend the annual Hangout Music Festival. The area also hosts numerous exciting events year-round, like Orange Beach Freedom Fest and the Shrimp Festival.
Hidden-Gem Small Towns
5. Asheville, NC
Asheville: A Must-Visit Southern Fixture On A Summer Road Trip
Asheville is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a picturesque mountain retreat brimming with endless activities. Outdoor enthusiasts can spend the day kayaking, tubing, or paddle boarding on the French Broad River or head to the thrilling Sliding Rock Natural Water Slide. For history and arts lovers, don’t miss an opportunity to indulge in the local arts scene or visit the infamous Biltmore mansion or the Grove Park Inn. You can also catch a show at Rabbit Rabbit or Shindig on the Green for local music. On top of that, Asheville boasts an impressive food and brewery scene to fuel your adventures along the way. Conveniently situated just a short 3.5 hour drive from Chattanooga, Asheville is perfect for a quick summer getaway!
6. Fairhope, AL
Fairhope: A Swoon-Worthy Southern Town for A Summer Road Trip
Dare we say, most charming town in the south? Okay, maybe we won’t go that far since there are so many to choose from! This history-rich city has preserved its appeal over the years, making it a must-visit destination for your summer travel plans. Stay at the well-known Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa and then explore the plethora of antique stores on nearly every street. Spend a day on the water at the Fairhope Municipal Pier and catch the stunning sunset at the Henry George Park on the Bluff. Fairhope might be small, but it is still vibrant with a blooming arts & culture scene for you to explore. Conveniently situated less than a day’s drive from Chattanooga, Fairhope is a perfect city for your summer road trip.
7. Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville: Family-Friendly Town Full of History
Charlottesville, Virginia, a hidden-gem town to the T, is the perfect summer destination for a family-friendly vacation. Located in the northeastern region of Virginia, just a day’s drive from Chattanooga, Charlottesville is known for its slower pace and breathtaking beauty. Take a stroll through the beautiful University of Virginia campus or head down to Sugar’s Hollow Blue Hole or Walnut Creek to cool off. For the kids, don’t miss the hot air balloons in the summer or the Carter Mountain Orchards for some delicious apple cider. And for the history-buffs, Charlottesville is just a short drive from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, which you can tour!
8. Aiken, SC
Aiken: One of the South’s Best-Kept-Secrets
This small town in South Carolina is another name you might not know of, but we’ll give you a few reasons to! Aiken, SC is just a 5-ish hour drive from Chattanooga and is guaranteed to make you swoon. Aiken is a charming southern town that is known for being the hometown of the U.S. Polo Matches! If you love to explore nature’s playground, Aiken offers expansive trails at Hitchcock Woods, Hopelands Gardens and the blooming Aiken Arboretum Trail. If you’re more into soaking in the city life, you’ll definitely want to check out Whiskey Alley for some sips and some live music at Amp the Alley! Aiken is also very family-friendly and has a great local planetarium, train & history museums, as well as Aiken Center for The Arts!
9. New Orleans, LA
New Orleans: Full of History, Music, & Art for the Whole Family
If you’ve never visited NOLA, you definitely need to experience it at least once! New Orleans is only a day’s drive from Chattanooga and such a unique, culture-filled city that has so much to offer. While Mardi Gras is a must-see event, NOLA also hosts the Creole Tomato Fest and Essence Fest in June and celebrates its history with the Running of the Bulls event and Bastille Day in July. If the humidity becomes too much, explore the art museums or relax with jazz music on Frenchmen Street. This city should be a staple on your list of summer road trips from Chattanooga.
10. Lexington, KY
Lexington: Rolling Hills of Beauty & Equestrian Culture
Lexington might not really come to mind when drawing up your summer travel ideas, but let us change that! Lexington is only 5 hours from Chattanooga and is known for its rolling hills, rich equestrian history, and southern culture. Throughout the summer, Lexington is always busy with different events and activities. If you happen to visit at the beginning of July, make sure to attend the weekend-long 4th of July Festival! Whether you check out the Kentucky Horse Park in the country or embark on a mural tour downtown, there’s something for everyone. On the hot summer days, cool off with a canoe or kayaking trip down Elkhorn Creek or enjoy some tunes and food at Thursday Night Live downtown.
What Summer Road Trips Will You Embark On This Year?
We hope that you appreciated this guide to summer road trips from Chattanooga. If you’re looking for a home around Chattanooga, North Georgia, or Cleveland, make sure to reach out to us to learn more about our designer communities. Call us today at (423) 757-7687 or visit our Communities page here.
This post was written by Sydnee Cearlock