- Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route
Adventure Cycling AssociationAtlantic Coast Bicycle Route is divided into two segments. The route is a total of 2535 miles (4081 km) that hugs the Atlantic coast of the United States for roughly 60% of its length, heading inland to avoid major metropolitan areas and where cycling conditions along the coast are not favorable.
In the Northeast, riders enjoy the flavor of quiet Maine coastal towns,
New Englandvillages, the rural countryside, and bucolic Amishfarmlands. Once the route crosses the Mason-Dixon Line, which is the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, the route enters the South and gives some flavor for Civil War history by visiting the battlefields at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the city of Richmond, Virginia. Spurs lead into the various larger cities along this route. A lack of road signs can make parts of this route challenging. It can be ridden from late spring to late fall. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns. Unless riders are adapted to it, humidity will be a challenging factor.
Bar Harbor, Maine, to Richmond, Virginia
This segment is excellent for history buffs, as riders will discover sites dating back to the early days of the United States and beyond.
Starting in the tourist town of
Bar Harbor, Maine, on Mt. Desert Island, the route heads out of town through Acadia National Parkand then along occasional back roads situated near the coast. Riders should allow some time to savor the ambiance of the coastal towns. After crossing the Penobscot River, there is a side trip to visit Ft. Knox, an exceptionally well-preserved unused Revolutionary Warfort. Only a small portion of the route is along the Atlantic's edge in Maine. More New England beauty will be enjoyed as the route heads south through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In Massachusetts there is a 30-mile spur into Boston. New Englandprovides charming, picturesque towns that one might find on a wall calendar. Biking through New York, riders pass through scenic farmland. The route along the Hudson Riverhas several sites of historic significance.
New Jersey, the route traverses one of the best areas in the state for bicycling, along the Delaware River. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Areais particularly beautiful and gives an other-world meaning to typical images that people have of New Jersey. At Lambertville, another spur extends eastward to New York City. The route heads west into Pennsylvaniathrough productive farms and many hills. Downtown Philadelphiais a short distance from the route via a bike trail along the Schuylkill River. After riding through Valley Forge National Historic Park, riders enter Amish country, where "old-style" living includes horses and buggies. The route swings west around the outskirts of Baltimore, and there is an alternate through the city if preferred. There are more farms in northern Maryland, which will turn into suburban sprawl in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Although congestion increases tremendously, the ride though Washington, D.C., is pleasant. Bike paths through Rock Creek Park take riders to the
Lincoln Memorialand the Potomac River. After crossing the Potomac, there is another beautiful bike path to Mount Vernon, George Washington's residence from 1754 until his death. Then there are more urban areas in expanding northern Virginia, some quiet country roads, and increasing urbanization on the approach to Richmond, Virginia.
This is one of the more challenging rides that Adventure Cycling has to offer, as it has many hilly areas where granny gears are needed to climb the steep grades. Northwestern Connecticut, the Susquehanna River area in Pennsylvania, and the country roads north of Richmond are extremely hilly. But there is some easy riding to compensate, such as when biking the paths along the Potomac River in Virginia.
Services are generally plentiful along the route. Some spur routes, such as the ones into Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, can take you into large cities for whatever is needed. People who like to camp won't find any campgrounds in Maryland unless they do the alternate route through Baltimore. Some cyclists may want to do the northern portions of this route during the colors of autumn. If so, call ahead to verify campground availability because many close after Labor Day. If staying indoors, make advance reservations.
Richmond, Virginia, to Key West, Florida
This segment provides the opportunity to bike through the
Deep Southand travel through back-road farmlands and swamps.
In the South, riders pass Baptist churches and develop a sense for that "old-time religion." In contrast, there are some highly developed areas in Florida to which throngs of tourists flock and where many people have retired. There are numerous wildlife refuges to see and hike through. If biking the
Outer BanksAlternate, riders get to see tools utilized by the famous Wright Brothersin their bicycle shop. This route can be ridden year-round, but the northern part can be quite cool in the winter. Expect high temperatures and humid conditions in the summer, though beach riding will be tempered by ocean breezes. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns. Be aware that hurricanescan occur from July through November along the Atlantic Seaboardand can close roads along the Outer Banks Alternate.
Richmond, VA, the route heads south through the farmlands of Virginiaand encounters some swamps when crossing into North Carolina. On the Outer Banks Alternate, riders have a treat biking along the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. The winds can be strong (that's why the Wright Brothers flew their first plane there), and sand may blow onto the road. In the Outer Banks, there are two ferry rides, one of which is 2-1/4 hours long. Heading southward, the route passes through the busy city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and takes another ferry ride into Southport. Next come farmlands, swamps and the Francis Marion National Forest. There's a 34-mile spur into historic Charleston, South Carolina, once described as "an 18th-century painting come to life."
Heading into Georgia, there are more farms and swamps. Another spur will take riders into charming
Savannah, Georgiawhich has one of the largest national historic landmark districts in the United States. The best swamp of all, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, is four miles off route. It is one of the largest and most primitive swamps remaining in the United States. Riders can see numerous alligators of all sizes, stroll on boardwalks over the marshes, and take a boat ride through the swamp.
Heading south, the route skirts around the northeast corner of
Jacksonville, Florida, and the waterfront homes of retirees. Then it's beach riding along the Atlantic Ocean to St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest European settlement in the United States, which displays distinctive Spanish architecture. Starting in St. Augustine, the route alternates between urban and suburban conditions most of the way down the coast through Miami. Florida has an extensive though sometimes confusing network of bicycling facilities ranging from 2 foot bike lanes or shoulders to separated bike paths and sidewalks. For some stretches it will be better to use the sidewalk rather than the road while in highly trafficked beach areas, the sidewalks will be pedestrian use only. The approach to often nearly invisible short bridges are usually marked with "frogs", "buttons", "turtles", "slugs" or rumble strips.
Riders can take advantage of the opportunities to enjoy the numerous beach accesses. County parks often include such amenities as picnic tables, cold water, showers and toilets and are inexpensive or free to cyclists. State Highway A1A changes names many times on its journey along the coast. This is especially true as it nears Miami. Often it is located adjacent to an aquatic preserve or wildlife refuge offering bird watching. South of Jupiter, campgrounds for tenting are almost nonexistent until south of Miami.
After Florida City, there is a 29-mile ride with no services, potentially heavy traffic and abundant crocodile sightings. If riders see what appears to be a green couch along the road, it's probably not! Crocs should always be given a wide berth, and riders must be ready to sprint if necessary. Crocodiles can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour for very short distances. On the way to
Key Westthe roadways have generous shoulders, though the bike paths are recommended. Riders should take plenty of time to enjoy this section and have the camera at the ready. Crossing the many old bridges present multiple occasions to stop and take in the scenery. Each of the Keys offers their own information center with local knowledge of available activities. Riders wishing to stay at one of the Bahia Honda State Park campsites, should make reservations early. For those who don't wish to reverse their route back across the Keys, a loop route can be created by taking a ferry from Key West to Fort Myers Beach where it is possible to join the Florida Connector Bicycle Routeand return to Fort Lauderdale. Space is limited on the ferries, so when making reservations, riders need to let them know in advance that they have a bike.
While there is some hill climbing upon leaving Richmond, Virginia, generally the terrain is either rolling or flat.
Services are readily available throughout most of the ride though in the suburban/residential areas of Florida camping opportunities can be scarce. When camping on the Outer Banks, it can sometimes be blustery at night. There are no bike shops between Southport, North Carolina, and Statesboro, Georgia, unless taking the spur into Charleston, South Carolina. In Florida, almost everything encountered, including food, will be more expensive due to the tourist nature of the beach communities. Reservations for camping and hotel accommodations are highly recommended year-round.
tates on the Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route
Adventure Cycling Association
League of American Bicyclists
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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