The East Coast of the United States contains approximately 36% of the total population of the United States, with its main north-south route being US Interstate I-95. This is one of the most heavily traveled highways in America, and runs 1856 miles from northern Maine to Miami, Florida. It is the route that will take you by some of the most populous cities in America, including New York City, Boston, Providence, New Haven, Bridgeport, Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Some of the best beaches in the USA and some well known islands are also directly or indirectly accessible via this route, including Ogunquit (Maine), Cape Cod, the towns of the Jersey Shore, Rehoboth Beach (DE), the Virginia Beach area, the Outer Banks (NC), Myrtle Beach (SC), Hilton Head (SC), Tybee Island (GA), and the too many to mention beaches of Florida.
Below, you’ll find a synopsis of what you can expect to see in each state along I-95.
I-95 begins at the Canadian border with the USA, and actually continues as I-95 across the border in New Brunswick, Canada. Along the Maine portion of the highway, you’ll travel through Bangor, Augusta, and Maine’s largest city, Portland, before entering the state of New Hampshire. Portions of this highway are considered the Maine Turnpike, so you will pay tolls at various points along the highway.
Acadia National Park, Maine
The section of highway of I-95 in NH is relatively small. However, it does pass through the major seaport of Portsmouth and is necessary to get to other New England destinations. It is approximately 10 miles of freeway that is toll free.
The get from New Hampshire to Rhode Island, there is only one major highway that will take you there, and that’s I-95. Starting at the New Hampshire border, you’ll enter the North Shore of Massachusetts in the Newburyport/Merrimack River area. From there, you can take I-495, which takes a roundabout journey to get to Cape Cod through the Blackstone Valley region, or you can take Route 128 north/east towards Gloucester, Ipswich, Rockport, and the rest of Cape Anne. Further south on I-95, the highway will veer southwest towards the Metro West area of Boston. The junction of I-93 will take you directly to Boston, the South Shore, and Cape Cod. I-95 south will eventually head towards Foxboro, Attleboro, and the Rhode Island border towards Pawtucket.
Fenway Park, Boston
The majority of the population of Rhode Island lives within minutes of the I-95 corridor. Cities like Pawtucket, the state capital, Providence, and Cranston are all located on this heavily traveled route. It is the main thruway to New York City and the major cities of Connecticut, so traffic can become congested and slow moving from 5:30am-10am on weekdays, and again from 4:00pm-7:30pm on weekdays (though traffic can occur at any time due to accidents, road construction, or other delays). Heading south out of Providence, you’ll be close to the beaches of Watch Hill and Westerly, which are actually only about 10 miles from the tip of Long Island, Montauk. Block Island is to the southeast, which can be accessed via ferry from Point Judith, Newport, and Montauk, NY.
Point Judith, Rhode Island
The I-95 corridor of Connecticut is the busiest piece of freeway in the state, with most of the major cities right off the interstate. Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London are all cities of more than 100,000 in population. The heaviest of traffic will come approaching New York City in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford as you head south on the highway entering the state of New York. There are no tolls along this section of the highway, but there are very frequent delays at all times of day and night due to road construction, rush hour traffic, and frequent road accidents. If you’d like to bypass this area as quickly as possible, often times the middle of the night will have very little traffic in comparison to the day, making for a quick trip.
New Haven Lighthouse, Connecticut
I-95 passes through the northern section of New York City, including the Bronx and Manhattan. North of the city, you’ll encounter some of the wealthiest suburbs in the USA, like New Rochelle, Rye, and Pelham Manor. After a brief trip through northern Manhattan by the Bronx Zoo, Harlem, and the New York Botanical Gardens, you’ll cross over the George Washington Bridge. It is free to cross heading south, however on the northbound side entering New York you will pay $8. The EZ Pass will provide a quick way to get through this toll.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania
This state, along with Pennsylvania, are the only two states that do not allow a continuous drive along I-95. Most of the interstate mirrors the New Jersey Turnpike, which is a toll road. However, somewhere near Allentown, NJ, I-95 vanishes. The highway that you will be driving south on will become I-295 until you reach Wilmington, Delaware. However, I-95 does shift to the west in Pennsylvania, reappearing in Lawrence Township, NJ, and heading southwest towards Philadelphia. It follows the Delaware River until the Delaware state line. This isn’t the most logical choice for if you’re heading south on the east coast. Instead, just stay on I-95 in New York until it becomes I-295, and then I-95 once again in Delaware. The name of the highway might change, but this is the straightest route south, and will bypass Philadelphia. Even if you are headed to Philadelphia, following I-95 isn’t the quickest route. Instead, take I-76 north to I-676, which will head into the heart of the city.
Delaware Memorial Bridge, crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey into Delaware.
The section of I-95 in the state of Delaware lasts all of 16 miles, and the state will soak you in tolls for that small stretch of highway. Unfortunately, there is no other way to get through the state but this highway, as it’s the Delaware Memorial Bridge is the only bridge in the state that crosses the river into New Jersey (kind of hard to believe, isn’t it?). The good news is that the drive over the bridge is very scenic and memorable, with Wilmington, Delaware on your right, and New Castle to your left if you’re heading south. The river pours out into the Atlantic and eventually divides Cape May and Rehoboth Beach, the most popular beach in Delaware. Those two towns are connected by a ferry service if you’d like to take a short trip across the river. Back on I-95, you’ll head west, but what is still coined with signage indicating “south” towards the state of Maryland.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware boardwalk.
Driving through this state, you will encounter small towns and some beautiful landscaping in between the divided highway in some areas. The historic city of Baltimore awaits just 55 miles south of the Delaware border, or approximately one hour. If you can stop here, you’ll enjoy the cobblestone streets, historic seaport, and the must-see National Aquarium. The city even has its very own (albeit small) Little Italy neighborhood. I-95 provides a direct route to the nation’s capital, which is a mere 26 miles south of Baltimore. Technically not part of Maryland, Washington D.C. can be a little bit difficult to get in and out of if you aren’t familiar with the best routes through, around, or into the city.
DC is surrounded by a highway known as the Capital Beltway. Basically, the Betlway is I-495 that circles around the city, however the signs can be confusing as to what direction you are headed. I-95 cuts directly through the middle of the city, providing a direct exit to many of the nation’s monuments close by. The city can also be easily accessed from across the river in Arlington via the Metro, right to the monuments (which can be a little easier in terms of finding parking). Be sure to spend some time here to see the monument up close and personal. They’re all entirely free.
Washington Monument, Washington DC
You’ll enter the state of Virginia right outside of the Washington DC limits. Arlington and Alexandria are the first two cities right outside of the nation’s capitol. As you head south, the population thins out as you enter the true southern United States. Fredericksburg and Richmond are the major cities along the interstate, however, the massive Hampton Roads region (the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metropolitan area) and all of its sites can be accessed via I-64 in Richmond.
The Richmond, VA skyline.
Getting still more rural further down on your drive on I-95, you’ll cross the Virginia-North Carolina border 189 miles south of Washington DC. The highway here is entirely straight and flat, being about 139 miles inland west of the Outer Banks. There aren’t too many things to do or see in this part of North Carolina, with most of the major attractions either on the Adirondacks to the west or along the coast to the east. You will enter Fayetteville at the 135 mile point, where there will be plenty of hotels, gas stations, and restaurants to stop and take a break at. You’ve probably noticed the signs for South of the Border that are impossible to miss. This motel/restaurant/attraction has been in operation since 1949. You’ll reach this attraction just over the South Carolina border.
Ocracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina near the Outer Banks/Cape Hatteras region (about 135 miles east of I-95)
Even more rural than the highway of North Carolina is the I-95 corridor in South Carolina. The biggest city along this route is Florence. The major attractions in the state are located to the southeast along the coast, including Charleston and Myrtle Beach. From the North Carolina-South Carolina border to the South Carolina-Georgia border will be about 205 miles.
I-95 arcs towards the coast in the state of Georgia. Here, the highway begins to get more scenic as marshland surrounds the highway instead of forests. From the South Carolina-Georgia border to the Georgia-Florida border will be about 105 miles. Be sure to take the time to visit some of the beautiful beaches and islands on the coast like Tybee Island and Jeckyll Island.
Noticeably warmer and flatter, the terrain of northern Florida offers beautiful views of Shortleaf Pine forests and miles of marshland. If you’re experiencing the state for the first time, don’t be alarmed by the much heavier precipitation that falls here than elsewhere along the east coast — it’s typical. The first city you will enter in Florida is Jacksonville, which is also the state’s largest city. From Jacksonville, you can also start an east to west southern road trip along I-10. I-95 runs directly along the entire Atlantic Coast of Florida, hitting the cities of St. Augustine, Cape Canaveral, Melbourne, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and finally, Miami. I-95 south terminates in the city of Miami. From here, you can pick up Route 1, which heads directly south into the Florida Keys, including Key Largo and Key West.