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9 Day Southeast US Road Trip Itinerary from Tampa, Florida  

Living in Florida, one of the easiest vacation ideas is to head on a southeast US road trip! We visited 3 different states, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, on this 9-day trip. All the details are included in this 9-day southeast US road trip itinerary to help you plan your trip!  

View of the flag from Chimney Rock State Park through the trees.
Chimney Rock State Park

A Quick Look: Southeast Road Trip Itinerary  

  • Day 1: Drive from Tampa, FL to Helen, GA  
  • Day 2: Helen, GA 
  • Day 3: Helen, GA  
  • Day 4: Drive from Helen, GA to Asheville, NC 
  • Day 5: Asheville, NC 
  • Day 6: Asheville, NC 
  • Day 7: Drive from Asheville, NC to Columbia, SC with a stop at Chimney Rock State Park 
  • Day 8: Congaree National Park
  • Day 9: Drive from Columbia, SC to Tampa, FL  

Where should I stay?  

You have multiple options when looking for lodging in all of these areas. I typically check Airbnb as well as hotels to compare pricing and amenities. There are a lot of different options, but we chose to stay at an Airbnb in Helen and Columbia and a hotel in Asheville.  

Airbnb is often better if you’d like to be able to cook some meals at home, have a larger group, or you prefer more private accommodations. Hotels offer other benefits in the amenities they can provide including breakfast, fitness center, and may be cheaper than Airbnb for a solo traveler or couple. I always try and check if breakfast is complimentary at hotels when booking. Below are the places we stayed. 

  • Helen, Georgia Airbnb – we loved this one, but there is a very steep drive to get to the cabin 
  • Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina – The Residences at Biltmore  
  • Columbia, South Carolina Airbnb – there are many options, but I linked the one we stayed at 
Me and my husband in front of our cabin.
Cabin in Helen, GA

When is the best time to take a Road Trip from Florida? 

This road trip can be taken year-round! We planned this trip during early March, but any time of year can work. Be prepared for much warmer conditions in the summer and prepare for colder weather and the possibility of snow during the winter. I would recommend spring or fall as the ideal time to take a southeast US road trip.  

Southeast US Road Trip Itinerary from Tampa  

See an example of our road trip itinerary and our daily activities. These can be customized to your preferences!

Day 1: Travel Day to Helen, GA  

The first day of the trip was primarily a travel day. The drive from Tampa to Helen is about 8.5 hours, but with traffic and stops it took us around 10 hours. If you are looking for a stop along the way to break up the drive and stretch your legs, consider checking out the Ocmulgee National Historic Park in Macon, GA.  

  • Pack up the car and leave Tampa, FL bright and early  
  • Stop for a quick lunch on the road  
  • Arrive in Helen, GA around 5 PM  
  • Check into Airbnb 
  • Dinner at The Old Bavaria Inn Restaurant & Lounge  

We were excited about arriving to our destination and getting our first meal in this cute little German town. At the Old Bavaria Inn we ordered the Scheine Haxen dinner for two, but it was enough food to feed 4. We enjoyed it and had plenty of leftovers to take back to the cabin. 

Meat platter.
Scheine Haxen dinner for two

Day 2: Helen, GA

This was our first full day exploring Helen, GA! This town is well known for its Bavarian style buildings and gives you a feel of being in Germany without leaving the US! One of the advantages of a road trip from Florida is we could bring food with us so we tried to eat breakfast before we left for the day. 

Downtown Helen, GA.
  • Breakfast at the Airbnb 
  • Morning hike: Mount Yonah Trail 
  • Enjoy a lunch and a post-hike drink at Alpine Brew Deck 
    • Please note: We visited Tantrum Brewing Company which is now closed 
  • Relax at the Airbnb 
  • Dinner downtown – plenty of restaurants to choose from! 

The highlight of this day was the hike!  Mount Yonah trail is a 4.1 mile out & back hike with around 1450 feet of elevation gain. The trail is rated as hard on All Trails, and it was a challenge! It is located within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The trail is known for the gorgeous views at the summit, unfortunately on this day in early March we were only greeted with fog. I’d love to do it again in nicer weather to compare the difference.  

Me on a rock looking at the trees.
Me at the summit with fog surrounding.

TIP: Make sure you are searching for Mount Yonah in google maps and NOT Yonah Mountain to reach the trailhead.  

Day 3: Helen, GA

We had another full day in Helen, Georgia although the weather was less than ideal for outdoor exploring. There was a lot of rain, so we took advantage of the cabin and spent some time relaxing! 

  • Breakfast at the Airbnb 
  • Relax in the cabin  
  • Lunch at Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe 
  • Hike to Anna Ruby Falls 
  • Afternoon snack at Village Crepe Haus  
  • Enjoyed leftovers for dinner at the cabin 

Although the weather was less than ideal, we still enjoyed our day. One advantage of the overcast skies and rainy drizzle is we had Anna Ruby Falls almost all to ourselves! This is a very popular short hike to the waterfalls and usually very busy. The trail is 1-mile out & back with approximately 220 feet elevation gain. The path is paved but can be steep as you walk towards the falls.  

Anna Ruby Falls.
Anna Ruby Falls

The other highlight of day 3 was the crepes! Village Crepe Haus had amazing crepes, get the smore’s crepe and thank me later.  

Smore's crepe.

Day 4: Drive from Helen, GA to Asheville, NC 

Today we headed through the mountains to our next destination which was Asheville, NC. This is a popular destination and is known for outdoor activities as well as its many breweries! We took advantage of both while we were here.  

  • Breakfast at Airbnb 
  • Drive from Helen, GA to Asheville, NC (2.5 hours) 
  • Brewery hopping in Asheville 
  • Grab dinner before heading back to the hotel 
  • Stay at The Residences at Biltmore  

A few of the breweries we visited included Bhramari Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery and Burial Beer Co. Many of these breweries are close together so it makes it easy to have a drink and move on to your next stop! 

Brewery menu at Twin Leaf Brewing.
Two beer flights.

Day 5: Asheville, NC 

We woke up for our first full day of exploring in Asheville and we started it off by visiting the Biltmore Estates! Biltmore is a Historic Landmark and known as America’s Largest Home. We enjoyed touring the property, especially the garden area. It would be beautiful in the spring or summer! It is an Asheville landmark and is worth visiting if you’ve never been before.  

Me in front of the Biltmore Estates.
Biltmore Estates Gardens.
  • Breakfast at the hotel 
  • Tour Biltmore Estates  
  • Lunch at Biltmore 
  • More breweries 
  • Dinner at Wicked Weed Brewery 
  • Stay at The Residences at Biltmore  

After we visited the Biltmore we wanted to check out the Wicked Weed Breweries. We visited Wicked Weed Brewery and The Funkatorium. My favorite type of beer is sour beer and if you enjoy them, you can’t miss The Funkatorium! We bought several bottles to take home as well.  

5 large bottles of beer in a line.

Day 6: Asheville, NC 

For our last day in Asheville, we decided to relax! We booked a couples massage at the Shoji Spa & Retreat which is a Japanese inspired spa. I was immediately interested in visiting because the private hot tubs overlooking the mountain! It was so relaxing while being immersed in nature.  

  • Breakfast at the hotel 
  • Spa day at Shoji Spa & Retreat 
  • One last brewery and dinner at Hi-Wire Brewing  
  • Stay at hotel 

Today was all about relaxing as we were about to our max on brewery hopping. The Shoji Spa was absolutely incredible, and I’d highly recommend it! Reservations are recommended to be made in advance if you plan to visit.  

Me in the private hot tub, taking in the view.

Day 7: Drive from Asheville, NC to Columbia, SC 

We woke up on day 7 and headed to our next destination. Since we didn’t do a lot of hiking in Asheville, we decided to make a stop at Chimney Rock State Park. This could also be a day trip for hiking from Asheville. We completed the Hickory Nut Falls Trail and the Outcroppings Trail. There are various points you can hike to on the Outcroppings Trail, we hiked to exclamation point.  

My husband and I in front of Hickory Nut Falls.
  • Breakfast at hotel 
  • Drive from Asheville, NC to Chimney Rock State Park (~40 minutes) 
  • Hike Outcroppings Trail and Hickory Nut Falls 
  • Drive from Chimney Rock State Park to Columbia, SC (~2 hours, 15 minutes) 
  • Check into Airbnb and relax 
  • Dinner in Columbia, SC  
  • Stay at Airbnb 
View at Opera Box.

Day 8: Columbia, SC 

The main reason for stopping in Columbia, SC was to check another national park off my list. Congaree National Park is located about 30 minutes from Columbia, SC and is worth visiting, even if you only have one day. 

Congaree National Park entrance sign
  • Breakfast at the Airbnb 
  • Drive to Congaree National Park 
  • Check out the visitor center 
  • Complete the Boardwalk Loop Trail  
  • Enjoy a picnic lunch at the park  
  • Head back to the Airbnb and relax 
  • Uber eats for dinner  

I was excited to explore a new National Park as part of this trip! All the details on visiting Congaree National Park can be found in this blog post. We were tired after spending the day in the park, so we decided to relax at the Airbnb and order Uber eats for dinner. We also wanted to head to bed early to get ready for the drive back home.  

Boardwalk trail and trees surrounding it at Congaree National Park.

Day 9: Travel Day Columbia, SC to Tampa, FL

Our Southeast road trip was coming to an end, and we packed up the car and headed back to Tampa today. We grabbed a quick breakfast and stopped for a quick lunch on the road. The drive back to Tampa was about ~7.5 hours and we did not run into nearly as much traffic as on our way to Georgia making it a smooth drive.  

  • Breakfast at Airbnb 
  • Drive from Columbia, SC to Tampa, FL  
  • Unpack  

Final thoughts on Southeast US Road Trip Itinerary  

This southeast US road trip itinerary is the perfect mix of adventure, relaxing, and sightseeing! There was ample time to enjoy each of the cities we stopped in, and the drives were manageable from place to place. The longest drive is your first day from Florida to Northern Georgia when you are still feeling refreshed.  

Let me know in the comments if there is anywhere else you would add to this itinerary in the comments below!   

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