One-Tank Escapes for 7 Cities
This summer, the key words are "quick" and "easy." But you still want a trip that delivers. So, hit the road! These seven drives are real getaways—even if they take you only a few hours from home.
Long Beach Island, N.J.
100 miles from New York City
Retro surf towns with pastel beach houses and low-lying diners are strung along a broad central boulevard on Long Beach Island, a nearly 20-mile-long barrier isle off the southern Jersey Shore. HIGHLIGHTS At Tiki Taco in Beach Haven, beef or chicken tacos come with salsas given names like "riptide red" (609/492-2328, tikitaco.com). Brave the Sea Dragon, a swinging ship at Fantasy Island, a vintage amusement park in Beach Haven that has a century-old carousel (609/492-4000, fantasyislandpark.com). OVERNIGHT OPTION Magnolia House in Beach Haven is on of LBI's oldest Victorian-style inns. It has 12 guest rooms and is just a block from the beach. (609/492-2226, magnoliahouselbi.com, from $150 including breakfast). DRIVING TIP If the Garden State Parkway jams, exit on Highway 9 in Toms River and then head south 20 miles to Route 72, which connects with the causeway. EN ROUTE A 24-foot, 200-pound surfboard marks the entrance to the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Ship Bottom, where you can snap photos and rent gear (609/494-8844, ronjons.com). —Sara Morrow
98 miles from Dallas
Antebellum mansions from the 1800s line the brick streets of Tyler, an old railroad town in the swath of east Texas known for its piney woods—and its tasty barbecue. HIGHLIGHTS Tyler is the "Rose Capital of America," and at the 14-acre Municipal Rose Garden there are nearly 40,000 bushes showcasing 500 distinct varieties, including lines dating back to 1867 (903/531-1213, cityoftyler.org, free). At the 50-plus-year-old Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q, the over-the-top Brother-in-law sandwich features a grilled hot link with pulled pork and cheese on a toasted bun (903/593-0311, stanleyspitbbq.com, entrées from $6.99). Local musicians play old country music favorites at The Gladewater Saturday Night Opry, a barnlike dance hall that comes alive on weekends (903/845-3600, thegladewateropry.com, $10). OVERNIGHT OPTION On Tyler's outskirts, Kiepersol Estates is a winery and inn run by South African expat Pierre de Wet and his daughter Marnelle de Wet Durrett; it serves the area's best filet mignon (903/894-3300, kiepersol.com, from $195). DRIVING TIP Skip Interstate 20 in favor of the more scenic Highway 80, which travels through the tiny 19th-century town of Mineola. EN ROUTE Kitchens, a century-old hardware store and deli in Mineola, sells wrenches and blackberry cobbler (903/569-2664). —Geraldine Campbell
Whidbey Island, Wash.
25 miles from Seattle
A zigzagging isle on the northern edge of Washington's Puget Sound, the 45-mile-long Whidbey Island is a rural patchwork of pine forests and small family farms, some of which have been passed down from one generation to the next since the 1850s. HIGHLIGHTS Overlooking Penn Cove in Coupeville, the island's main settlement, brothers Doug, Jerry, and Tom Kroon (along with their niece, Marcia Johnson) run Knead & Feed, a wood-paneled bakery-café known for its shrimp bisque and fresh slices of pie (360/678-5431, kneadandfeed.com). A few doors down, at Mosquito Fleet Chili, husband-and-wife owners Chris and Rita Tomayko make spicy chili using local beef (360/678-2900). The island's agricultural traditions are protected within the borders of the 17,500-acre Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, where local farmers continue to till the rich soil (360/678-6084, nps.gov/ebla). The park's eastern shore has open views of the Olympic Mountains to the south. For dinner at Prima Bistro, nibble on fresh fish frites served with red-onion slaw, fries, and caper remoulade while overlooking beautiful Saratoga passage. (360/221-4060 primabistro.com, entrées from $12.50). OVERNIGHT OPTION Original log walls, beamed ceilings, and stone fireplaces adorn the 102-year-old Captain Whidbey Inn (360/678-4097, captainwhidbey.com, from $94). Choose from among the 12 rooms in the main house (all with shared bath), one of 4 one-bedroom cabins, or 13 lagoon rooms scattered around the grounds—many with views of the water. DRIVING TIP It's a 30-minute ferry ride from the dockside town of Mukilteo to the island. Traffic is heavy on Fridays, so leave in the morning or, better yet, linger over dinner in Seattle. The ferries run until 1 a.m. EN ROUTE Next to the dock on the mainland, Ivar's Mukilteo Landing draws locals with its extensive wine list and views of Possession Sound (425/742-6180, ivars.net). —Kimberly Brown Seely