The history of the American auto industry is significant because of its global impact and because of the freedom and independence cars gave Americans.
As vehicles became more accessible and popular in the early-mid 1900s, road systems began to develop. Overtime these roads began expanding and in 1956 former president, Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid-Highway Act that created the Interstate Highway System. The interstate highway system would connect city to city, state to state and eventually coast to coast. It would connect all Americans to each other and new opportunities.
In 2013 (57 years later), the highway system was measured at 47,856 miles of road and Americans were able to travel to 49 states, with the exception being Hawaii. Throughout all of the miles, some of these roads are the epitome of “America the Beautiful” and have been recognized for their beauty. Today, 120 roads have been recognized as National Scenic Byways and 31 as All-American Roads.
To become classified as either of those roads, certain qualities (scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archeological, and recreational) must be met. A Scenic Byway must have one of those qualities and an All-American Road must have two of those qualities.
Currently, 46 states have either a National Scenic Byway or All American Road, if not both. But, the list is still expanding. Lucky for us, the southeastern region is home to five All-American Roads, read about them below.
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway has been operating as a road since 1938 and it earned All-American Road classification in 2009. Connected by 42 bridges, the Overseas Highway is a 113 mile section of A1A, a road which reaches from the Keys to Maine. One side of the road has views of the Gulf of Mexico and the other side has views of the Atlantic Ocean. Some parts of the road have views of the remaining original train tracks built by Henry Flagler in 1912.
If you make the drive, be sure to stop at Robbie’s Marina, located at mile marker 77.5. Feed the huge hungry tarpon at Robbie’s docks, spend the day paddleboarding or kayaking around the mangroves or eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at the restaurant, the Hungry Tarpon.
This All-American Road is one of the most unique on this list because it earned this designation for its historic and cultural significance, rather than natural beauty. Designated an All-American Road in 1996, this road follows the powerful Civil Rights route of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the march started on a Sunday with 3,200 marchers and ended five days later with more than 25,000 marchers. The total distance of the marches and the route is 54 miles.
The Blue Ridge Parkway dates back to around 1936 and at 469 miles long, it is America’s longest parkway. The parkway was designated as a an All-American Road for its beauty as most of the road features expansive views of the Blue Ridge, a mountain chain that is a part of the Appalachian Mountains. If the Appalachain Mountains aren’t enough of a view, the road connects to two national parks, the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile road (and designated bicycle route) that travels through Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and 10,000 years of North American history. Commonly referred to as the Old Trace, the road played an important role in American history as it was a common trail and route to the American Indians, "Kaintucks," and settlers. The road is a popular destination in summer, spring and fall because the nature around it thrives and changes with each season.
Also known as “Louisiana’s Outback,” the Creole Nature Trail winds through the marshes and prairies of deep Louisiana. The road spans 180 miles and it has views of marshes, prairies and natural beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The Creole Nature Trail was designated an All-American Road in 2002 and has a variety of natural and historical landmarks along the route.
A1A was established around 1945, and is constantly driven on today. The Coastal Byway is a small 72 mile segment of the road A1A. This segment of the long highway is the historic section of the highway. Historic sites include: ancient forts and castles, lighthouses, and various museums and sites including the fountain of youth. Some of this history even dates before America was founded. Very cool! Activities along the way include: fishing, scuba diving, and exploring gorgeous white sand beaches.
Talladega Scenic Drive is newer, only being around since 1995. This is a short byway (26 miles), it would take about an hour to drive the entire road. Enjoy the tallest part of Alabama, Cheaha Mountain, also drive through the never ending green trees of Talladega National Forest. Stop along the way for camping, fishing, hiking, and nature watching.
Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway is also relatively new, with its first year dating back to 1998. This 40.6 mile road is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. From misty waterfalls to mountains and trails to all the scenic views, this is a must drive.
Blue Ridge Parkway photo credit: shutterstck / Pierre Leclerc
Creole Nature Trail photo credit: shutterstock / Pierre Jean Durieu
Natchez Trace Trail photo credit: shutterstock / James R. Martin
Florida Keys Overseas Highway photo credit: shutterstock / pisaphotography
Selma photography photo credit: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com
Montgomery photography photo credit: shutterstock.com / LMspencer