You've got the old beach blanket: folded, the Yeti: packed with ice, folding chairs: yes, vacation rental: uh duh, rented, so now what's the best way from Atlanta to the destination Destin again? Oh, you are in luck. You have stumbled upon a real jewel of an article, one that you can actually use in real life! Not like that smut you've been scrolling on those other travel sites. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are really just three major routes to take you from the Peach-tree streets of Atlanta to the Luckiest Little Fishing Village (and arguable the prettiest beaches) in the World.
Related article: Florida Beaches Near Atlanta
All the routes start on the comforting 6 lane pandemonium that is I-85. Option One: is to take I-85 to I-65 to sticksville, and then the beach. On this route, you'll pass Hank William's Home town in lower Alabama. Those driving a late model Corvette would enjoy this route, 5h 15m, my personal best was 4:22, 334 Miles, with a stop for two in Baker Block, driving a friends Porsche 928. Speaking of…
Option Two: is similar, but you avoid Montgomery (we'll just leave that right there). At 5h 20m, it's easy to see the less time spent on I-85, the better, let's be honest, I-85 is boring. On this route, you'll enjoy the town of Opp, but overall it's really just a long string of small towns with big opportunities to end up on the wrong road, rear-ending a Hyundai supply vehicle.
Option Three: You guessed it, three is for me, is the way you want to go. Is it a hair longer, maybe, this route takes 5h 30m on paper. Regardless, you get to drive on Route 431, a four-lane black ribbon of highway that is simply a joy to travel along, more on that here in a bit.
This route circles around three quaint cities in Alabama, never the less you're sure to find yourself on the open road in need of a salty snack or a cool drink, bring 'em! Plan a restroom break before you start. Fail to plan, and you've planned to fail, prep is #1, for the makings of any perfect road trip. Get your snack bag set up the day before you leave. Check the tire pressure, oil and water levels for peace of mind, and clean out your vehicle's interior to avoid bringing or losing things you really don't need to.
You're about to learn about number one - my presonal favorite.
Newnan! Your first stop and a good 45 minutes outside of Atlanta proper. Probably do not want to stop here (unless you forgot the restroom break). Better yet hold it another 45 minutes to Columbus, GA. Well wooded, would not be an unfair assessment of the deep south and is deadly accurate here. After what seems like an endless highway with nothing but trees, you'll be happy to see the curved roads and Columbus's topographical changes. Columbus features a quaint military base, lots of fun, young people, and all the rest stop necessities you could ask for. If you'd like to stretch your legs pop over to the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. This town has a cool vibe, but alas, no beaches, time to drive on.
Hello 431! This is hands down the best (driving) part of the journey. Highway 431 was recently (over the last 20 years) widened. This road, dear reader, traverses the countryside over rolling hills and blends them with long left and right sweepers. If you like a more grand tour ride to the beach, this is your route. In addition to the usual Tom Thumbs and Quickie Marts that are scattered along the way, 431 has some real jewels as well.
The grandest of all these is the sweet little antebellum town of Eufaula. The main drag is 431, so you will be headed right down the center of this mansion-lined street. The architecture here demands your attention, and again if you need to stretch your legs, there is literally no better place than this along your way to the beach to pop out for a walk.
Continuing your route down 431, you'll pass Todd Farms. Housed in a big red barn, Todds fits the bill for the perfect rest stop, with benefits. It's the epitome of the country store. They offer natural, local foods and Amish crafts and works of art, located right between Eufaula and Dothan, the biggest little city in Alabama.
Since you are presumably on your way to the beach, you may well need food items, beach sundries, and who knows what else, let's talk shopping. The ringed city of Dothan, gets its name from the road that surrounds it, if you miss your exit and have an hour or two to spare, make your way around the place and stop and shop because everything, and we do mean virtually everything is available here, from boiled peanuts and truck tires to rugs and beach blankets, Dothan has it all. You won't be paying astronomical Atlanta or beach towny prices either. Hold on to it. This place is middle America at its finest, and honestly, the last little bit of normalcy you'll get in these parts, next stop Florida people!
Taking I-10 West is a cruise control lovers dream - set it to high single digits over 70 mph and let it ride, you'll be another hour or so to the shore. Most of it is just straightaways and long sweeping turns. Obviously, you'll want to watch the center median for any bit of chrome that may tip you off to a cruiser with a 350 lbs Florida State Trooper named Ken waiting to give you a mandatory donation form. Depending on where you are headed, you may want to drop down Highway 331 for South Walton Beaches or opt for Hwy 20 West that will put you on the Mid-Bay Bridge to Destin via Crystal Beach.
See more: 10 Stunning Photos: Destin vs. South Walton
For your best time, leave Atlanta before 7 am; you'll lose an hour, so you'll only put 4.5 hrs on your time clock max. If you are driving at night, get a hotel along the way and take your time getting up in the morning. Plan to go directly to the beach and make a day of it. Check-in time starts at 4pm. The current guest is often checking out late morning, and our housekeeping teams need time to thoroughly clean and inspect your vacation rental for your arrival. Ocean Reef offers plenty of Destin vacation rentals for your whole gang, and road trips are always more fun if there's a convoy, enjoy the ride!