Outer Banks, North Carolina
This ride would rank higher if not for wind and traffic. The arrowhead-shape formation of barrier islands, known as the Outer Banks, thrusts way out into the Atlantic Ocean, usually beyond sight of the mainland. These narrow, flat strips of sand afford lots of water views, especially on the Pamlico Sound side. The ride’s difficulty depends on whether the capricious sea breezes provide a helpful tailwind or nasty headwind. The main road, two-lane Highway 12, lacks bike lanes or even much in the way of shoulders. Spring provides the best combination of nice weather and light traffic. A 28-mile lighthouse-to-lighthouse ride (plus a free ferry ride in the middle) runs from the famous Hatteras Light on Hatteras Island to the Ocracoke Lighthouse on the western tip of Ocracoke Island; 877/629-4386 or outerbanks.org.