These rides show off coastal scenery at whatever pace feels comfortable. And they parallel pavement, so drivers can share the views.
1. Lopez Island, Washington
Quiet, rustic, and always green, the San Juan Islands northof Seattle encapsulate the Pacific Northwest's gently ruggednatural beauty. A leisurely ride around Lopez, the flattest of theSan Juans, often yields wildlife sightings. Circlingcounterclockwise, thus staying on the shore side of the road,provides the best views. A full circuit clocks in at about 33.5miles, depending on detours to shops, restaurants, parks, andbeaches. Contact the Visitors Bureau at 888/468-3701 or visit guidetosanjuans.com.
2. Jekyll Island, Georgia
The bicycling craze hit this island a century ago, whenJekyll was the exclusive winter playground of Rockefellers,Vanderbilts, and their gilded ilk. A loop around the island todayextends about 16 miles, mostly on a paved, flat bike path that runsfor long stretches beside the beach. It also wanders past the grandJekyll Island Club Hotel and some of the showplace "cottages" thatsurvive from Jekyll's posh past. Contact the Convention andVisitors Bureau at 877/453-5955 or visit jekyllisland.com.
3. Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania
Presque Isle peninsula curls protectively around Erie,Pennsylvania, on the north shore of Lake Erie. A 13.5-mile trailaround the park offers lots of picnic areas and other enticingplaces to rest. Flocks of migrating birds (waterfowl in March,shorebirds in April) make spring a wonderful time to visit;814/833-7424 or presqueisle.org.
4. Island Beach State Park, New Jersey
Visiting this 10-mile finger of a barrier island betweenBarnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean amounts to a trip in a timemachine. Decades ago, most of the Jersey Shore looked likethis―unspoiled beaches, dunes, wildlife, and not a singlehigh-rise. The 8.1-mile, two-lane road saves a nice reward for theend: views across the inlet of Barnegat Lighthouse, known locallyas "Old Barney." The park shelters a variety of birds, including acolony of ospreys; 732/793-0506 or njparksandforests.org.
5. Corpus Christi, Texas
Sailboats glide and windsurfers swoop across Corpus ChristiBay near the gray bulk of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington, now a museum. Shoreline Boulevard/Ocean Drivecurves along this pretty vista, running south almost 11 miles fromthe downtown Bayfront Arts and Science Park to Naval Air StationCorpus Christi. The route, which passes several waterfront parksand some lovely houses, includes a bike lane most of the way.Contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800/766-2322 or visitcorpuschristi-tx-cvb.org.
6. Maui, Hawaii
Some people hate the middle-of-the-night wake-up, thejam-packed van trip up the mountainside, the crowds at the summit,the biting cold, and―depending on their risktolerance―the too-slow or too-dangerous pace of the rideitself. Others can't find enough superlatives to describe theawesomeness of an above-the-clouds sunrise followed by a 38-mile,switchback-filled bicycle descent of Haleakala volcano. The10,023-foot summit does get genuinely cold (between 30 and 60degrees, and windy). And those who pay too much attention to theincredible scenery risk painful wipeouts. On the other hand, howmany other rides are downhill all the way? For outfitters, contactthe Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau at 800/464-2924 or visit gohawaii.com.
7. Florida Keys, Florida
Eventually, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail will runmore than 106 miles along the islands that dangle in a languidcurve from the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The segmentspaved so far (totaling 61 miles) already provide the perfect way toexplore this otherworldly place, so beautiful away from thesouvenir shops and strip malls of U.S. 1. Bikers can view thegraceful bridges built a century ago for the Florida East CoastRailway, and even venture onto the Old Railroad Bridge, which leadsto a railroad museum on Pigeon Key. They can poke around alongsidethe gorgeously blue-green water. On Big Pine Key, they might evensee one of the endangered Key deer, a miniature subspecies aboutthe size of a large German shepherd; 305/853-3571 or dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/keystrail.
8. Bandon, Oregon
The incredibly bike-supportive state department oftransportation has mapped out the Oregon Coast Bike Route along thestate's entire Pacific shoreline. Even better, it has widenedshoulders to accommodate bicyclists, especially along thesouthbound lanes of U.S. 101. That's the side to ride because itoffers the best ocean views. Also, there's usually a tailwind Maythrough October―though the hills may prove daunting. A fun(and easy) detour rambles about 20 miles past the shops andrestaurants of historic Old Town Bandon―and the spectacularsea-stack formations just offshore; 503/986-3555 or odot.state.or.us/techserv/bikewalk.
9. Huntington Beach, California
This may be Surf City USA (by official trademark), but thelocals like to bike as well. Here in Orange County, south of LosAngeles, an 8.5-mile paved path runs the whole length of the city'sbeaches, providing continuous views of the Pacific Ocean. Checkingout the surfers, joggers, pets, sunbathers, roller skaters, andfellow bikers can be fun, too. Outside the city limits, the pathextends a mile north to Sunset Beach and nearly three miles southonto the Newport Peninsula for those who want a longer workout.Even city buses promote bicycling―most sport bike racks onthe front; 800/729-6232 or surfcityusa.com.
10. Outer Banks, North Carolina
This ride would rank higher if not for wind and traffic. Thearrowhead-shape formation of barrier islands known as the OuterBanks thrusts way out into the Atlantic Ocean―usually beyondsight of the mainland. These narrow, flat strips of sand affordlots of water views, especially on the Pamlico Sound side. Theride's difficulty depends on whether the capricious sea breezesprovide a helpful tailwind or nasty headwind. The main road,two-lane Highway 12, lacks bike lanes or even much in the way ofshoulders. Spring provides the best combination of nice weather andlight traffic. A 28-mile lighthouse-to-lighthouse ride (plus a freeferry ride in the middle) runs from the famous Hatteras Light onHatteras Island to the Ocracoke Lighthouse on the western tip ofOcracoke Island. Contact the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau at877/629-4386 or visit outerbanks.org.
published March 2006