A family RV road trip from Louisville, KY, to Ocean City, MD, takes you from the shores of the Ohio River through the Appalachian Mountains and to the East Coast of the United States. Any family that makes this trip witnesses patches of the wilderness as seen by hopeful settlers. While the movement of immigrants to the interior took over a hundred years, you can make this trip in a matter of hours, or, if you stop to see what is in front of you, days or weeks. On the way to frolic on the peaceful shores or walk the boardwalk of Ocean City, you pass several national and state parks that strive to maintain the primitive features that the first explorers found here.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Before leaving the Louisville area, venture 100 miles south to visit one of the natural wonders of the nation at Mammoth Cave National Park. The park features 400 miles of explored caves, with many more caves still to be spelunked. Tours are available to see vast rooms such as the Rotunda or Gothic Avenue — a tunnel with the signature of hundreds of 19th-century visitors on the ceiling.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Another national park that preserves the natural wilderness that existed in the area for hundreds of years is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 500,000-acre park encompasses one of the most significant challenges to western movement from the original colonies along the East Coast. Visiting here, you find incredibly dense forests, seemingly endless ridgelines, and towering bluffs with incredible panoramic views. The detour is only three hours off your route and deserves consideration as an addition to your road trip itinerary from Louisville to Ocean City.
New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge National Park sits about 250 miles alongside the journey on your Louisville to Ocean City road trip. Though the stream has “New” in its name, it is the oldest river on the continent. The gorge through which it runs is reminiscent of those younger water-carved features further west, such as the Grand Canyon or the Columbia River Gorge. With national park status, this park preserves the barrier Virginia settlers discovered that kept them from venturing further west. Hikers find trails here that bend around rocky outcrops, scale mountainous terrain, and skirt the sloughs dug out by the river over thousands of years.
Shenandoah National Park
Nearing the end of your exploratory road trip from Louisville to Ocean City lies Shenandoah National Park. Today, the popular Skyline Drive bisects the park, allowing for an easy RV visit. You can explore deeper by taking one of the several hiking paths that run through the park. Along these pathways, you find the unpassable ridges, beautiful waterfalls, and dense forests that held up movement to the interior for decades.
Big Bone Lick State Park
Take a 100-mile detour to the north at the start of your Louisville to Ocean City RV road trip to visit Big Bone Lick State Park. Here you find the last remaining bison herd in the region. These animals once ruled the area and were plentiful when settlers first ventured here. A quick visit to view these huge mammals gives you a sense of perspective on what those brave adventurers saw when they arrived.
Beech Fork State Park
While driving through West Virginia on your Louisville to Ocean City road trip, take a 50-mile detour to the west out of Charleston to visit Beech Fork State Park. The park features dense forests, meandering streams, and a 720-acre lake. Taking one of the several hiking trails through the forest gives you an idea of the challenges that settlers faced when trying to drag wagons through this area. On the other hand, the fishing and hunting opportunities this park offers give you a clue as to why those same explorers thought of this area as a land of plenty.
Assateague State Park
Assateague State Park is a great place to park your RV while exploring the fun activities the Ocean City area has to offer. After a day of fun activities, this beach campground provides a respite. You witness the living remnants of early explorers at this park as you watch the antics of a feral herd of horses. Here, you can choose between playing on the beach or hiking through a maze of salt marshes and coastal forests. The beach you find here is not unlike what the first seasick colonists saw when they first sighted land in the Americas.
Louisville Mega Cavern
Since your road trip itinerary from Louisville to Ocean City includes the natural Mammoth Caves National Park, you may want to drop by the Louisville Mega Cavern to see an artificial version of an underground cave. The cavern is the result of vast underground mining of limestone discovered during the 1930s. Today, the closed mine offers 17 miles of underground corridors with tons of educational and fun-filled adventures for visitors. Professional tour guides take you along roped overlooks and incredible zip line courses into portions of these caves unseen since miners carved them.
West Virginia State Museum
When you reach Charleston, WV, stop by the West Virginia State Museum. The site includes exhibits on the formation of West Virginia from the forces that created its vast coal deposits to today. It has a gripping portrayal of how West Virginia became a state during the height of the Civil War.
The Ocean City Boardwalk
The iconic Ocean City boardwalk has a history that other boardwalks envy. Initially created in 1909, the boardwalk has seen many renovations since its original portable concept. Today, the permanent boardwalk skirts the highest dunes along the beach with incredible views of the Atlantic. Cool breezes skim the ocean before touching your face. Choruses of carnival barkers and the melodic sounds of carousels fill the air which is rich with the aroma of popcorn and saltwater taffy. A visit to this icon of America’s past will stay with you for the rest of your life.
With a population of over 323,000, Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 60th largest in the country. Restaurants, fun events, and museums are available to visitors throughout the city. At a mere 100 miles east of Louisville, this is a great place to stop for the day along your road trip from Louisville to Ocean City. Take the time to use one of the available dump stations. There are plenty of campgrounds in the Lexington area where you can relax for an evening and stretch your legs.
Charleston, West Virginia
Charleston, WV, traces its founding back to the building of Fort Lee in 1788. Today, with over 47,000 people, the town is the most populous community in the state. The city is home to an amazing mix of restaurants, fun houses, and museums that document its colorful history. Since the city is 250 miles into your Louisville to Ocean City road trip, it is a great point to stop and clean your waste tanks at one of the dump stations. While you are visiting Charleston, stay at one of the many campgrounds in the region.
Ocean City, Maryland
At the finish line of your epic road trip from Louisville to Ocean City is one of the favorite vacation destinations on the East Coast. Ocean City has a population of only 7,000 people during the winter but swells to 350,000 during the vacation season. As a final destination for your family vacation, this town rocks. Whether you are looking to dip into the warm waters supplied by the Gulf Stream or walk the sandy beaches, you will not be disappointed by your experiences here. While you finish up your vacation time, visit one of the numerous dump stations in ocean City to clean your tanks. For a final camping experience, you cannot lose at Ocean City and one of its several campgrounds.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Louisville to Ocean City, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Louisville or Ocean City.