Can you remember the last time you drove for the sake of exploration? Or took the long way home on purpose? It’s a freeing experience to drive down the interstate, onto rural routes, and through the tree-lined backroads of the countryside.
Thankfully, Illinois is home to many roads and byways that are perfect for your next scenic drive; you may even want to find and explore some diversions along the way! To make your life easier, we have built a list of our top five scenic drives in Illinois. It’s time to pack some snacks, queue your favorite playlist and get lost in the natural beauty of your surroundings.
For a safe and stress-free drive, make sure you have the right auto insurance to protect the vehicle that makes it all possible.
The Great River Road
If waterside scenery brings a smile to your face, you will love driving along the great River Road. This road traces the Mississippi River as you travel the length of Illinois’ western border. Throughout the drive your eyes will be drawn from left to right with majestic waters on one side and vibrant woodlands on the other.
Since the Great River Road spans the entire state, it offers diverse stops along the way. Explore the towering bluffs, trek to the top of the largest prehistoric settlement in North America, experience the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area or canoe through the mighty Mississippi.
Ohio River Scenic Byway
Spring blooms, summer wildflowers, falls colors and winter adventures – experience the Ohio Scenic Byway in every season.
In the southernmost tip of Illinois, this route runs parallel to the Ohio River for 188 miles, ending in Cairo, Illinois. This National Scenic Byway reflects on rich history as it passes through many ancient sites that tell the stories of Native Americans, river pirates, miners, presidents, Civil War heroes and more. The route is also dotted by quaint riverside towns that are home to diverse people and customs.
In addition to history and culture, the byway is packed with natural splendor. It offers remarkable views of Shawnee National Forest and nearby recreation areas such as the Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, High Knob, Rim Rock and Tower Rock. Along your route, you will also find plentiful agriculture: farm operations, roadside vegetable stands, wineries, pick-your-own produce farms and more.
The Historic National Road in Illinois
The Historic National Road in Illinois is full of history and buzzing with an atmosphere of old-fashioned travel. In fact, it was the first federally funded road in the U.S.
This 164-mile road stretches from Marshall to East St. Louise, tracing prehistoric cities, Victorian architecture and Midwest small town America. Among its many gems is Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which features the largest mound buildings built by Native Americans on the North American continent.
Along your drive, don’t forget to marvel at the giant ketchup bottle just south of Collinsville. Yes, you heard right. This well-known water tower is trademarked “The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle” at 170 feet.
How about a short drive through nature’s utopia? Sometimes there is nothing better than rolling the windows all the way down, feeling the crisp air at your fingertips and witnessing the handiwork of Mother Nature. At the Morton Arboretum, you can drive nine miles through 1,700 acres of woodlands, wetlands and prairies.
The flowers, trees and animals that change with the season, make the Arboretum a paradise for nature lovers. While the drive will showcase much of the area’s beauty, there is so much to explore beyond the roads. Take a detour and hike Arboretum’s many trails, get lost in the maze garden or take photos at the Ground Cover Garden.
Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive
Calling all fall lovers and festival enthusiasts: Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive offers a self-guided tour well known for its annual fall festival. The family-friendly festival features crafts, food, flea markets, antiques, demonstrations and more.
Spoon River Valley winds through Fulton County from London Mills to the Illinois River, covering 140 miles of scenic roads. Visit up to 17 villages and many historic sites along your drive!
Curious about some of the route highlights? Drive to Bernadotte where you can admire the dam on Spoon River which was built by troops and was a part of Camp Ellis during World War II. At Bernadotte, you can also summon your inner child and indulge in a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Then, head to Smithfield for the chicken-and-noodle dinner that is hosted in the historical Red Brick School (because you can never have too much food and history in a day).
Have fun and stay safe
Now that you have the inside scoop, you are ready to explore Illinois’ vibrant charm. Some of the best memories are made on the road and we don’t want you to miss a second of it. See how auto insurance from ERIE can help ensure your leisurely drives continue by protecting you and your loved ones as you go the distance.