Pack your bags, your beach towels, and get ready for a beautiful (and budget-friendly!) ride.

When planning our summer vacays, we might dream of jetting off to Europe or cruising through the Caribbean. And while both of those are reason to swoon, there's also an ocean full of beauty right here on our own soil—and it doesn't require a passport, a down payment, or even that much planning to access.

From the craggy California coast to the pristine Florida Keys overseas highway, there are loads of stunning destinations in America that are accessible on four wheels. And to help you pick where to point your GPS this season, Wallethub recently ranked the very best states to set out on the open road based on costs, safety, and the amount of attractions and activities offered.

According to their data, if you're seeking a balance between fun and feasibility, the best plane-free summer escape is a cruise through North Carolina. The southern state earned high marks in the cost and activity categories, with the highest number of scenic byways in the country, tied with California. (In case you're wondering, the Golden State—a road trip favorite—didn't fare as well on the list due in large part to its last-place cost ranking. Obviously, it's still a beauty if you have some cash saved.)

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But North Carolina is, of course, also a versatile stunner. From artsy Asheville to the breezy Outer Banks (a less-than-seven-hour drive) travelers can get a glimpse of both the mountains and world-class beaches in one day. And the quick drive from Nags Head to Ocracoke is arguably one of the most awe-inspiring coastal drives out there.

But, beauty aside, North Carolina also earns major points in the cost category, which takes into account gas and toll prices in addition to hotel and camping rates.

Elsewhere on the list, other coastal faves earned high points based on different measures. If your biggest selling point is saving money, consider a road trip along the Gulf coast—Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas all made it into the top five most affordable states. If you're traveling with a family and are concerned about safety—meaning the number of crimes and traffic accidents in addition to the quality of the roads—try Maine, which ranked second overall in the category. And if you're in search of the country's most stunning landscape, head to our pristine national parks: Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, and Washington all tied for first in the total amount of area designated as national parkland.

Spontaneous weekend escape, anyone? See the full Wallethub ranking here, plus 10 more amazing beachy road trips here.

This Story Originally Appeared On Coastal Living
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