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NYC to Florida drive....seeking advice on stops in Va, NC, SC

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With the help of the advice I received here, two of us had an interesting, and delicious, journey from our home in NYC to a rental condo in south Florida last December. Details in this thread: http://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/nyc-to-fla-road-tripstopovers-i-81-in-virginia-and-sea-islands.cfm

We plan to rent another condo this winter, and would like to take a route different from last year's, which included overnights in Staunton, Va , Winston Salem, and St. Simons Island.

Please bear with me; this is another long and winding post!

Having heard awful things about the drive south from NYC to DC on I-95, I am thinking of driving via the Eastern Shore of MD and the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel, which would put us in the area of Norfolk, Va, or perhaps Elizabeth City, NC on the first night. (Do not want to drive more than 7 hours each day).

Does anyone have any ideas for a hotel (non-chain is best) for the first night in the general area of Norfolk/EC? Any great local places to eat on the Eastern Shore, or in the Norfolk or EC area? Would not like any complicated city driving, unless there is a great hotel at the end of it!

The second day of driving will likely follow a route east of I-95 in order to take in one or two of the legendary Eastern NC BBQ outposts (Right now I am looking at Bunn's BBq in Windsor, NC, and Wilbur's in Goldsboro; we can do one for late breakfast and the second for lunch).

Second night: Had planned on driving as far as Bluffton, SC, but I see that the drive from Norfolk to Bluffton is almost 8 hours or so---with food stops, this might be too much car time.

SO: Looking at Florence, SC, and would like comments on that city, or other likely stops on the second night.
There appears to be a handsome downtown area, and a good hotel in Florence.

Third and maybe Fourth night: Bluffton, SC. This would break up the driving days and give us a short drive on the second day, along with a chance to meander around this area of the Low Country, with a possible visit to Beaufort (SC). There is an excellent, if pricey hotel in Bluffton that we are thinking of trying. ( if anyone has stayed at Palmetto Bluff, please comment!) Certainly would need info on where to eat in Bluffton. (local seafood sounds best; do not want a "fancy" setting). See linked thread, above, for where we ate along our drives last year..


Day 1..Leave NYC, drive via EAstern Shore to Norfolk, Va or Elizabeth City, NC.

Day 2..Meander south, sampling NC bbq, to Florence, SC

Day 3..Short drive to Bluffton, SC, with stops at Le Creuset outlet..meander around remainder of day and on following day. (day 4) (Any other stops en route??)

Day 5: Long slog from Bluffton to south Florida.

Thanks for reading this rambling post...please offer your comments on hotels and food en route.

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