East Coast Road is the scenic two-lane road, running along the Bay of Bengal, from Chennai to Kanyakumari. Also called SH49, NH32 or the SH176, the road runs through some prominent tourist places in Tamil Nadu. You will pass many stunning landscapes and scenic routes and enjoy the view of the sea. You will end up driving by resort towns, colonial structures, temples and museums, as you cruise down the East Coast Road.
Most people from Chennai do not drive beyond Puducherry when on a road trip from Chennai. The smaller towns further down the East Coast Road are mostly explored by the avid road trippers. You would also find many devotees making the trip further south to visit the temples, dargahs, and churches scattered along the route. However, we would highly recommend that you go on the road trip to the southernmost part of the country, Kanyakumari.
Your first stop will be the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mahabalipuram. The 8th Century Shore Temple there is one of the most visited tourist places in Tamil Nadu. Visit the Crocodile Bank to see the crocodiles and the other reptilian inhabitants up close. Also, you must check out the many handicrafts of the southern states at Dakshinachitra.
Another much-visited tourist places in Tamil Nadu on the East Coast Road is Pondicherry or Puducherry. The erstwhile French colony with its old-world charm attracts many travelers. You can get in touch with your spiritual side at Auroville or spend an afternoon admiring the architecture of the old churches. The beaches, the food, the local markets, there is a lot you can do in Pondy, as it is colloquially called.
As you go further on your road trip towards Kanyakumari, you would pass by many lesser known tourist places in Tamil Nadu. You must check out the fabulous Silver Beach and the ruins of Fort St. David in the lush town of Cuddalore. You can explore the many old temples and untouched beaches in Karaikal, quite literally the town of temples. Visit the well-known Nagore Dargah Sharif and spend some quiet time at the Muthupet Lagoon area.
The East Coast Road will next take you to the historical pilgrimage town of Rameswaram. The town is the centre of many renowned tourist places in Tamil Nadu. Pay homage to the great leader at the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial and visit the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple. Then drive on the legendary Pamban Bridge to reach Dhanushkodi, a small secluded town, also known as “Tamil Nadu’s Ghost Town”.
As you get back on the East Coast road, you will come across fishermen and coconut sellers. You can make a stop at Tiruchendur, the sanctuary town designed for pilgrims, with vegetarian eateries and inns for rest. The Nava Thirupathi, a cluster of 9 sacred Vishnu Temples is just a short drive from here. You will also find many hidden beaches along the route where you can interact with locals.
Finally, your East Coast Road journey culminates in Kanyakumari. Relax at the Kanyakumari beach where the Bay of Bengal meets the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Spend peaceful moments at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and think of the many gorgeous sights you have seen.
Therefore, you see that the places you see on the East Coast road are a mix of popular tourist places in Tamil Nadu and lesser-known towns not yet commercialized.
We hope to have inspired you to be the avid road tripper who explores the entire ECR Road, start to finish. If you have any questions, please ask our scouts on our Community forums or check out the road trip package here. You can also check out other coastal road trip ideas like the Konkan Coast and Kerala coastal route.