Drive Around the World on These Ultimate Road Trips

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We all feel the need to test the limits of our freedom now and again, and there’s nothing more freeing than hitting the open road on one of these ultimate road trips with your favourite plus-one riding shotgun.

While Asia has a lot going for it, calming driving conditions are rarely a drawcard. Busy roads, chaotic conditions and a loose interpretation of the road rules make Asia fairly low on the global driving holiday circuit. However, that just gives travellers from the region an additional excuse to book flights and head to distant horizons, where the roads are well-built and lead to adventure with every turn.

Whether you’re cruising the raw, desolate beauty of Scotland’s Highlands or navigating the twists and bends in Australia’s Great Ocean Road, these ten drives are some of the most scenic around. Plus they offer plenty of opportunities to delve into the culture, cuisine and attractions of the local areas. So pack your bags, pick up some snacks, and grab your two favourite allies – this is going to be a drive to remember.

Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road, Australia

This 243km stretch along Australia’s southern coast consistently tops the list of the world’s ultimate road trips, and for good reason. Jaw-dropping vistas of rock stacks, dramatic cliffs, and the azure Southern Ocean are matched by picturesque small towns like Torquay and Lorne, and the drive itself keeps things interesting with more curves than your femme du jour.

The Ring Road, Iceland

You’ll want to set aside at least two weeks to make the most of this ultimate road trip. Winding 1,339km around the country, this drive takes you through some of Iceland’s most ruggedly scenic spots. Expect thundering waterfalls at Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, magnificent glaciers and ice caves at Jökulsárlón and Vatnajokull, as well as active volcanoes, snow-capped mountains and black sand beaches.

route 66 usa ultimate road trips
Route 66, USA

The original American road trip, Route 66 was the first highway to cross most of the country, stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles through eight states and three time zones. It was officially decommissioned in 1985, but parts of the 3,940km route still remain thanks to conservation efforts by the US National Park Service. Expect a nostalgia-filled trip through America’s past as you past classic roadside motels, atmospheric towns, and diners with old-school Harleys parked outside.

Garden Route South Africa
Garden Route, South Africa

There’s a little something for everyone on this epic road trip that winds along South Africa’s eastern coast. Technically, the route runs between Mossel Bay and Storms River, but many intrepid travellers do the extended drive between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town to really make the most of it. The drive takes its name from the sweeping vistas of vegetation it winds through – the area was once home to a great forest which was dramatically reduced by Dutch woodcutters in the 18th century. Along the way, you’ll be able to surf, hike, go wine tasting, and try ostrich riding or whale watching. You may even get to see the big five on safari, and you’ll definitely get to stay in swish hotels and eat at great restaurants.

North Coast 500 Scotland
North Coast 500, Scotland

There’s something mystical about driving this route through the Scottish Highlands. Start early and you’ll see fog hanging low over rugged peaks, haunting moorlands, deserted lochs and vertiginous sea cliffs. Beginning and ending in the charming Highlands capital of Inverness, this road trip will take you on a crash course in Scottish history, culture and hospitality as you take in castles and battlefields, distilleries and breweries, and cosy B&Bs and pubs. And if you need another reason to go, you could try these luxury supercars.

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

When Top Gear’s Chris Evans declares this is “the best road I’ve ever driven on,” you know this qualifies as an ultimate road trip. With so many things to see and do – and more than a few detours to make – you may want to set aside a month to make this 2,500km run up the Western Coast of Ireland. Connecting Malin Head in the north and Kinsale in the south, this road trip will take you through some of Ireland’s most incredible scenery and intriguing attractions.  Enjoy serious gastronomy in Kinsale and New Quay; brush up on history at The Michael Collins Centre and Classiebawn Castle; follow the pilgrimage route up Croagh Patrick, and kiss the sky on the Sky Road of Connemara’s coastline.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Great food and wine, hairpin turns with steep cliff drops, storybook villages, dramatic panoramas, local beaches and A-list glamour – a road trip through the Amalfi Coast really packs it all in and then some. If you want a whistle-stop tour, you can easily do the highlights of Amalfi, Positano and Ravello in a couple of days. But linger longer and you can discover the hidden charms of Sorrento; stay in plush hotels like Le Sireneuse, and eat in a cliff in Polignano a Mare.

Flinders Ranges
Red Centre, Australia

Australia’s pretty vast, but the majority of the country is given over to sweeping expanses of desert and wilderness. The heart of this is called the Red Centre, and a drive through this uninhabited outback is a real get-away-from-it-all experience. As you make the drive between Adelaide and Darwin, you can stop at the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, where locals live underground; see the Devils Marbles, a collection of massive boulders; and of course, for that iconic Australian moment, catch the sunset over Uluru (better known at Ayer’s Rock).

South Island New Zealand
South Island, New Zealand                   

New Zealand’s South Island is known for its spectacular scenery, and to do it justice, you’ll want to take the time to do as much as possible. There’s no set route for this road trip, so just grab a detailed map and start driving. Wherever you go, you’re sure to be met by some of the world’s most breath-taking landscapes – think glaciers and fjords, mountain ranges and forests. After all, there’s a reason this has been a choice filming destination for fantasy flicks like The Lord of the Rings. Be sure to stay at some of the luxury lodges tucked into remote areas, feast on gourmet cuisine, try the wines of the Otago region, and indulge in adrenaline-fuelling adventures like via ferrata and bungy-jumping.

Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail, Canada

This scenic trail once connected isolated fishing villages strung out along Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Circling the Cape Breton Highlands National Like, this road trip offers everything from rigorous hiking trails and cultural sites to cliff-top views, tranquil lakes, and plenty of windy roads connecting them all. Yes, the fishing villages are still there – albeit less disconnected these days – and you’ll even get the chance to spot Pilot, Finback, Minke and Humpback whales.

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About Author

Always ready for her next adventure, Gayatri Bhaumik took her first flight at 10 days old and hasn’t looked back since. After long stints in Bangkok, Melbourne and London, she now based in Hong Kong.

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