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Epic Road Trips: 10 Scenic Drives with Breathtaking Views and Unforgettable Stops

Apr 5, 2023 | Travel

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Hitting the open road is the epitome of adventure and freedom, a journey that often leads to self-discovery and unforgettable memories. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, or solo, road trips allow you to take in the beauty of your surroundings while exploring lesser-known destinations. This article takes you through 10 epic road trips across the globe, each boasting breathtaking views and unforgettable stops. So, buckle up, start your engines, and let’s embark on a journey that will leave you inspired and yearning for the open road.

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

Stretching 243 kilometers along the southeastern coast of Australia, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most iconic coastal drives. This stunning road trip offers a perfect blend of dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and quaint coastal towns. The journey begins in Torquay, just south of Melbourne, and ends in the charming fishing village of Port Fairy.

great ocean road

Key stops and attractions:

  • The Twelve Apostles: These majestic limestone stacks rising from the ocean are one of Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks.
  • Loch Ard Gorge: A picturesque spot with a tragic history, this gorge is named after a shipwreck that took place in 1878.
  • London Arch: A naturally formed arch that was once connected to the mainland before collapsing in 1990, leaving two tourists stranded.
  • Otway National Park: Explore the lush rainforest, discover hidden waterfalls, and spot diverse wildlife in this beautiful park.
  • Bells Beach: World-famous for its surfing, this beach hosts the annual Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition.

Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA

Pacific Coast Highway

California’s Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), offers a jaw-dropping 656-mile journey along the state’s rugged coastline. With its dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, and charming towns, the PCH is a must-drive for anyone visiting California. The most popular stretch runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles, featuring iconic destinations such as Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Barbara.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Golden Gate Bridge: The iconic red suspension bridge that connects San Francisco to Marin County.
  • Monterey: A picturesque coastal town famous for its world-class aquarium, Cannery Row, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • 17-Mile Drive: A scenic loop in Pebble Beach, showcasing the rugged coastline, stunning mansions, and the famous Lone Cypress.
  • Big Sur: A breathtaking stretch of coastline with dramatic cliffs, towering redwoods, and the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.
  • Santa Barbara: Known as the “American Riviera,” this charming town offers beautiful beaches, Spanish-style architecture, and a vibrant arts scene.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast in southern Italy is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the Tyrrhenian Sea, boasting dramatic cliffs, pastel-colored villages, and crystal-clear waters. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this breathtaking road trip offers a taste of la dolce vita. The journey typically starts in Sorrento and ends in the town of Salerno.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Positano: A picturesque village with pastel-colored buildings cascading down the cliffside to the sea.
  • Amalfi: The namesake town of the coast, Amalfi is known for its stunning cathedral, vibrant piazzas, and charming streets.
  • Ravello: Perched high above the sea, Ravello offers stunning panoramic views and is home to the magnificent Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone.
  • Emerald Grotto: This enchanting sea cave is filled with a brilliant emerald light, created by sunlight filtering through the underwater opening.
  • Path of the Gods: For those looking to stretch their legs, this scenic hiking trail offers incredible views of the Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean Sea.

Ring Road, Iceland

Ring Road

Iceland’s Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is an 828-mile journey that circumnavigates the entire island. With its otherworldly landscapes, this road trip is a nature lover’s paradise. The route takes you through diverse terrains, including glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, and black sand beaches. The best time to embark on this journey is during the summer months, when the weather is more favorable and daylight hours are extended.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Þingvellir National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this park is home to Iceland’s first parliament and the Silfra fissure, where you can snorkel between two tectonic plates.
  • Geysir Hot Springs Area: Witness the powerful Strokkur geyser erupting every few minutes and explore the bubbling hot springs.
  • Gullfoss: One of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Gullfoss is a powerful and breathtaking sight.
  • Vatnajökull National Park: Explore Europe’s largest glacier, hike to Svartifoss waterfall, and walk on the shores of the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón.
  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach: A striking black sand beach with towering basalt columns and powerful waves.

South Island Circuit, New Zealand

South Island Circuit

The South Island Circuit in New Zealand is a remarkable journey that takes you through diverse landscapes, from stunning coastlines and lush rainforests to snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes. This 1,200-mile loop starts and ends in Christchurch, covering some of the most beautiful destinations in the country, such as Queenstown, Milford Sound, and the West Coast.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park: Home to New Zealand’s tallest peak, this park offers stunning alpine landscapes and excellent hiking opportunities.
  • Milford Sound: A breathtaking fjord surrounded by steep cliffs and waterfalls, Milford Sound is often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
  • Queenstown: Known as the adventure capital of the world, this vibrant town offers a variety of adrenaline-pumping activities, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, and jet boating.
  • Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers: These impressive glaciers are easily accessible and offer guided tours, including helicopter rides and ice walks.
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Explore golden sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush coastal forests in this stunning national park.

Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies offer a jaw-dropping road trip through the heart of some of North America’s most spectacular mountain landscapes. The journey typically begins in Calgary, taking you through Banff and Jasper National Parks along the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most scenic drives. This 144-mile stretch of road offers unparalleled mountain vistas, turquoise lakes, and impressive glaciers.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Banff National Park: Canada’s oldest national park, Banff is home to the famous Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the picturesque town of Banff.
  • Jasper National Park: This vast park offers stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and the impressive Athabasca Glacier.
  • Icefields Parkway: A scenic drive connecting Banff and Jasper, with highlights such as Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, and the Columbia Icefield.
  • Yoho National Park: Just across the border from Banff, Yoho National Park boasts stunning attractions such as Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, and the Natural Bridge.
  • Kootenay National Park: Explore diverse landscapes, including the striking Paint Pots, Marble Canyon, and Radium Hot Springs.

Atlantic Road, Norway

Atlantic Road

The Atlantic Road in Norway is a short but stunning 5.2-mile stretch of road that connects the island of Averøy with the mainland. This engineering marvel zigzags across several islands and skerries, providing breathtaking views of the Norwegian coastline. While the drive can be completed quickly, it’s worth taking your time to enjoy the scenery and explore the surrounding area.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Storseisundet Bridge: The most famous and photographed bridge on the Atlantic Road, this cantilever structure appears to disappear into the ocean when viewed from certain angles.
  • Kvernes Stave Church: A beautiful 13th-century wooden church located on the island of Averøy.
  • Eldhusøya Island: A popular stop along the Atlantic Road, offering a scenic walkway, picnic areas, and an architecturally impressive service center.
  • Bremsnes Cave: Explore the intriguing cave system, featuring fascinating rock formations and ancient paintings.
  • Håholmen: A picturesque fishing village that offers boat trips, traditional Norwegian accommodations, and delicious local cuisine.

Garden Route, South Africa

Garden Route

The Garden Route in South Africa is a stunning 186-mile coastal drive between Mossel Bay and Storms River. This picturesque journey takes you through diverse landscapes, from pristine beaches and lush forests to dramatic cliffs and quaint towns. With a mild climate and an abundance of outdoor activities, the Garden Route is an ideal road trip destination year-round.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Knysna: A charming town situated on a beautiful lagoon, known for its oysters and vibrant waterfront.
  • Tsitsikamma National Park: Explore this lush coastal park, featuring stunning hiking trails, suspension bridges, and thrilling canopy tours.
  • Plettenberg Bay: A popular beach destination with pristine sandy shores, excellent surf, and the opportunity to spot whales and dolphins.
  • Oudtshoorn: The ostrich capital of the world, this inland town also offers the impressive Cango Caves and nearby wildlife ranches.
  • Wilderness: A serene coastal village surrounded by lush forests, lakes, and rivers, offering a range of outdoor activities and stunning viewpoints.

Route des Grandes Alpes, France

Route des Grandes Alpes

The Route des Grandes Alpes is a 425-mile journey through the heart of the French Alps, traversing some of Europe’s most majestic mountain landscapes. This epic road trip begins in Thonon-les-Bains on Lake Geneva and ends in Menton on the Mediterranean coast. Along the way, you’ll pass through picturesque alpine villages, conquer dramatic mountain passes, and be mesmerized by panoramic vistas.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Chamonix: A world-renowned ski resort and the gateway to Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps.
  • Col de l’Iseran: At 9,088 feet, this is the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks.
  • Écrins National Park: A protected area featuring stunning glaciers, deep valleys, and a variety of hiking trails.
  • Alpe d’Huez: A famous ski resort and the site of one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour de France.
  • Col de la Bonette: Another impressive mountain pass, offering panoramic views and access to the Mercantour National Park.

The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s ultimate coastal road trip, stretching over 1,500 miles along the country’s western seaboard. This epic journey takes you from the picturesque town of Kinsale in the south to the rugged landscapes of Donegal in the north. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking cliffs, windswept beaches, charming villages, and a rich cultural heritage.

Key stops and attractions:

  • Cliffs of Moher: One of Ireland’s most iconic natural attractions, these dramatic cliffs rise up to 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Ring of Kerry: A 111-mile loop that takes you through some of Ireland’s most stunning landscapes, including Killarney National Park, Moll’s Gap, and the Skellig Islands.
  • Galway: A vibrant city known for its lively arts scene, charming streets, and lively pubs.
  • Connemara National Park: A rugged and wild landscape with beautiful mountains, boglands, and pristine beaches.
  • Slieve League Cliffs: Some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, these dramatic cliffs offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding landscapes.

In a Nutsell

These 10 epic road trips showcase the diverse beauty of our world, taking you through some of the most stunning landscapes and unforgettable destinations. Whether you’re cruising along the coast, winding through mountain passes, or exploring rugged wilderness, these journeys are sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on an adventure that will both inspire and captivate your wanderlust.

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