In the mood for a good old-fashioned road trip? Here are five of the best road trip ideas that are sure to blow away the cobwebs, so beg, steal or borrow a set of wheels and hit the open road for one of these classic drives.
Cairns to Broome
The ‘top end’ of Australia is not for the faint-hearted. Not only is there the relentless heat, there’s also croc-infested waters, potholed roads and mile upon mile of grassland – it’s about as unforgiving a drive as you’re going to get. But therein lies the appeal. The Savannah Way, a series of highways and dirt tracks that span the 3,000km from Cairns on the east coast to Broome on the west, has become the ultimate adventure drive. And the challenge is worth it. Between the Pacific and the Indian oceans lie tropical rainforests, ancient rock formations, 15 National Parks and a third of Australia’s World Heritage Sites, not to mention the optional Gibb River Road detour through the Kimberley. Remember the ‘bush wave’ of lifting your index finger off the wheel when you pass an oncoming vehicle, and don’t even think about leaving your car if it breaks down. This is a hostile environment, and those who go wandering tend not to return.
Soundtrack: AC/DC; Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert soundtrack
Driving partner: Ray Mears
Car: Toyota Landcruiser, plus tent
Flask of: Chilled VB and Bundaberg Ginger Beer in the esky, gallons of water in reserve.
Sorrento to Salerno
Nothing can be more dramatic than driving along the Amalfi Coast at sunset – mountains on one side, ocean on the other, the scent of jasmine on the breeze as you drop down to second and tackle another hairpin. The 64km trip from Sorrento to Salerno is a white-knuckle ride of a road, ploughing through dark tunnels and skirting vertiginous cliffs. But it’s worth every palpitation. The pastel-coloured villages that cluster around the volcanic-sand beaches are so pretty they look like living film sets. Proudly unhurried, Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani and Positano demand a leisurely approach, so don’t rush the journey, stop overnight as you go, and don’t even think about racing an Italian driver. They are crazy, and the side-effects simply aren’t worth it.
Soundtrack: Pavarotti’s Greatest Hits, Vasco Rossi, Bruno Venturini, the soundtrack to The Talented Mr Ripley
Driving partner: Stirling Moss; anyone you’re madly in love with
Car: 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider
Flask of: Primitivo for the passengers; cold-brew espresso and ice-cold San Pellegrino for the designated driver.
LA to Oregon
Along with Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway is the classic American road trip. Technically, the week-long route runs from San Diego to San Francisco, but tacking on a few extra days and continuing the journey up to Seaside, Oregon, is worth the extra push. The first stretch, from San Diego to San Fran, is renowned for its dramatic, windswept shoreline, (and, of course, Big Sur – where the road famously hugs the coast and waves break 200m below your wheels). But the second section, which begins by crossing the Golden Gate bridge, is equally scenic, snaking its way through towering redwood forests, vineyards and mile upon mile of kitsch Americana.
Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell, The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan
Driving partner: Steve McQueen, Johnny Depp
Car: 1966 Mustang convertible
Flask of: Iced tea, root beer or one of the many bottles of Californian wine you’ll be buying en route.
Christchurch to Kingston
It’s easy to see why director Peter Jackson chose the South Island to replicate Middle Earth. Its mystical forests, snow-capped mountains and ice-blue lakes are made for long adventures and epic stories. The 530km from Christchurch to Kingston through the Southern Alps should only take about four days to drive, but that all depends on how many extreme sports you wish to try along the way – and there are MANY to try. The highlight of the trip is undoubtedly the detour to Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park, home to New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,755m. Pack camping gear, strap on your GoPro and enjoy one of the best road trips you’ll ever take.
Soundtrack: Crowded House, Led Zeppelin, Enya and Fat Freddy’s Drop
Car: VW campervan
Ideal partner: AJ Hackett – founder of the bungee jump
Flask of: 42 Below Kiwi vodka.
Cape Town to Richard’s Bay
Most people are familiar with the Garden Route – the expanse of coastline to the east of Cape Town, famous for its surf spots and national parks – but this is only a small portion of what South Africa has to offer. Continue on up to Richard’s Bay and you’ll see sub-tropical forests, Victorian towns and nature reserves, not to mention plenty of wildlife such as dolphins and humpback whales. The full 1,500km drive from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean will involve flitting between a series of highways, or N roads, and smaller, more regional, R roads, which usually lead into the hills or down to the sea. But wherever you go you can be guaranteed plenty of outdoor activities – canoeing, scuba diving, hiking and, of course, surfing. In fact, this needn’t be so much a drive as one long, love affair with the ocean. Highlights include Chapman’s Peak and the Traanskai (or Wild Coast) – Nelson Mandela’s homeland.
Soundtrack: FreshlyGround, Die Antwoord, Janie Bay, any Kwaito or Cape Town jazz.
Car: VW Beetle or Jeep, with a surfboard and canoe on the roof rack
Places to overnight: Grootbos Nature Reserve, just outside Hermanus
Ideal partner: Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu
Flask of: Rooibos tea for the driver; a bottle of Pinotage for the passenger.
To get £15 off your hotel booking on any of these trips, click this special link.
Unsure what to pack for your road trip? Check out my post on my Must-Have Travel Kit!