There is nothing quite like a good road trip. That feeling you get when throwing your stuff in the back of the car, giving your rear-view mirror one final tweak and setting off on the open road. It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning to traverse an entire country, take on an iconic Hollywood favourite like Route 66 or just spend a week or two car camping in the next province or state, for those of us for who love being behind the wheel an epic road trip can be the ultimate adventure. While there are exceptions based on driving conditions (i.e. Egypt, India) and terrain (i.e. Nepal, the Pacific Ocean), an exciting road trip can take place almost anywhere, from the drama of the Pacific coast to expansive prairie views of southern Saskatchewan to the fascinating area around Fort McMurray in northern Alberta. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a few favourites, however. Here are my “best road trips in the world”:
The Irish Coast
Few places compare to the Irish coast for stunning landscapes or sheer beauty. Whether you are marvelling at the mesmerizing contrasts of blue ocean and lush green grass along one of the west coast’s incredible peninsulas, or staring in awe at the bizarre rock formations of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or simply puttering around the tiny, rural back roads, half lost but not caring one bit, every day spent driving in Ireland will etch itself in your travel memory bank. Take time to peer over the sheer and gigantic Cliffs of Moher, don’t miss Dublin’s pub culture, and whenever possible take the opportunity to talk rugby with a weathered old Irishman while slurping down some warm Guinness.
South Island, New Zealand
One of the prettiest places on earth, you could spend months trying to see and experience all that the fascinating South Island has to offer. The North Island is pretty amazing in its own right, and does feature a little place called Hobbiton, but its southern counterpart remains a cut above. Boasting a ridiculous wealth of natural attractions but an underdeveloped public transport system, renting a car or campervan is the logical choice. Mountain peaks, glacier-fed bays and a coastline riddled with everything from dolphins to penguins to affable surfers. Take your time, treat getting lost as simply part of the adventure, and tail-gated for hours at a time simply a Kiwi rite of passage, and your South Island road trip will be one you won’t soon forget.
Montana, United States
For us in Saskatchewan this is by far the most accessible of the routes on this list, which is why we have already enjoyed multiple Montana road trips. With the majestic Rockies creating a rugged line all the way down the west side of this huge, sparsely-populated state there is no shortage of outstanding mountain scenery. Whitefish offers world-class mountain biking and Glacier National Park just might be the most beautiful of its kind in the whole of the United States. The Going-To-The-Sun Road alone is worth a week of your time and should be on every keen road-tripper’s ultimate bucket list. But this fascinating region is far more than snowy peaks and deep valleys and photogenic wildlife. Avid fishermen will swoon at the slew of lakes and rivers bursting with trophies, rodeo fans could stay occupied all summer, and Wild West history is around every corner, and usually accompanied by another tempting microbrewery.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Obviously, the ocean road itself is pretty amazing, filled with great surfing beaches and fun beach towns. And, while I won’t delve too deeply into all the uniquely Australian details of kangaroos, koalas and bleach-blonde surfers that I’ve already discussed in Our Australian Road Trip, I will say that everyone loves the breathtaking rock formations of the “Twelve Apostles”, even if there are really only seven of them, and you haven’t really lived until you’ve had a photo taken standing next to one of Geelong’s creepy Bollard Dandy sculptures that resemble giant wooden Pez dispensers.
Of course, this is Australia, where everything is enormous, so you can easily extend this road trip for a few days, or weeks, or months, in basically any direction. We can personally vouch for the section between Melbourne and Sydney, particularly Wilson’s Promontory, Wellington Lake and Mimosa Rocks National Park.
Whether you love the ocean, the mountains, rain forests, or just charming little hippie towns where they grow a lot of cannabis and order a lot of takeout, you’ll have a great time exploring the Pacific Northwest. The coastline from Oregon to the top of Washington is one fascinating beach landscape after another. Olympic National Park offers myriad hikes, viewpoints and Twilight locations, while Seattle is one of the best cities in North America for quirky things to do. The Cascades and the area around Mount Rainier are prime wilderness country for hikers and campers.
On the Canadian side, Victoria has a legitimate argument to be called the nicest city in Canada, especially since the surrounding area is so beautiful. Goldstream Campground is one of the best anywhere and Sooke Regional Park offers great hiking and views of Olympic National Park across the scenic Salish Sea. You can park the car long enough for a whale watching trip or to go skiing (or mountain biking) at world-famous Whistler.
Anywhere in Italy can make for a worthy road trip but compact, quirky Sicily is practically built to discover behind the wheel of a tiny rental car. Kamikaze drivers aside, of course. Yes, Sicilians like to get where they’re going in a hurry, no question about it, but once you adjust to the rhythms of the road you can actually appreciate their determination. And the scenery, well, needless to say, the hard part is staying on schedule since you’ll constantly be tempted to stop and stare.
As an island, obviously there are loads of ocean views, but Sicily is much more than that. With dozens of occupiers, colonizers and rebels calling Sicily their own throughout history, the place is literally teeming with classic sights, fascinating ruins and picturesque architecture. Throw in their own amazing version of already terrific Italian food, a whole bunch of tremendous walkable old towns and the odd fort or two, and Sicily is easily worth a week or more on the road. Oh, yeah, almost forgot about lil’ old Mount Etna. You’ll definitely be wanting to stop there, too. Enjoy.
With its momentous glaciers and dazzling fjords, southern Chile sometimes draws comparisons to New Zealand. It even has its own set of penguins. But culturally the two couldn’t be more different, especially in some of the more remote regions of the south. Throughout the Chilean Andes evocative volcanoes reflect off glassy lakes and Chiloé Island features picturesque ocean-front villages built on stilts, unique wooden churches and a superstitious culture that seems curiously obsessed with witches, gnomes and sea faeries. Even more so than Vancouver.
In the end, whether you choose one of these or any of the myriad other terrific choices available around the world, a big road trip provides a feeling of freedom unlike any other – stopping when you want to stop, taking detours whenever the mood strikes, and getting utterly and hopelessly lost with no one to blame but your wife.
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