HOPPING IN YOUR VEHICLE AND HITTING THE OPEN ROAD: IT’S ONE OF LIFE’S MOST LIBERATING EXPERIENCES. BUT, SOMETIMES, IT’S EVEN MORE THAN THAT. SOMETIMES IT’S THE KEY TO UNLOCKING SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST MAGNIFICENT DESTINATIONS – AS IS THE CASE WITH THESE FIVE INCREDIBLE DRIVES…
Route 66 may have the history, but if epic landscapes and jaw-dropping views are more your style then the Pacific Coastal Highway 1 is your ultimate American drive. Starting at Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint little art colony just south of Monterey (California’s former capital), you’ll cross the epically photogenic Bixby Bridge and enter a day-hiker’s dream-world of must-see pit stops and lookout points. Bask in the ethereal glow of Pfeiffer Beach and its purple sands at sunrise; marvel at magical McWay Falls; stop for lunch-with-a-view at Ragged Point; and step back in time at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
If, somewhere on our planet, there exists a more stunning coastline than that of Norway, please point us in its direction. The entire 100,000-plus-kilometres of spattered islands, peaceful bays and towering fjords are best enjoyed by sea, but you can get more than just a taste by driving the Atlantic Road. Connecting Averoy with the mainland, start at the town of Bud and head north towards Kristiansund. The drive is highlighted by a series of eight bridges connecting an archipelago of partially inhabited islands, from rollercoaster-like Storseisundet to low causeways occasionally breached by splashing waves in severe weather.
Absolutely stunning is the best way to describe New Zealand’s Southern Scenic Route. It’s no short drive – you should allow yourself at least three nights if you really want to do it properly – but the rewards are endless. Starting in Dunedin, you’ll weave your way south along New Zealand’s rugged coastline. Swing by Roaring Bay and Nugget Point, where you can see wonderful rock formations and, if you’re lucky, wildlife including yellow-eyed penguins, New Zealand fur seals and Hooker sea lions. Purakaunui Falls is also worth checking out on the way to Invercargill, and Porpoise Bay is a popular location for dolphin watching.
You don’t need to cross over the seas to experience the world’s most breathtaking drives – not when we have the Great Ocean Road right in our very own backyard. The highlights here are endless; watch the power of the ocean as its waves crash against the London Arch. Enjoy the tranquillity of Loch Ard Gorge, its clear blue waters contrasted by sheer, yellow cliff faces and a pretty little beach. And then there’s the main event: the 12 Apostles, the massive limestone rock structures formed 20 million years ago and now jutting out of the ocean. Treat yourself by getting there for sunrise.
They call it the Stairway to Heaven – we’re not talking about a Led Zeppelin song, but rather a Chinese road featuring 99 turns on the way to Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch believed by the Chinese to link the mortal world with the gods. Spiralling upwards from 200 metres to 1,300 metres, the route at times looks more like a layered wedding cake than a road. Proceed with caution to the top, and when you arrive, take the time to climb the 999 stairs to Heaven’s Gate. Notice the significance of the number nine here, which symbolises the Chinese belief that heaven has nine palaces.
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