11 Great Road Trips

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I asked some of my travel blogger colleagues for their suggestions on great road trips and received these excellent ideas:

Christina Saull (@MiddleSeatView) from myviewfromthemiddleseat.com

 Coastal Maine

Coastal Maine

U.S. Route 1 stretches the length of the east coast more than 2,300 miles. A particularly beautiful stretch of this road runs along the rocky coast of Maine. A coastal Maine road trip from Kennebunkport to Bar Harbor takes significantly longer on Route 1 than it does on the Interstate, but the lobster shacks, rugged coastline, farmers markets, lighthouses, and a wide assortment of oddities you’ll pass along the way make it a road trip worth taking.

Chris: Christina has a great suggestion here. My wife and I honeymooned in Maine at Acadia National Park and I have a great fondness for this part of the country and its beautiful scenery.

Lance & Laura @MiddleSeatView Lance & Laura (@TravelerAddicts ) from traveladdicts.net

 Iceland’s Ring Road

 
Iceland's Ring Road
 
Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1) is perhaps the world’s ultimate road trip. Since completion in 1974, this 1,332 kilometers (830 miles) route hugs rocky shorelines, crosses mountain passes and takes you to places like the glacier lagoon of Jökulsárlón, which are unique. In addition to Jökulsárlón, the region around Lake Myvatn is a highlight of the Ring Road and features boiling mud pits, volcano calderas and hot springs to relax. In the evenings, grab dinner at a gas station with locals and then take a room at a farm for the night. We’d recommend no less than seven days for an Iceland itinerary to drive the Ring Road and the Golden Circle, plus an extra day or two in Reykjavik.

Chris: This road trip is on my personal list and has been since Dave Grenewetzki talked about it on Travel to Iceland – Amateur Traveler Episode 204. I may be going to Iceland for the first time in September, so this may be the year for me to experience this great trip.

Bianca Bauza @nomadbiba from nomadbiba.com

 Crossing Canada

 
Road trip in Canada

A while ago, I did one of the most epic road trips of my travels as my boyfriend at the time and I crossed Canada from Squamish, British Columbia to Montreal, Quebec in our van. This odyssey took a few days. The most interesting part of the trip was when we were in British Columbia and Alberta, the landscapes there are just magnificent! But as we left the Canadian Rockies behind the landscape becomes really flat, with not one hill for miles and miles and miles on end. When we finally made it to Ontario, we were greeted by the gorgeous changing colors of the fall. It was an unforgettable experience.

I did a photo essay on my blog, in case you’d want to have a look.

Chris: I have driven the western portion of that trip from British Columbia into Alberta and it has some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen. I would love to explore some of the flat parts in the middle, and the small towns along the way.

Carole Terwilliger Meyers @traveluv from travelswithcarole.blogspot.com

 Eastern Sierras

 
Mono Lake South Tufa

I once took a fabulous road trip from San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas. We went through Yosemite’s high country Tioga Pass, which is only open in summer because of heavy snowfall, and spent the night near mysterious Mono Lake (shown in the picture). Then we drove along desolate inland Highway 398, stopping at the Manzanar National Historic Site where 10,000 Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, and on to Death Valley, where we spent another night. Las Vegas was just a hop, skip, and jump the next day.

Chris: What a great road trip. We first talked about it on Amateur Traveler with Doug McConnell in Travel to the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains – Amateur Traveler Episode 178 and I just revisited the area last Fall. It was my first visit to Manzanar. The one thing I would add is Bodie, a California State Park. Bodie is an old mining ghost town and one of my favorite spots to visit as a photographer.

 Chris Christensen @chris2x from AmateurTraveler.com

 California Route 1

 

Big Sur Wide
U.S. Route 1 on the west coast is also spectacular. I recommend in particular the stretch from Monterey and Carmel down to Moro Bay. Spend a few days exploring Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel then grab a picnic lunch and head down the coast to Big Sur. Explore the beach at Andrew Molera State Beach and take a hike to a waterfall in the redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Continue on down to San Simeon to see Hearst Castle the opulent estate of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Explore the pretty town of Cambria and then cut back inland at Moro Rock. The drive itself will take a day but plan on half a day for San Simeon and at least 2-3 days for the Monterey Area.

Kellie Netherwood (@DestnUnknown) from mydestinationunknown.com

Western Australia: Coast & Outback

 
Nature's Window, Kalbarri Gorge, Western Australia

Nature’s Window, Kalbarri Gorge, Western Australia

If Western Australia were a country, it would be the tenth-largest in the world. Its size and diversity makes it an ideal road trip destination for both those with time on their hands or those after an adventure that fits into a shorter time frame. A two-week itinerary I recently enjoyed begins and ends in Perth and captures the essence of Australia’s largest state in under 5,000 km and two weeks on the road.

It provides the perfect contrast between coast and outback, beginning along the dramatic west coast, turning inland towards Karijini National Park and returning to Perth through characteristic outback towns. It showcases the state’s diversity with dramatic sunrise and sunsets, hiking opportunities, contrasting and constantly changing landscapes and swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Karijini is the main attraction, possessing all the characteristics of the iconic Australian outback: unsealed and dusty roads, gum trees reaching to the skies, spinifex carpeting the red soil, kangaroos hopping across the landscape, night skies filled with stars or lightning displays and deafening but therapeutic silence.

Erik Smith @eriksmithdotcom Dick Jordan (@eriksmithdotcom) from onmyfeetorinmymind.com/

New Zealand’s South Island

 
New Zealand Sunset

New Zealand Sunset

You can’t go anywhere fast while road tripping on New Zealand’s South Island, and the reason isn’t the condition of the roads. A rough circle of the South Island runs a little over 2,300 km, but the possibilities of drifting off that route and finding so much surreal beauty that filmmakers have often used this as a setting for fictional lands. Fortunately, it is a real country with gorgeous mountains, sheltered coves, countless hiking possibilities, friendly little towns, and more adventure sports than one thought possible. The southeast corner of the island holds the still undiscovered beauty of The Catlins, with its lighthouses and waterfalls, and the southwestern corner features the famous Milford Sound Road. Up in the north, near Nelson and Blenheim, is the heart of New Zealand’s world-famous wine industry. So much of the drive is close to the ocean, offering sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. While sparsely populated, a rebuilding Christchurch and underrated Dunedin offer plenty for the urban dwellers. The real pleasure of the island is the ability to follow just about any road and find unspeakable, unspoiled beauty, and plenty of friendly and welcoming faces when you return to civilization.

Chris: The North Island isn’t too shabby either.

Dick Jordan (@talestold) from talestoldfromtheroad.com

Canadian Rocky Mountains

 
Pyramid Mountain

Pyramid Mountain

“Get off the road.”

“Just get off “The Damned Road.”

That’s way “The Cowboy” said I should do.

I would have gotten an entirely different perspective on the Canadian Rocky Mountains if I had ditched my rental car, climbed on a horse, and followed him into the backcountry.

But if “The Damned Road” didn’t exist, I would have never met “The Cowboy,” nor would I have been able to easily reach that section of the mountainous spine that runs north from New Mexico to British Columbia.

And I did get out from behind the wheel, now and again, to let my legs take me to where the scenery was even more spectacular than that visible through the windshield.

Chris: This is definitely one of my favorite routes. I have driven all or part of the road from Banff to Jasper 3 times and it never gets old.

Andrea (@destinationeu) from rearviewmirror.tv

Northern Germany

 
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

There are countless options for road trips around Germany. You can do a self-drive tour of Germany’s famous castles or drive the Romantic Road but one of my favorite trips is a road trip across Northern Germany which takes you from Cologne to Berlin past World Heritage-listed sites (Cologne Cathedral,
Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen, Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin), Hanseatic cities, hipster neighborhoods and great shopping boulevards. The route you take will depend on your travel style but there are some amazing cities to stop at along the way before finishing in dynamic Berlin. I suggest an itinerary for driving in Northern Germany that includes Cologne, Dusseldorf, Muenster, Osnabrueck, Bremen, Hamburg, Rostock, Warnemuende, Potsdam, and Berlin.

Chris: I have not driven this all as one trip but have been to most of these cities over the course of 4 trips. See the Cathedral in Cologne, take in Carnival in Dusseldorf, check out the statue of The Bremen Town Musicians, visit the palace of Frederick the Great in Potsdam. All great stops.

Catherine (@TheGoFever) from thegofever.com

US Route 1 in Florida

 
Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Driving down US Route 1 from Miami through the Florida Keys is a breathtaking experience. With bikers in tow, you’ll first pass through Key Largo, then Islamorada and the mile markers will keep descending until you’ve reached the cool and very crazy home of mile marker 0: tropical Key West.
Dividing the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico, the road passes through tiny villages, shell shacks, and countless snorkeling opportunities, until reaching Seven Mile Bridge, an engineering marvel where you’ll most likely feel like you’re driving on the ocean itself. The abandoned old bridge, now in ruins, is an eerily impressive sight and makes for an even more memorable drive.
The route takes about 3 hours 1/2, but who’s in a rush? Be sure to stop by a seafood joint to munch on conch fritters, and embrace the kitsch and laid-back vibe of this one-of-a-kind part of America.

 Chris Chirstensen (@chris2x) from AmateurTraveler.com

Blue Ridge Parkway

 
Black Balsam Knob in autumn

Black Balsam Knob in autumn

It is billed as “America’s Favorite Drive” and more than one of you said we should have included it in our list of great road trips. It was built during the Great Depression to help the Appalachian region through tourism dollars. The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders for almost 500 miles through North Carolina and Virginia along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a road for savoring, not for making time. Stop at the vista points as often as you can to enjoy the rolling hills. What can you call a National Park that was intended to be enjoyed from the road but quintessentially American? 

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

15 Responses to “11 Great Road Trips”

Lance

Says:

This is a great list of road trips. There are so many good ones out there – Normandy and Brittany in France, Central Turkey, and Ireland! Thanks for including us.

Hammad Tariq

Says:

Great list Chris. Seems like good adventure. There is a road trip along with border of China and Pakistan. It starts from Balakot and goes all the way to Shanghai in China, passing through three highest mountain ranges, Himalyas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush. I traveled on it and it’s one of the most mesmerizing road trips of my life.

chris2x

Says:

Hammad, that sounds like it must be awesome.

chris2x

Says:

Wes Snow suggested these great road trips in the Amateur Traveler facebook community:

• Interstate 70 from Denver to Grand Junction for the best interstate driving in the nation (esp near Copper Mtn ski resort & thru Glenwood Canyon)
• Icefields Parkway in Banff/Jasper NPs to be more specific on Canada
• Natchez Trace in late October (an alternative to the leaves frenzy in the mtns and the road is clear of traffic)

I have done the first two and agree, they are truly magnificent

Jai Govind Meena

Says:

No doubt these trips are amazing …..but I think no one can beat the Manali – Leh Road trip ….rugged himalayas, barren landscape, least populated area in India – Remember India is second most populated.
Read more at http://renokadventures.com/trans-himalayan-jeep-safari/

chuck

Says:

I would like to offer up the Blue Ridge Parkway to add to this list. Nothing like it in the fall at leaf change or early morning in the summer watching the sun rise from a mountain top overlook.

Lisa Kellenberger

Says:

Just bookmarked this page! I’ve been contemplating a trip to Iceland, envisioning a California/West Coast road trip and hoping to find a time to do a Canada/BANFF road trip as well! This article definitely found me at the right time – great tips and thank you for sharing!

chris2x

Says:

Spencer wrote: “Great article. Don’t forget Route 66,Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains, Alaskan Highway and rest of PCH especially, from Vancouver to Portland and through Baja, .”

chris2x

Says:

Yes, when I was thinking about which trip to add to the list the Blue Ridge Parkway was in my list of top contenders.

Hamish Healys

Says:

Going by those spectacularly beautiful shots alone of Coastal Maine, Canada, etc., I’ve got to agree with your selection of the 5 great road trips!

Jaryd Krause (@Ausglobetrotter)

Says:

I have done Route 1 from Canada all the way into Mexico and is easily the best road trip I have ever taken. Beautiful landscapes and gorgeous towns.

Salim Malik

Says:

Excellent road trip, I must admit I have not had the opportunity to try this out myself, but the only road trip I have done is through europe, holland, belgium, france and switzeerland I came close to crossing over to Italy but budget was limited had to turn back!.

Ellen Williams

Says:

Just love your ideas of road trips, we are fixing to get married in 2 or 3 months! We love the ideas of exploring new places & seeing &’taking in all kind of sights & sounds! We want to see the USA first! Our Honeymoon is gong to be in Branson, MO! God bless you for sharing ideas!!! What would you suggest for economical sights? We have no website! Sincerely Ed & Ellen – GospelSingerSongwriter 💜🎤💜

chris2x

Says:

My wife and I did a one week road trip from Kansas City to Cincinnati last Summer and had a great time! http://usa.amateurtraveler.com/kansas-city-missouri-great-american-road-trip/

Dick Jordan

Says:

Chris,

Thanks for including my post on visiting the Canadian Rockies. Travelers who have gone to the Western U.S. national parks such as Glacier and Yellowstone will find the Canadian Rockies a familiar, but different summer-fall destination and well worth crossing the border to experience them.

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