Who doesn’t love a good road trip, and there’s just something about coastal drives that can lift a journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Whether it’s a cliff top road or a sweeping corniche, coastal drives offer some of the most amazing scenery of anywhere. Cliffs, bluffs, dunes, oceans, rocks, lighthouses, harbors – the variety can be astonishing – but, where are the best coastal drives?
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Kuhio Highway – Kauai, Hawaii
Take in the vast beauty of the garden isle with a short, scenery packed trip along Highway 56. It’s not the longest of coastal drives but it is up there with the best. It runs 28 miles from Lihue to Princeville and along the way offers stunning lookouts. Some portions of Jurassic Park were filmed here, and it’s easy to see the lush foliage as a dinosaur playground. To avoid commuter congestion in the Wailua River crossing area, try to pass that way around noon, or pull off and explore some of the many river activities.
Pacific Coast Highway –California
California State Route 1, more commonly known as Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH) is one of the most famous and stunning coastal drives. Although it runs 655 miles along the Pacific coast of California, the 455 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco are probably the most well known. This scenic thoroughfare has been designated an All-American Road, and driving it affords access to iconic Californian cities and sites like Capistrano beach, Venice, Malibu, Point Mugu, Santa Barbara, Pebble Beach, Santa Cruz and Golden Gate Park. Although the drive can be done in a day, you could also build a whole week-long road trip around the numerous unique stops along the way.
Overseas Highway (Hwy 1) – Florida Keys
Covering 160 miles between Miami and the Florida Keys, the Overseas Highway takes travelers over the azure waters of the Florida straits. It is instantly recognizable from numerous Florida themed movies and TV shows, and was constructed on bridges originally used for the Overseas railroad, although most of them have since been replaced by modern, multi-lane structures.
Ring Road – Iceland
Take the coastal road trip of a lifetime on the Ring Road in Iceland. This 832 mile loop encircles the whole Island and takes drivers through 7 of the country’s major cities. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the magnificent Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the legendary Skógafoss waterfall are but some of the sights on this memorable trek.
Northeast Loop – Phuket, Thailand
Escape the hustle and bustle of the southern Phuket island resorts with a coastal drive along the northeastern loop. This six mile trip offers fantastic views of Phang Nga Bay as well as small rural communities, like fishing villages and shrimp farms. Enter from the Heroines Monument circle.
The Northeast Loop in Phuket, Thailand is a six-mile coastal drive that offers incredible views of Phang Nga Bay, as well as a chance to experience the local culture of rural fishing villages and shrimp farms. The drive begins at the Heroines Monument circle, and is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the touristy resorts in southern Phuket. The drive features a variety of stunning landscapes, from rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, and provides an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Thailand. Along the way, visitors can stop to explore the local villages and sample some of the delicious seafood that is caught fresh each day. The Northeast Loop is a must-see for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty and culture of Phuket.
The Atlantic Road – Norway
This 5 mile jaunt is part of Route 64 and runs between Averøy and Eide along Norway’s western coast. Its 8 bridges connect the island of Averøy with the mainland peninsula and cover a series of partially uninhabited islands. Numerous tourist attractions – including scuba diving resorts – await the intrepid adventurer!
Great Ocean Road – Victoria, Australia
This 151 mile Aussie coastal drive runs between Torquay and Allensford along the southern ocean. See monster waves at iconic Bells Beach (remember Point Break?), aboriginal culture and plentiful wildlife. Don’t miss the twelve Apostles, either – a famous attraction of limestone stacks near Port Campbell National Park.
The Garden Route – South Africa
From Mossel Bay to Storms River, this South African coastal route was named for the bountiful flora and fauna surrounding it. In addition to the national park of the same name, there is an abundance of sea life to view and lots of hidden destinations, like the large Rastafarian community outside Knysna.
Cabot Trail – Nova Scotia, Canada
Located on the #1 island to visit in continental North America (according to travel & Leisure Magazine), the Cabot Trail is 185 miles of scenic Nova Scotia. It loops around the northern part of the island and passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park – home to 50 hiking trails and viewpoints. The route is open all year, and the surrounding communities offer everything from seafood and live music to yachting regattas and glasswork artisans.
The wind in your hair, the taste of salt on your lips and views to die for are what make coastal drives. What’s your favorite bit of coast to drive along?
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