There’s nothing I love more than a good road trip. If you’re looking to squeeze in a last-minute trip this fall or searching for a few places to escape the winter, here’s a few of my favorite road trips of all time:
1. Southwestern U.S. (New Mexico & Arizona)
Arizona and New Mexico won the scenery jackpot. Last year, I did two big road trips through this part of the country. There’s many hidden or lesser known spots that are equally amazing as the famous spots minus the crowds. Catch a full moon at White Sands National Monument, drive the bumpy dirt road to Chaco Canyon, download a GPS map to explore the Mars-like rock formations at Bisti Badlands. Plus, there’s Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona and Horseshow Bend, pictured above, right off the highway. Albuquerque hosts a huge hot air balloon fiesta every October, which I personally love so much I’m going back this year!
LOGISTICS: Start near Santa Fe/Albuquerque then head West to Page, Arizona. Both the Santa Fe/Albuquerque and Page areas are a great base for day trips. After Page, head south to Phoenix before heading West to White Sands National Monument.
2. Australia’s Great Ocean Road
When I lived in Sydney, two friends and I rented a car and drove this stunning 249-mile stretch of coastal highway along the Southern coast of Australia from Melbourne toward Adelaide. It’s lined with cliffs and scenery that rivals California’s Pacific Coast Highway. At the time, I was pretty broke, but it was one of the best road trips of my life. We slept in our rental car, drank beer on beaches, ate peanut butter sandwiches and snuck into RV parks to shower. We stopped at all the well-known spots – the renowned surfing mecca of Bell’s Beach, the iconic 12 Apostles rock formations and national parks filled with koala bears in trees.
LOGISTICS: The Great Ocean Road starts west of Melbourne in the tiny town of Torquay and ends in the fishing village of Port Fairy. I would recommend three days to do this stretch to have time to explore the area and return to Melbourne. Consider continuing to Kangaroo Island and Adelaide.
3. Florida Keys
The best way to see the Florida Key is to grab a few friends, fly into Miami, rent a car and sing-a-long to Jimmy Buffet the entire way. Be sure to stop at famous spots along the way including a few of my favorites: Mrs. Mac Kitten, a roadside diner known for their Key Lime Pie; No Name Pub, a dive bar on Big Pine Key covered floor to ceiling with dollar bills; Hemingway’s House in Key West and Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the most remote National Park’s in the U.S.
LOGISTICS: While you can fly into Key West, it’s cheaper to fly into Miami and rent a car there. (It’s 160 miles from the airport to Key West, which is roughly a three hour drive in traffic.) Take your take making your way to Key West and stay at various islands along the way.
(Please note that this post was written before Hurricane Irma hit the region. While the Keys were hit hard by the hurricane, I know they will endure. I encourage you to support the hurricane relief efforts by donating to charities and using your tourism dollars to visit the area once it reopens for travelers.)
Iceland is literally perfect. The scenery is stunning. The people are the nicest. It’s the only country without mosquitoes. It’s also the safest country in the world. Did I mention there’s NOT a single mosquito?
The best way to see Iceland is to drive Route 1, known as the ring road. The two-lane paved road is an 828-mile loop around the country with a 55-mph speed limit. Highlights include puffins on the cliffs Dyrhólaey in the summer, the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón, Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in the country, and Siglufjörður, a small fishing village located in a scenic fjord accessible only by a scary one-lane tunnel with two-way traffic. Decide what you want to see and decide accordingly by the season.
LOGISTICS: Drive counterclockwise exploring the southern part of the island first. It has the largest concentration of sights and tourists. Be sure to venture off the main road to explore the scenic Snæfellsnes and Trollaskagi pennsuilas. Allow at least a week to do the drive. Check out my Iceland Guide for more details.
5. Argentina’s Longest Road
Patagonia was one of main three places I had to explore on my South America trip. I traveled by bus from the southernmost tip of Argentina to Cusco, Peru over the course of a few months. During that trip, we drove down a portion of Ruta 40, Argentina’s longest road that stretches 3,246 miles from the southernmost point of the mainland to the Bolivian border in the north. The road manifests the same aspirations and nostalgia as Route 66 in the U.S.
LOGISTICS: The best way to see the road is to drive, but keep in mind the entire road hasn’t been paved and is gravel at points so a 4WD vehicle is recommended. Many bus routes follow parts of the paved portions of the road, which is a good alternative. For a breakdown of the best route to drive, check out this post by Rough Guides.
I have a love-hate relationship with California. I love it because it’s beautiful. There’s an endless plethora of stunning locations to photograph – Yosemite, the Redwoods, Big Sur, etc. One the other hand, I hate it because it’s outrageously expensive to live there. (I lived in Santa Barbara briefly and quickly learned that lesson the hard way!) When I visit friends or travel to California for work, I always tack on a small road trip to see something new like my trip to Tahoe a couple weeks ago. It also the ultimate cross-country road trip destination!
LOGISTICS: If you drive the Pacific Coast Highway, I recommend driving north from Santa Barbara. Plan a couple days to stop along the way. My favorites sites are Big Sur, Point Lobos National Reserve near Carmel, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Point Reyes National Seashore. If you head out to Yosemite or Tahoe, consider visiting Bodie State Historic Park, an old mining ghost town, and Mono Lake to see the unusual rock formations.
I’m heading on my first trip to Africa (continent number 6!) next week to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. My next post won’t be until mid-October after I’m back and have a chance to write about my adventure. In the photo above, I’m sitting on the top of Khardung La (18,379 feet), the highest motorable pass in the world, in India.