Hit the road
Let’s be honest: there is a road warrior tucked away inside most of us. Give us an empty ribbon of road unfurling in front of us and our engines start revving. If you are dreaming of a driving holiday, strap yourself in for one of these amazing adventures.
Allow: 1 day
Talk about an impressive piece of engineering. The Trollstigen, or Troll’s Road, from Geiranger to the Romsdal Valley traverses a mountain pass almost 1000 metres above sea level, and the steepest section has a nine per cent gradient and 11 hairpin bends. If you are not sure your driving skills are up to it, you can travel the road as part of the Norway in a Nutshell day trip departing from Bergen.
No matter who is in the driver’s seat, highlights will include panoramic views across the fjords and a close-up encounter with the Stigfossen waterfall. The best views are from the highest pass, where you are surrounded by snow-capped mountains known as Kongen (the king) and Trollveggen (the trolls’ wall).
Allow: 3 days
Starting at Torquay, just 90 minutes out of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road winds along the coast, taking in welcoming villages, lush rainforest and amazing vistas all the way to Nelson on the South Australian border. Its most famous feature is the Twelve Apostles, a group of limestone pillars jutting dramatically out of the ocean.
Highlights include pretty beach towns such as Lorne; the settlement of Kennett River, one of Australia’s koala capitals; and fabulous walks along deserted beaches or through the rainforest of the Otway National Park. There are some sensational dining opportunities on or near the route as well, not least Brae restaurant at Birregurra, acclaimed as one of Australia’s best places to eat.
Allow: 7 days
If you have a hankering for a spot of California cool, Highway 1 is the road of your dreams. Running between San Diego and San Francisco, this coastal road takes in laidback surf towns, boutique wineries and even magnificent stretches of wilderness. Highlights include Santa Barbara, with its elegant Spanish-style architecture and Santa Ynez wine country; the thriving artistic community of Carmel-by-the-Sea; and the opulent Hearst Castle. Built by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, the 165-room castle is set amid 50 hectares of landscaped grounds.
Then there are verdant forests, cascading waterfalls and surf-pounded beaches of Big Sur. The area is home to a number of state parks and nature reserves, all of which offer great hiking; don’t miss Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, home to Pfeiffer Beach with its purple sand and McWay Beach, where a waterfall pounds directly onto the sand.
Allow: 6 days
Let’s get one thing clear: this is a drive where you will be spending a lot of time out of the car. The Southern Scenic route, which winds its way across New Zealand’s South Island from Christchurch to Queenstown, is an itinerary that begs you to get out and get active. Whether it’s a spot of mountain biking or hiking, or simply cruising the impressive Milford Sound, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
Other highlights along the way include encounters with fur seals, sea lions and penguins, as well as gourmet treats such as Invercargill’s famous Bluff oysters. The trip winds up in Queenstown, where more adventure awaits, with options including rafting, skiing, horse riding and jet boating.
Allow: 10 days
There’s no getting lost on this trip: Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, loops its way around the entire country. Along the way, you will encounter all of the natural wonders that make Iceland such a unique destination, from volcanoes and waterfalls to thermal springs and glaciers.
Trying to narrow down the highlights is a big ask. How do you choose between the multi-tiered Gullfoss waterfall or Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk behind the water as it cascades over the cliff? How do you compare cruising amid the icebergs on the Jokulsarlon lagoon with a hike on the Solheimajokull Glacier?
One thing to bear in mind: Iceland’s weather is notoriously changeable, so if you are not experienced in off-roading, and if you are not comfortable driving in all conditions, consider hiring a driver.