We love driving in a car. From going on scenic drives to several month-long epic road trips, the best drives are always ones where we get a chance to see stunning scenery, visit points of interest, and get off the beaten path to explore for ourselves.
We’ve had a lot of fun finding road trip destinations to go see and here’s a list of our favorites from around the world (and more bucket list road trip ideas we are going to try in the future!).
New Zealand South Island
A scenic drive around the South Island is one of the best ways to see New Zealand.
We have road tripped around the South Island, where Jackson is from, twice. Flying into Christchurch and tooling around into the Catlins, up to Milford Sound, and even exploring the West Coast – we loved our scenic drives and stunning views!
There aren’t major highways like in a lot of Western Countries so it’s easy to pick a road and follow it without getting too overwhelmed. Just pick a loop and go!
The landscapes are incredible. You’ll be blown away by how open, empty and beautiful this country can be as a road trip destination.
Duration: 2-4 weeks
Highlights: The Catlins, Lake Tekapo, Milford Sound, Glaciers, Malborough Region.
If you’re looking for inspiration for the best road trip, you can check out our South Island itinerary.
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Our answer to Italy’s crowded tourist destinations is Croatia. Just across the Adriatic is this dynamic, beautiful road trip destination that has fabulous food, ancient towns, and provides scenic drives that will make your mouth drop.
We loved so much about Croatia. The Dalmatian Coast is just a starting point as there is so much to see there! The beaches are lovely, too. If you haven’t been, I’d definitely add this to your bucket list holidays list.
Duration: 2 weeks
Highlights: Brela, Dubrovnik, Istria, Plitvitce National Park, Split
This is a fabulous road trip in Europe. It’s sunny, mountainous, coastal and full of culture. We’re including the Southern Portugal region of Algarve and Andalucia in Spain.
The best way to cover this, is, we think, to fly into Seville or Malaga and do a massive loop that includes southern Portugal and other highlights of Andalucia. Renting a car is not too difficult and although the tolls in Portugal can be steep, the scenic drives are well worth it!
Take a day trip to visit Gibraltar. It’s a really cool stop!
Duration: 2-3 weeks
Highlights: Seville, Malaga, Gibraltar, Lagos and Cabo de Sao Vincente
Read more about Algarve’s coast in Southern Portugal.
Day Tripping Around Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town sits on a stunning landscape at the end of the African continent. By planning some strategic day trips, you can make this city a great base for a bunch of scenic drives around the countryside.
One of the reasons Cape Town is on the top of our lists for the best road trip destinations is because of all the spectacular wine country around the area. We loved trying different wines and seeing the vineyards.
If you want to go further afield, the garden route is a lovely drive that will take you along coasts, beaches and mountains. Honestly: spectacular.
Fly into Cape Town and create a trip best suited for whatever time, budget or interests you are working with.
Duration: 1 day – 3 weeks
Highlights: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Gansbaai, Cape Peninsula, and Langebaan.
Self Drive Namibia
We spent a month self driving around Namibia and it was, without question, one of the best road trips we have ever taken. The roads were overall pretty good, it was safe, and the drives were spectacular.
What was awesome about Namibia was how empty it was. We camped around the country going from South to North and across the Caprivi Strip into Botswana.
Although we met some people road tripping the entire country in 2 weeks, we felt that was a bit rushed, but doable. Anything less and I think you’d be stretched quite thin.
Come to Namibia if you are looking for an entry into Africa that will provide excellent wildlife viewing, chances to go on safari, places to walk on sand dunes that are thousands of years old, and camp by the world’s second largest canyon.
Duration: 2-4 weeks
Highlights: Sossusvlei National Park, Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast and Fish River Canyon.
Driving in New Mexico and Southern Colorado
We flew into Albuquerque and spent a day road tripping around New Mexico before driving up to Southern Colorado. It was all unplanned, but shockingly easy and very beautiful.
We loved the desert landscapes, and because the area is so far above sea level (about 6-7,000 feet) the temperatures didn’t get too hot. That meant: hiking!
Some of our favorite parts of this scenic drive was Santa Fe, walking through ancient civilization ruins and eating delicious New Mexican food. Yum!
Duration: 1 day -1 week
Highlights: Meowwolf, Taos, Santa Fe, Cortez, Mesa Verde
Read more about what we did and saw in New Mexico.
Miami to Key West, Florida
Honestly, one of the most unique road trips we have taken. Starting in the Miami metropolis is pretty normal, but then you start to hit the Overseas Highway and you’re in another type of scenic road trip entirely! It’s really cool to see the ocean stretch out around you as you sail over it in a car. Unreal.
Key West can be a lot of fun if you are looking for a party, a drink or some vibrant culture and nightlife. If you are more like us, and prefer to stay away from the big crowds, stopping off on the other islands that are part of the Florida Keys is a great way to get off the beaten path a bit.
We liked the seafood down there and the beaches were lovely. A great road trip destination to check out. We did it all in one long weekend.
Duration: A weekend – 1 week
Highlights: Miami, Key West, Overseas Highway
Looping the Rocky Mountains
Spending several weeks driving through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado is a spectacular way to see the American West. We did this epic road trip on our honeymoon in 2015 and had such a great time. We started in Denver, drove up through Wyoming into Montana, down into Idaho and Utah, and then back into Colorado.
The variation in scenery is unbelievable out there and we enjoyed visiting several national parks along the way. Plus, it’s fun to pick up state signs as you drive through the state borders.
Overall, the roads are in great condition, the mountains, deserts, valleys and National parks are stunning, and the price of gas is cheap (when we did it, we spent about $150 on gas for the entire 2 weeks we were on the road!).
Duration: 2- 3 weeks
Highlights: Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Denver, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands
Bucket List Road Trip Ideas:
The following list of road trip ideas are what we plan on doing in the future. This list is based on research we’ve done about scenic drives we want to take around the world. We love finding new places to go, so if there is a suggestion that isn’t here, feel free to leave an idea in the comments!
In May 2019, we plan to head over to Scotland for a 2-3 week road trip through the Scottish Highlands.
We chose this destination because we were looking for a place to go that would give us a chance to go camping, drink and eat delicious things, and find off-the-beaten-path locations for us to explore without a million other tourists to compete with.
We plan to fly into Edinburgh and drive a massive loop through the North. As far as road trip destinations are concerned, Scotland looks like a serious gold star. The roads are good, the camping should be relatively easy, and the local language is English so we shouldn’t run into any language barrier (other than THICK accents, of course! Ha!).
The only drawbacks we see are weather related: hopefully the May weather will hold steady for us and the midges won’t be out to bite us in too much force!
Duration: 1 week- 3 weeks
Highlights: Sampling Scottish whiskeys, visiting Edinburgh, exploring medieval ruins.
Iceland Ring Road
Iceland is hot. It’s one of the most popular destinations over the last few years thanks to the rise in cheap flights. Just looking at some of the pictures from this island nation you can see why it’s so popular: it looks epic in every sense of the word.
We chose Iceland as a road trip destination because it’s not too far from New York or Europe (about a 5-hour flight) and we can potentially stop over there on the way to either destination: sweet!
Iceland is not a huge country, and should be a good place to digest the nation without taking on too much to see. We look forward to some hiking, star gazing, and snapping ethereal pictures of black beaches.
Duration: 10 days – 2 weeks
Highlights: empty black beaches, Skogafoss waterfall, Vik, Myvatn Geothermal Area
The M41: Pamir Highway
Oh man: this is a major bucket list holiday for us. Switch-backing its way through incredible mountain ranges and ranking as the 2nd highest highway on the planet, the Pamir Highway looks to be one of the most epic road trips in the world.
This is the only road to service the Pamir mountains which cut through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. Although we wouldn’t do the entire route (it’s hard to get into Afghanistan these days…) we would love to spend at least a few days on it in Kyrgyzstan.
This is not a road trip anyone can do. You need to hire a guide to drive you through much of this highway at the roads can be treacherous, unmarked, and in bad condition, or you can go on a tour, but that’s not really our bag.
Nomadasaurus has a great post with more information on this.
Duration: 1 day – 4 weeks
Highlights: Stunning mountain views, Osh, Wakhan Valley.
Highway 1: Australia
Here’s the grand-daddy of highways: the longest national highway in the world, this mother of all road trips circumnavigates the entire continent of Australia adding up to a total mileage of approximately 14,500 km (9,000 miles).
This highway is not for the faint of heart. This is an ass-kicking, several-weeks-at-least road trip. The cool thing is that, once completed, you’ll have successfully circled an entire continent – quite a difficult thing to do!
We would love to rent a van and spend several months doing this trip. Although the price of gas is Australia is not cheap, and there are many dangers to driving through desert and empty wilderness, we expect to have a really great time doing this.
Culture Trip has a great page with more information about this road trip destination.
Duration: 3 weeks – 3 months
Highlights: Sydney, Melbourne, Jervis Bay, Great Ocean Road
The Blues Highway from New Orleans to Chicago
We’ve always wanted to drive from New Orleans to Chicago.
Along this route, we’d hit some of the best cities in the world to listen to jazz, gospel, bluegrass, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. We’d try Southern comfort foods, visit historic national monuments, and zip from the swampy bayous of the Mississippi to the windswept plains of the Great Lakes.
We figure – to do this trip right – we’d need at least 2 weeks however, the more time, the better.
The best time to go would probably be spring. Leave from New Orleans around mid-April and get to Chicago in early May to enjoy the pleasant weather but also avoid the worst of the summer traffic.
National Geographic has a great piece on part of this route, if you care to learn more.
Duration: 2-3 weeks
Highlights: New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago
Tips for Planning the Best Road Trips
Whenever we’ve planned epic road trips in the past, we try to do as much research as possible into the area we will be going. The legal mumbo-jumbo is often the most boring stuff to look up, but the most critical to making your road trip destination a reality.
Legal Stuff to Look Into:
Before you go, make sure you are aware of the following:
- Required visas for entry
- Driver’s licences you’d need (international? Is an American or Kiwi driver’s licence ok?)
- Necessary insurance (World Nomad's insurance program is great, however residents of New York are NOT covered for car rentals – so, make sure you read the fine print…)
- What side of the road people drive on
- What rental car companies are available
- How expensive gas prices are (necessary to know if you are on a budget!)
- The quality of the roads you’ll be driving on (do we need a 4×4 or can we get away with a coup?)
- The general safety of the country (this includes knowing if the officials will ask for bribes, and if you should drive with your windows down or not.)
Tell Everyone Where You’re Going
It’s good to keep people informed of where you are going and how long you plan to go. There are a lot of really empty places in the world and, like a good hike, it’s important to let someone know where you’ll be and when you are expecting to finish – just in case!
Plus, if you tell people you are about to go on a scenic drive somewhere, they might have some good suggestions for you!
Research some Highlights to go Visit While on Your Awesome Road Trip
Jackson and I love to look up weird and interesting places to visit. Often, this is how we’ll plan a route: by looking at locations that speak to us and then driving over to see them. Bucket list holidays are all about making your heart beat faster and filling you with excitement.
When we were planning our Namibian road trip, we looked up all of the places that seemed really cool and mapped a route based on that. By doing that, we were also able to book accommodation somewhat in advance so that we weren’t locked out of a destination because it was sold out.
Although I am not a fan of planning a road trip down to the day, sometimes you’ll need to be aware of places that get really popular and the season you’re planning on being there – this could drastically affect the availability of hotels, campsites and hostels!
This leads me to my next point…
The great thing about driving is that you have the freedom to take to the open road and see whatever you want! This means that if a place you are planning to visit is too crowded for your liking, you can hop back in the car and drive on, baby!
Although we like to research great destinations for a scenic drive, we’ll often go in with an open mind. Sometimes places look great, but can suck once you’re there.
ATMs can be a really rare thing in some areas. It’s always good to have some cash stashed with you just in case! This can be used for tolls, bribes, emergency phone calls, or last minute food purchases.
Listen to What Other People are Saying
Often, I’ll look for inspiration for an epic drive on instagram or just cruising through google maps. If a location looks cool, I’ll troll the internet for all the pieces of information I can get my hands on.
Really, it can all come down to a nice-looking picture and my brain saying: What’s THAT!? I want to go there! and the rest is history!
Ask your friends about their favorite road trip destinations. You may be surprised to learn a few routes you’d never heard of.
Asking locals in the destination you are in is a good way to get more inspiration, too. We’ll ask around at a local restaurants or bars and see if anyone has some good suggestions for the area we are in and what – if anything – we should go see while there. This is why we decided to drive the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.
Decide on Your Favorite Things to do and then Plan to Do Them
If you love mountains, go visit mountains. Similarly, if you love the beach: visit the beach! Pick a season you love to be in as well. We personally love to travel in shoulder seasons – the season between high and low – so we can miss the majority of the crowds and see places without a million people in them.
We love to hike and find remote places to hike in, so we look for road trip destinations that are going to fulfill that wish. If you love city-hopping, though, plan a route that will give you that experience!
You can see a list of where we’ve been to give you some ideas for a bucket list holiday you might want.
Good luck planning your awesome road trip! We love the open road and the freedom of traveling around a country. Scenic drives are some of the best ways to get to know a country, in our opinion, and we look forward to visiting more destinations in the near future.
In the meantime: happy travels!