- In the driving seat
- The open roads
From roadtrips through dramatic rural landscapes, to exploring the sights and sounds of vibrant cities, here is some inspiration for the world’s most unforgettable drives.
Maybe you’d like to channel Jack Kerouac and head on spur-of-the-moment cross-country adventures. Perhaps you’re a boutique traveller who makes the most of every minibreak minute by planning to precision where to stop and when. Spontaneous or sensible, turbo-charged or turtle-like, we’re throwing the keys at you. It’s definitely your turn to drive.
The South of France is crying out for four-wheelers to wend their way through the wild dunes and marshes of the Med coast. Stop off at dramatic clifftop villages, pause to photograph neon-pink flamingos, and swoon over sunflower-studded Van Gogh landscapes. Head inland and roughly follow the river Rhône on a map past fruit orchards and fields of lavender letting yourself be distracted by a game of what wine would that grape make?
This is driving country – treat yourself to a convertible and let the wind rush through your hair. If you fancy something a little more sedate than the bright lights of the Bay Area, head north to the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. There’s never a bad time to hit Northern California’s easy-to-navigate highways; spring and autumn still offer mild, sunny days. Hit Highway 1 and head to Big Sur, the 90-mile stretch of cliff-lined Pacific shore that swoops between Carmel and San Simeon, three hours south of San Fran.
Don’t let Tuscany’s popularity with tourists fool you into thinking you can’t get away from it all. Perfectly preserved Renaissance treasures in culture-packed ancient cities scream out for attention, while the quieter lure of Maremma, Italy’s Wild West, is characterised by beautiful coastline. Cruise ‘Chiantishire’, between Siena and Florence, and comb this territory of vineyards for your own favourite bottles. Other options include the wine-growing regions of Montepulciano and Montalcino. If slopes dotted with cypress trees and olive groves don’t fasttrack it to your heart, the flavours of the flourishing farmlands will via your stomach.
South of Seville, within touching distance of Africa, Cadiz Province the very tip of Europe is a beguiling mix of Moorish and Castilian cultures. A car is a must to escape into the mountains or explore the Andalucian countryside: pick one up at Jerez or Seville airports and take the A4 south through Jerez, Tarifa and Cadiz. You’ll find mosques that have been adapted into churches, Arabic arches beneath filigree detailing on houses, and tajines and tapas sharing menu space. Out in the mountainous countryside, hill-clinging whitewashed villages hover over national parks and the region’s unspoiled coast, allowing bird’s-eye views of perfect playas.
The dramatic, brooding landscape of the Lake District has inspired creative souls for centuries: poet William Wordsworth penned many of his most famous works here, and it’s where Beatrix Potter settled with her beloved flock of Herdwick sheep. A dreamy A-road amble through classic Cumbria is following the shore of Lake Windermere north. It’s easy to drive, and hard not to love. Make sure you hit the A591 to Keswick as this stretch has often been voted Britain’s Favourite Road – be warned, that can translate into lots of tourists at the very height of the summer-holiday season.
Rolling vineyards, baboon-populated mountain passes, rugged coastlines – the Garden Route offers a breathtaking journey from Cape Town past Stellenbosch and the Winelands through Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay. As you meander east, the landscape changes from positively Mediterranean to wild, wet and mountainous, with dense forests, bushland and dramatic cliffs. Beyond the N2 motorway and the sleepy seaside towns, you’ll find the land (and sea) that time forgot, patrolled by elephants, rhinos and whales. Driving couldn’t be easier here – especially if you're British as they also drive on the left.
Australia is no slouch when it comes to award-winning wine regions – where treats for the eyes and palate abound. Hop in the car and head north of Sydney on a laidback two-hour drive up the F3 from the centre of the city and you’ll get a soul-stirring entrée to this stunning terrain. The slopes of the Lower Hunter are home to the highest concentration of vineyards and are peppered with dinky market towns such as Branxton and Lovedale, and quaint rural idylls such as Wollombi, which, with its colonial architecture and welcoming 1930s ethos, is like motoring into a postcard from the past.
Boutique & luxury hotels
Garden Route & Winelands