4 epic road trips around the world that must go on your driving bucket list
Itineraries tried and tested by The Peak’s motoring correspondent – and the cars to do them in.
Low Ka Wei
Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
What: This 243-km-long road, built by veterans returning from WWI, winds along the Victorian coast from Torquay to Allansford, just outside of Warrnambool, through quaint seaside towns and lush national parks. The famous Twelve Apostles is a major attraction, although today only eight of the original limestone formations still stand.
How: For most travellers, the flag off point would be Melbourne, heading west via Geelong. The latter, an industrial city, is an anti-climactic start to the trip, so we suggest a slightly unorthodox routing. Point your car south-west instead and stay the first night on a farm on Phillip Island where friendly alpacas and sheep will eat out of your hands. The following day, traverse the Mornington Peninsula and catch a car ferry across Port Phillip Bay to Torquay. Either Lorne or Apollo Bay would be an excellent pit stop for the second night, where you can partake in fresh seafood washed down with Australian wine. It is worth driving past Warrnambool – another large, non-descript city – and end your journey at the picturesque Port Fairy, where you join wealthy Victorians who spend their weekends on yachts and in holiday homes.
Car: Holden Commodore Sportwagon SS, the last of the great V8 Australian muscle cars. Holden, together with Ford and Toyota, will no longer be producing cars in the continent by the end of the year.
California State Route 1, USA
What: A major north-south route that runs along the Pacific coastline, the 1,055-km-long road doles out some of the world’s most breathtaking views and is a popular, albeit slower, way of getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Expect to wend your way through ancient forests and along plunging cliffs, punctuated with long stretches of dual carriageway to still your beating heart.
How: Highway 1, as it is informally called, starts south of Los Angeles. Those departing the City of Angels will join the highway in the suburb of Santa Monica. Stop for lunch in tony Santa Barbara before bunking over in a seaside inn in Cambria. The following day, take a tour of Hearst Castle, a magnificent hilltop mansion where newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst once entertained his guests, flown into the estate’s own airfield from all around over the country. Next destination: Big Sur, where steep mountains dramatically hug the ocean. Stay at the Post Ranch Inn, a luxurious resort favoured by Hollywood celebrities for its cliff-hanging villas and bucolic treehouses. On the final leg to San Francisco, visit the award-winning Monterey Bay Aquarium, a working marine sanctuary with wildlife research programmes.
Car: Ford Mustang, the quintessential American sports car. Although it is a two-seater, the cavernous boot will swallow a pair of suitcases with ease.
Innsbruck, Austria to Interlaken, Switzerland
What: While the most famous Alpine road is the Stelvio Pass in Tyrolean Italy, in reality the mountain route is extremely congested, no thanks to its reputation. Fortunately, there are better options. This two-day route is a sampling of central Europe’s best mountain passes. In other words, hairpins galore.
How: Book yourself into the five-star Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol near the renowned ski resort of Innsbruck, Austria – you would need a good night’s rest to recover from jetlag for the challenging roads the following days. Begin the morning with a leisurely loop around the Naturpark Karwendel, before enjoying a Wiener Schnitzel, lake-side, at the Hotel Post am See. Then cross over to Italy on the Brenner Pass – a relatively easy but highly picturesque mountain pass, which leads to the main course of the day: the little-used, 20-turn, 40-km Jaufen Pass. Overnight, soak your weariness away at the spa then head to bed at the Hotel Terme Merano, before continuing your adventure towards Switzerland. En route, you’ll drive over no fewer than four mountain passes – Ofen, Julier, Oberalp and Susten – all of which will take you from elevations of about 1,000m to over 2,000 and down again, over steep inclines of over 10 per cent. Catch the sunset at the top of the mountain, before pressing on through the fog towards your suite at the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa to pore over maps at leisure. Where to next?
Car: Audi RS4. A compact sports sedan with quattro all-wheel-drive and excellent handling to stay planted on the often-slippery roads.
Windhoek to Swakopmund, Namibia
What: Journeying across the mountains, rivers and deserts of this former German colony is not for the faint of heart. We recommend signing up for a proper guided tour with support vehicles should (or rather, when) things go pear-shaped. The BMW Tour Experience 8 Days Namibia programme is a fantastic option that includes an off-roader, meals and quality accommodation.
How: From capital Windhoek in central Namibia, practice off-road driving in a working ranch before heading west towards Swakopmund, where the cold Atlantic air merge with the dry desert winds to shroud the coastal town in all-day mist. Over eight days, you will meet tribespeople who fashion jewellery out of ostrich eggshells, gaze at the Big Five in a protected animal reserve or enjoy a sundowner in the middle of nowhere. This, while learning how to pilot your 4x4 on challenging terrain such as savannah, riverbed and rocks. On the final day, negotiate the narrow beach between towering sand dunes and the South Atlantic, past shipwrecks and seal carcasses, to reach the Namib-Naukluft National Park, where you put your SUV to the ultimate test on the soft desert sand.
Car: BMW X5 3.0 Diesel. Provided by the tour operator, this oft-dismissed soccer mum-mobile handles Namibia’s rugged terrain with surprising aplomb.