It would be a shame to drive it in one day, as there’s so much to enjoy on the Great Ocean Road in southeastern Australia. For a distance of just over 240 kilometers, this legendary route leads from big-city Melbourne to the resort of Torquay, passing lush rainforests, cool surf spots, and picturesque seaside locations. From the tumbling waterfalls of Otway National Park and the chilled-out surfers’ hangout of Bells Beach, to whale watching and the stunning limestone formations of the Twelve Apostles, one thing’s for sure – the Great Ocean Road is so much more than just a road trip. It’s a journey into a series of different worlds.
This insider’s tip is one of the most impressive roads in the world: the “Transfăgărășan” in the mountains of Transylvania. Forming part of the Romanian national road DN7C and reaching an altitude of 2,042 meters, it is one of the highest paved mountain pass routes in the whole Carpathian range. On a road trip along its almost 100 kilometers of serpentine binds, drivers are treated to views of the man-made Lake Vidraru, the glacier-fed Bâlea Lake, and the nearby Bâlea Waterfall. Note, however, that in the darker months of the year, from November to June to be precise, the road is closed – though probably not because of vampires!
With its fascinating architecture and roller-coaster feel, the eight kilometer-long Atlantic Road forms part of Norway’s County Road 64. It is without doubt one of the world’s most beautiful highways. A particular highlight is the Storseisundet Bridge, the dramatic sweep of which creates a stunning impression. Norway’s “construction project of the century” traces a slalom-like route across coastal skerries and heathlands to bare hilltops. The road is in essence a single extended bridge linking multiple islands. In 2007, the British “Independent” newspaper named the Atlantic Road as one of the most beautiful automobile routes in the world. The Norwegians themselves, however, have a different favorite: the Trollstigen, or “Troll Footpath.” Drivers who prefer the mountains should certainly take this route to the south of the Atlantic Road. The Trollstigen offers hairpin bends, steeply sloping gorges, a magnificent waterfall, and a series of stunning views.
United Arab Emirates
How do you cool down in the desert? The answer: simply drive up a mountain, such as Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi. On the summit of the 1,340 meter-high peak, the temperature is likely to be six to eight degrees cooler than on the plain. Building the road up to the viewpoint, however, was a real civil engineering challenge – a fact belied by its impeccable asphalt surface today. The route covers just under twelve kilometers in a series of 60 bends. Drivers who complete it are rewarded with a magnificent view, ranging in clear weather from the infinite light brown of the desert to the oasis city of Al-Ain.
The far side of the world – New Zealand – is well-known for its scenic beauty. This can be enjoyed on the breathtaking drive to Milford Sound in the southwest of the country through the 12,500-hectare Fiordland National Park. Sweeping valleys, towering peaks, jagged crags, and lushly verdant rainforests bear witness to the many adventures available along the almost 120 kilometer-long Milford Road, from Te Anau to Milford Sound. This almost untouched natural landscape creates such an enchanted impression that it was famously used as the backdrop for the movie versions of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” series.
Hovering over the ocean, the 205 kilometer-long Overseas Highway constitutes the southernmost section of U.S. Route 1. Positioned between the Gulf of Mexico and the wide Atlantic, this unique road links the 40 islands of the Florida Keys with one another. The Overseas Highway is a delight for both nature lovers and culture fans. The most famous of the bridges along the way is the Seven Miles Bridge, made famous in a scene from the James Bond film “License to Kill.” The idyllic route leads to the cosmopolitan resort of Key West, where such world-renowned literary figures as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway lived and worked. Before driving the 240 kilometers back to Miami, it’s therefore well worth taking the time visit the Hemingway House and Museum in a building where the Nobel Prize-winning author lived during the 1930s.
With its 48 bends covering 25 kilometers, Italy’s Stelvio Pass is the perfect destination for adrenaline addicts. The high mountain pass connects Bormio in Lombardy with the provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige. At an altitude of 2,757 meters, the Stelvio Pass is one of the highest paved roads across the Alps. On the winding northeastern approach from the village of Prato, the 48 numbered bends make the steep and very narrow road challenging for cars and drivers alike. In 2008, the challenge was taken up by the presenters of the popular British motoring show “Top Gear.” They awarded it the title of the “greatest driving road in the world.”
For many people, South Africa’s Garden Route is the ultimate convertible car road trip. To the west of Cape Town, however, there’s a panoramic road that puts the Garden Route in the shade: Chapman’s Peak Drive. What’s remarkable is that the road shouldn’t really exist at all. Because of the sheer stone walls of the mountain, construction of the route once seemed impossible. It was only thanks to workers enduring perilous conditions that the road came to be built in the early 20th century. Cut into the solid wall of the mountain, the ten kilometer-long drive links Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Despite being so short, it is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful coast roads. Situated within the Table Mountain National Park, the route offers a great deal of variety in a small area. With its breathtaking panoramas, rest areas for picnics, and ocean views from the picturesque Chapman’s Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive represents an unforgettable experience.