Imagine sitting behind the wheel with vast amounts of open road right in front of you, feeling free, relaxed and inspired. There really is nothing quite like the thrill of taking to a new highway in an unknown country to set the pulse racing and satisfy your sense of adventure.
There are some very special corners of the globe that are typically missed by travellers who simply pass by above the clouds. A self drive holiday will help you enjoy the bits most miss out on. The flexibility and freedom of driving means this style of adventure helps you go your own way, with nowhere you have to be and no set route you have to take. In a car, you go where you want, when you want and travel at your own pace.
Across the globe, there are opportunities for unforgettable road trips so no matter where in the world you would like to holiday next, there’s bound to be an open road adventure that’s right for you. Read on to discover our best drives in the world.
Australia’s Great Ocean Road
No list of epic self drive holidays would be complete without mentioning Australia’s Great Ocean Road. This is one of the most popular road trips in the world and it’s not at all difficult to see why.
Taking you from Melbourne to Adelaide along Oz’s south coast, a typical Great Ocean Road itinerary takes in about five days of driving but there are endless stops along the route to add on if you want to take your time on your journey and make the most of the area.
The incredibly scenic coastline of Victoria takes in golden beaches and sparkling waters, many of which are visible from the winding coastal road. The Twelve Apostles – the impressive and rugged rock formations jutting out of the sea – are one of the icons of the region but don’t miss the chance to swim with dolphins or look around nearby Port Fairy, a charming fishing town which affords travellers the opportunity to sample the culture of 19th century whalers.
The stunning scenery of the dramatic coastline thrills as you continue along through the mountains and Mt Gambier, and further along the coast you’ll find wine country in the world famous Barossa Valley, just to the north of Adelaide.
Before finishing the drive in the City of Churches, take a tour of the wineries of the Barossa, have a bite to eat, and make sure you pop a few bottles of world class Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz into the boot as a memento to drink later.
Icefield Parkway Through Canada’s Rockies
One of the most spectacular roads in the world, Icefield Parkway takes travellers from the incredible city of Vancouver across national parks and through the Rocky Mountains. Include Icefield Parkway on this exciting Rockies to Rainforest self drive itinerary.
Spend a few days exploring all that Vancouver has to offer before picking up your hire car in Canada, from whale watching off the coast and hiking in the hills surrounding the city to city slicking in Gastown and on Granville Island. It’s also possible to travel to nearby Vancouver Island on the ferry to explore the beautiful coastline across the strait of Georgia and the charming town of Victoria on the southern edge of the island. Don’t miss the Quw’utsun’ Heritage Village near the town of Duncan, a unique cultural experience evoking the lives of the Northwest people who have inhabited this part of the world for centuries.
Once back on the mainland, this iconic self drive route connects the Alpine town of Whistler – scene of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – with the world famous national parks of Jasper and Banff. Don’t miss the impressive Joffre Glacier, the stunning Maligne Canyon and the impressive Athabasca Falls in Jasper, or the peaceful, glacier-fed Moraine Lake in Banff.
The wonderful city of Kuala Lumpur is a popular spot for tourists. Situated in the west of Peninsular Malaysia, it is just a few hours drive from some incredibly beautiful natural spots including the Cameron Highlands.
After exploring KL, as the locals call it, head north to Taman Negara. This place covers an impressive 4,343 square kilometres and is the perfect spot to park the car and explore for a day or two, taking advantage of the wonderful hotels around Kuala Lumpur that are available. This is one of the world’s oldest deciduous rainforests and highlights here include canopy walks and hikes to mountain peaks with breathtakingly stunning views. The clear waters at the bottom of the Lata Berkoh waterfall are a particularly inspiring location for a swim.
Back behind the wheel, head east to the Cameron Highlands region, where the elevation gets higher and you can feel the weather change. This is a major world producer of tea so this is your chance to spend a day or two exploring the area, sampling different types before moving on again, towards the golden beaches of Penang.
This island is home to mountains as well as beaches, with a funicular trip up to the top of Penang hill coming highly recommended. Don’t miss the stunning Kek Lok Si Temple and pay historic George Town a visit before kicking back on the beach to relax. For sure, driving is a fantastic way to be exploring Malaysia.
Grand Tour of New Zealand
New Zealand is a country unlike anywhere else in the world. The stunning scenery of the South Island is contrasted by the peaceful meadows and volcanic areas of the North Island and despite being a country with a population of less than 5 million people, it’s difficult to pack in a holiday itinerary that includes everything.
This is why a self drive in New Zealand is ideal; a fantastic opportunity to sample a little of everything in this beautiful natural landscape.
Start your road trip in the North Island, travelling from Auckland right the way down to the Southern Alps, stopping off in the places you really want to see. Best of all, the amazing scenery this region is known for can be seen right out of the car window with most roads wide, open and incredibly scenic.
Choose the Grand Tour of New Zealand self drive with some incredible highlights. In the North Island, spend a day exploring Auckland as well as its stunning coastline and the views from the top of the Sky Tower.
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Then, leave the nation’s largest city and take in the volcanic beauty of the Coromandel peninsula. Stretch your legs by walking in the rainforests of the area before getting back behind the wheel again to take in the rest of the North Island. Enroute to Wellington in the south of the island, take in Maori culture in Rotorua, bathe in the famous hot springs and see the wineries of Hawkes Bay as well as the museums of the capital city.
Drop off your New Zealand hire car in the north and jump on the ferry to the South Island where you will pick up another before continuing your journey. Watch the landscape change from the wineries of Marlborough in the north of the island all the way down to the Southern Alps, with epic fiords, snow-capped peaks and the famous Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Spend some down time in the chilled town of Queenstown, set right by the foothills of the mountains offering relaxation and stunning scenery, before setting off to the other of the South Island’s jewels – the pretty cities of Dunedin and Christchurch.
The historic castles and cathedrals make a change from the dramatic landscapes of the Southern Alps and are a fitting end to a trip of spectacular contrasts.
The Garden Route in South Africa
South Africa is such a diverse country to travel to: from wildlife safari parks to whale watching along stunning coastlines and world class wineries, this is a place with a lot to offer. A self drive holiday gives you the flexibility to experience all this country has to offer in one complete trip.
The Garden Route is one of Africa’s most spectacular jewels and takes advantage of the coastal forests and unique flora and fauna of the Western Cape’s coastline. Perhaps one of the best times to do this road trip is between June and November when whales can be found off the coast of Cape Town. Though not strictly part of the Garden Route, Cape Town is a great destination to start from, and a drive to Hermanus, the whale watching capital of the world, is a great way to start your South Africa driving adventure.
The rest of the Garden Route takes in the town of Knysna – known for its wonderfully scenic bay as well as an oyster festival which takes place every June or July – and the Ostrich Capital of the World, Oudtshoorn, with its impressive Cango Caves. Look out for the high valley passes and orchard towns that pave the way to the town of Montagu, too, which is famous for its hot springs.
Before returning your South Africa hire car, drive back to Cape Town through the wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, where wine lovers will need to find space in the boot for a few souvenir bottles. This Garden Route self drive is an Africa trip to remember.
America’s Route 66
Route 66 is up there with Bald Eagles and the Statue of Liberty when it comes to icons of America. Almost 2,500 miles of epic road trip awaits you on Route 66; an adventure right through the USA’s heartland. Take two weeks to ensure that you pack in all of the sights with our iconic America’s Route 66 self drive.
Leave Chicago and explore the cities of St Louis and Springfield, Missouri as you pass from the mid-west into the central plains: the former town takes pride of place on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river, while the latter is where you’ll find the house Abraham Lincoln lived in before becoming President of the United States. The drive between the two takes travellers through the cornfields and the prairies of the region.
Don’t miss preserved historic gas stations and motels along the way as this well-known road sweeps to the south west, driving into the Texas Panhandle and Amarillo. Here, you’ll get the chance to sample a real Texas steak and see the leaning water tower of Britten, Texas’ own unique version of Pisa.
En route to California, the land becomes more arid as the Mojave desert gets closer. Plan for driving stops at both the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas – the gateways to the west – and get ready for some very different experiences en route, before reaching Los Angeles.
Upon your final destination, Route 66 will have taken you through eight different states, so make sure you sample the cultural delights of each and every single one along this epic road trip route.
The world really is your oyster when you choose to hit the open road. It doesn’t matter which beautiful country highlighted above you choose for your driving holiday, experience local customs and culture out on the road and really get a feel for your destination.
From spectacular views and stunning scenes to charming overnight stays and thrilling cities, these road trips take adventure-seeking travellers through some of the most incredible places on earth. So whether you picture yourself on an epic coastal self drive or an inland intrepid adventure, if the desire to see the parts most people miss is alive in you, pick your destination, jump in a hire car and do it your way.
Ask one of our Destination Experts to help you start planning your self drive holiday today.