One of the best ways to get under the skin of a country is to get behind the wheel. Whether it’s a 4×4 with all the bells and whistles or a classic that’s older than you, cars are still one of the best ways to see the sights. Here are our top five self-drive trips on four wheels.
The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
The Cabot Trail is a 185 mile scenic loop around the coastline of Cape Breton Island, taking in some of Nova Scotia’s most spectacular sights. Running across the top of the island and almost teetering off the eastern and western coastlines, it’s best to travel in a clockwise direction (the inside lane) unless you have a head for heights! Look out for moose as you twist through the mountains, being sure to stop off at Pleasant Bay for some whale watching. With so many great hiking trails en route, break up the journey and walk about to get a taste of the great outdoors, spotting the incredible ‘fall foliage’ as it blankets the region in colour. One of the best hikes is the 9km Skyline Trail: as its name suggests you’ll feel as though you are walking in the clouds as you walk out onto the peninsular where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean, forests and the winding road of the Cabot Trail.
Patagonia, Chile & Argentina
Patagonia is home to some of the most incredible landscapes on Earth: rugged terrain, rolling pampas, grinding ice fields, momentous glaciers, vast open spaces and long open roads. Being in control of your own agenda enables you to explore at your own pace. Visit Torres del Paine National Park and see the cave paintings of Laguna Amarga, or enjoy some fly fishing at Serrano River. Drive through the golden pampas and view soaring condors, foxes and guanacos ñandus (Patagonia’s version of the ostrich). Cross the border into Argentina and Los Glaciares National Park and check out the Perito Moreno Glacier, a spectacular ninety-seven square mile ice formation. If you are feeling adventurous try your hand at ice-trekking on the glacier, or take to the water to see the glacial wall up close.
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Considered one of the world’s greatest drives, the Great Ocean Road showcases the best of Victoria’s coastline. Whilst the Twelve Apostles – a series of huge, craggy limestone stacks rising out of the ocean – are often considered to be the main attraction, there’s far more to this drive than these impressive rocks. The coastal scenery is breathtaking – rugged cliffs, crashing waves, and untouched beaches – but somewhat contrary to the name, the drive also navigates inland through the Great Otway National Park, with its historic lighthouse, waterfalls, gorges and forests. As the popularity of this road has increased, so too has the stature of the destinations enroute. What were historically small logging and fishing communities are now thriving holiday towns and second home havens. At just 250km, it can be done as a day trip, but is far better enjoyed at a much more leisurely pace with time to stop off and take in the sights along the way.
Chianti region, Tuscany
Your first decision is whether to opt for a super cool convertible Ferrari 430 Spider, or go Italian Job in a Mini. Your second decision is whether to hit the road in spring when the flowers are in bloom, or in September, to experience the truffle hunting and grape harvest. Once decided, just sit back and enjoy la dolce vita. Cruise into the heart of the Chianti region, visiting charming hilltop towns, such as Greve and Castellina, stopping for delicious leisurely lunches of traditional treats such as schiacciata con olio – foccacia-like bread with oil and finocchionam, salami with fennel seeds. Put the roof down and sunglasses on, and get lost in a valley of chestnuts and oaks before experiencing the charm of Val d’Orcia Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just to the south of Siena.
Off-road safari, Namibia
Namibia is Africa with bells on, a million facets in one country ranging from the extremes of Sossusvlei’s strangely beautiful dunes to the lush, leafy bush of Etosha National Park. And where more strikingly beautiful to really get to grips with off-road driving than its wild, unrelenting landscape? It’s the adventure capital of Africa: where else can you scale a 350m tall sand dune, go off-road driving in scenic game reserves and take a balloon flight over the desert before spotting whales on a marine safari out in the crashing Atlantic? And if the views don’t do it for you, what about sand boarding, off roading, quad biking, and of course game drives? You’ll drive through Etosha National Park and the Ongava Reserve, witnessing the awe-inspiring wildlife from a new perspective.
Claire Powell is Digital Marketing Manager at Abercrombie & Kent.