The all time greatest drives on Earth. From Australia’s own magnificent Great Ocean Road to a tunnel road in China carved from solid rock, these are the drives every car enthusiast needs to tackle at least once in a lifetime.
1. Big Sur, California, USA
The drive: The USA is simply littered with breathtaking drives, but Big Sur might just be the greatest. The State Route 1 Highway is renowned for running along some of the country’s most scenic coastlines – sandy coves, epic Pacific vistas and giant redwoods can all be seen in one day. Two hours south of San Francisco, the road snakes its way around breathtaking shores for around 140 km, crossing several historic bridges en route.
The Car: A Lexus ES 300h will carry you effortlessly through such a diverse landscape.
2. Via Bormio, Switzerland and Italy
The drive: Tried and tested by Top Gear during their search for the perfect road, this one proved to be their champion. Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy it’ll carry you from Davos in the Swiss Alps, via Bormio, and on to Italy’s Stelvio Pass, a 24 km spaghetti trail that’s not for the faint of heart. You’ll take over 60 hairpin turns as you pass snow-capped peaks and ascend over 9,000 ft.
The car: The Ford Mustang GT has enough horsepower to get you up all those hills with ease.
3. Great Ocean Road, Australia
The drive: Hailed by many as the most scenic route in the world, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road really does have to be seen to be believed. This is a 240 km stretch of astoundingly beautiful coastline that takes in a number of well-known attractions along the way. You’ll see flora and fauna, extensive sandy beaches, jagged cliff faces and the famous Twelve Apostles – a collection of towering limestone stacks that jut out of the Southern Ocean.
The car: There’s nothing quite like doing this drive with the top down, and a classic Chevrolet Impala convertible will never go out of style.
4. Milford Road, New Zealand
The drive: Numerous scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot along this stretch so you know the landscape is literally the stuff of legends. Winding through Fiordland National Park, the heart of the Southern Alps, this 230km stretch is awash with some of the world’s most diverse and scenic panoramas. Hailed as Australasia’s answer to Big Sur, there aren’t many trips where you can stand on both a glacier and a white sand beach in one day.
The car: A Land Rover Discovery Sport has enough horsepower to make off-road driving easy.
5. Jebel Hafeet Road, UAE
The drive: Though it’s just under 12 km in length, Jabel Hafeet Mountain Road is by far the UAE’s best drive. Cutting through jagged and barren terrain, there are 21 turns that range from grand sweepers to tight hairpin bends. The road is well-kept and there are two lanes in the ascending direction meaning you can cruise at high-speed or meander along taking in the sights. As the stretch is often empty, ascending at pace is relatively safe, as long as you are mindful of the many cyclists who frequent the area.
The car: A Lamborghini Huracán has the speed and horsepower to handle such terrain with pizazz
6. The Atlantic Road, Norway
In 2005 the Atlantic Road was honoured as Norway’s Construction of the Century. Connecting the Fjord towns of Kristiansund and Molde, the road spans across multiple islands connected by grand viaducts, winding causeways and eight different architecturally alluring bridges. The stunning scenery and twisting nature of the ocean road has led to it being used in numerous automotive commercials.
The car: The area’s weather is as harsh and unpredictable as the landscape. A Jeep Grand Cherokee should keep you safe and dry.
7. Hana Highway, Maui, USA
Hawaii’s most awe-inspiring road connects the small town of Hana with the rest of the island of Maui. The stretch is close to 100 km and the view is never disappointing. Expect gushing waterfalls, sandy beaches, spectacular ocean vistas and 54 bridges in total. With 600 hairpin turns all up, it’s as demanding as it is beautiful.
The car: Jaguar’s XKR Convertible has a super-charged engine to get you through lengthy stretches of road, and with the top down you’ll be able to taste that salt air.
8. Oregon Coast Highway, USA
Oregon’s Route 101 is an extensive stretch of road that’ll take you through a number of worthwhile towns on the way. Pacific City is a laid-back surfer’s haven, while Cannon Beach and Astoria are foodie-friendly towns with some great ocean-side lodgings. One of the most famous landmarks is Haystack Rock, a 235 ft sea stack made famous by the cult classic kids flick, The Goonies.
The car: The weather can change almost instantly. Load up a Jeep Wrangler and you can mount any beach in any condition.
9. Friendship Highway, Tibet
Want to see five of the world’s highest peaks in one drive? Tibet’s Friendship Highway has got you covered, and you’ll finish up your drive at the base of Everest. The road links the capital Lhasa with the base camp at Rongbuk. Picturesque villages, historic monasteries, monumental peaks and shimmering lakes await.
The car: Toyota LandCruiser will do the hard work so you don’t have to.
10. The Amalfi Coast
It wouldn’t be a driving list without a mention of the Amalfi Coast. This playground to the world’s elite is the epitome of mesmerising Mediterranean scenery, making it on to the World Heritage list in ’97. Winding along Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, sheer cliff faces rise from turquoise waters with postcard-perfect villages sprawling down the sides of rugged mountains.
The car: The Ferrari California is as beautiful and as quintessentially Italian as the drive itself.
11. Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
Perhaps the most unique drive on the list, the Guoliang Tunnel is carved through the Taihang Mountains in the Henan Province. Originally the mountaintop was completely isolated from the rest of China, but in 1972 the locals decided to change that. In an attempt to connect themselves with the world, thirteen villagers spent five years digging the 1.2 km tunnel road. It’s about 16 feet high and wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other – albeit carefully. It can be a little daunting, with the tunnel’s 30 “windows,” providing views off a tumbling abyss hundreds of feet below.
The car: The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is small enough to squeeze through the tunnel’s tight passageways and safe enough to give you confidence.
12. Chapman’s Peak Drive, Capetown
Connecting Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast of South Africa’s south-western tip, this nine km route skirts the rugged coastline of Chapman’s Peak. No driving enthusiast should visit South Africa without tackling this winding ocean road. Often described as a photographer’s dream, the journey provides multiple scenic stopping areas on the way so it’s a great trip to pack a picnic for.
The car: This is one of the easier and more relaxed drives on the list. There’s a good chance the sun will be beating down on you so an Aston Martin DB9 Volante soft-top will have you cruising with class.
13. Col de Turini, France
A sky-high mountain pass in the French Alps, Col de Turini lies near the Sospel Commune. It has featured three times in the Tour de France and remains a famous stage of the Monte Carlo Rally. The terrain is beautiful but this is a road that should be driven just for the sake of driving. Unlike the Stelvio Pass or Big Sur, the smooth turns allow for you to ascend and descend the mountain at pace – it’s almost as if it were built for racing!
The car: A Subaru WRX STI is ideal rally car will glide like a dream.
14. Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
Canada has its fair share of inspiring drives, but the Rockies are a sight that won’t be forgotten quickly. Heading North from Lake Louise to Jasper, the road follows the crashing waters of the Saskatchewan River to the Rockies’ Columbian Icefields. Expect to see no less than eight gargantuan glaciers en route.
The car: An Audi Q5 is the perfect mid-size all-wheel drive to cover the varying terrain of the Rockies.
15. Romantic Road, Germany
The aptly named Romantic Road is one of Europe’s most picturesque. Winding through Southern Germany’s charming and archetypal towns, the route was devised by crafty travel agents in the 1950s, who were looking to highlight quintessential German culture. Fortunately for them it worked, and the 350 km stretch is as pretty as the name suggests, with one of the highlights being the staggering Neuschwanstein Castle – the alleged inspiration for Disneyland’s castle.
The car: This trip is all about the scenery and the roads are well kept. Porsche’s super-light 911 GT3 RS gives you all the handling, control and power you’ll need to meander through this memorable landscape.