Ever wanted to say you’ve driven clear across a country, or from top to bottom? It’s an achievable goal, and one you can accomplish whether you have a short time to spare or a long one. Just one day will see you easily conquer the roads of the smaller nations, while driving clear across Australia
or the United States
will realistically require at least a week.
Here are our top picks for cross-country road trips, and which ones you could just fit into the time you have! What’s on your bucket list?
The United States: 2-4 weeks
The idea of driving from the east coast to the west, chasing the sunsets all the way to the Pacific Ocean coast, has captured the imaginations of many - along with the thought of departing the west and heading into the rising sun until arriving at the Atlantic. However, it’s quite a journey, and not one that many people actually undertake.
You could fit the 40 hours of driving into a week, but it’s even better to do it over a month. Drive between New York
and Los Angeles
and you can visit both of those iconic cities along with a huge range of sights and sounds along the way. The fastest way is on the I-80, past the mountains of Utah
and via Chicago
, but you can pick your route to head through the warm southern states or add in some detours and hit anyplace that takes your fancy.
Although it’s a long distance to cover, the US has a driving culture, and the people there won’t think twice of driving many hundreds of miles in one day - which makes it easy for you to do so too! Make yourself a great road trip playlist
and enjoy those long stretches of open road.
Australia: Ten days or more
There are a number of ways you could drive across Australia. A great summertime route is from Sydney
via the country’s southern coast. At 55 hours or more of total driving time, it takes in many highlights which are at their best during the warmer months: Melbourne
, the Great Ocean Road, Adelaide
and the gorgeous Southwest region. If you have the time, take a fortnight or more and spend some quality time on the beaches and in the national parks along the way.
Real heatseekers could opt for a Brisbane
road trip, taking in the tropical northern parts of the country in a coastal run up to Townsville
, then a journey through the mighty Outback. This route takes a total of more than 60 hours driving time, but much of it will be wide open highway so you can spend some serious hours on the road just looking at the beautiful country passing you by. Don’t forget to prepare for outback driving conditions with plenty of supplies and a cellphone.
North to south is another popular road trip in Australia, and the Stuart Highway offers a legendary journey from Adelaide to Darwin
or vice versa. This one’s for the intrepid drivers who would like to get acquainted with Australia’s vast and empty but breathtaking outback. If you choose this route, be sure to read up on outback driving tips safety tips and plan a detour to visit the incredible Uluru (Ayers Rock
New Zealand: 4-5 days
Although it’s not quite the northern tip of New Zealand
is a travel hub and a good starting point for a road trip that stretches most of the length of the country, all the way down to Invercargill
. The total driving time is around 25 hours, which can be split into three days, although a week or more is a much better amount of time to allocate so you can enjoy this famously beautiful country along the way.
You will, of course, have to factor a three-hour trip on the car ferry across Cook Strait into your plans! State Highway One will take you most of the way, but if you have the time to spare there are many small side trips you should make: a visit to Rotorua
, a hike in Tongariro National Park, some kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park
, a spot of relaxation at Hanmer Springs and all kinds of adventure in Queenstown
, the stunningly scenic adventure capital of the world.
Italy: 3 days
This long, skinny country is just begging to be explored from top to bottom. The drive from Milan
can be anywhere from nine to thirteen hours at a minimum, depending on your route, but spreading it over three days makes for a manageable amount of time on the road each day - a week will give you time to see a bit more of Italy as you go!
The quickest route is via the A1 to Bologna
and then the A14 down the Adriatic coast past some lovely seaside towns. Alternatively, you could hit destinations like Liguria, Pisa
with a more westerly route. Personalise your itinerary to see whichever parts of this amazing nation you would like - just be sure to take time to enjoy the food, history and remarkable mountain and ocean views.
Germany: 2-3 days
The drive from Hamburg
’s north to Munich
in the south is less than eight hours, easily achievable in a single day, especially when you consider the lack of speed limits on the autobahns. However, it’s always a good idea to take your time about it and visit the wonderful towns, cities and castles along the way.
We chose Deutschland for our list not only because of the high-speed highways but because it can offer such a variety of amazing things to road trippers - incredible history, pretty scenery, modern and vibrant cultural centres and some lovely architecture including the aforementioned castles. It is also an amazing place for a winter road trip, when cities and towns turn up the charm with Christmas markets.
Northern Ireland and Ireland: 1-2 days
The drive from Belfast
in Northern Ireland to Cork in the far south of Ireland
takes less than 5 hours all up. Take the A1 and M1 to Dublin
, then the M7 and M8 down to Cork for the fastest route - you’ll see plenty of the Emerald Isle along the way.
Of course, if you aren’t in a hurry, we recommend taking a bit more time to really enjoy this beautiful land. Take a detour out to Galway and the wild west coast for some stunning scenery, or stop off in Dublin for a few days for a city break.