There’s nothing quite like cruising down the road with the sea on one hand and beautiful countryside on the other - a coastal journey really is a road tripper’s dream come true.

While it’s the big road trips that get all the press (Sydney to Perth, across the US, Paris to Moscow, etc.), if you’ve ever had the chance to journey along a pristine coastal route, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like coming around a bend in the road and catching your breath at another stunning vista. After all, it’s not about how long your trip is or how many stamps you manage to accumulate on your passport. Road tripping thrives on the anticipation of what’s just around the next corner and the excitement that comes from constantly discovering new things. The wonderfully diverse sea-crafted landscapes of the coast are the perfect places to experience this excitement - but with so many coastlines both rugged and idyllic vying for you attention, how will you know where to begin? We can help.
 
 
 
12 Apostles
 
1. Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
 
It’s not just Aussies who think this route is something special - the Great Ocean Road has an international reputation as one of the most scenic bits of coastline on Earth. Starting at Torquay near the city of Melbourne and winding along for 243 kilometres to Allensford, travellers are presented with monolithic rock formations, verdant farmland and fertile vineyards. Arguably the most famous landmarks along the way are the 12 Apostles, towering pillars of limestone that jut out of the ocean, but there’s far more to see along the Great Ocean Road than just rock formations. Stop at one of the surf towns along the way to catch a few waves, taste some of the decadent vintages on offer from the local wineries or get close to the emus, koalas and kangaroos that inhabit an extinct volcanic crater at Tower Hill. The options are as endless as the views.
 
 
Pembrokeshire Coast
 
2. Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales, United Kingdom
 
This is particular piece of coastline is the pride of the United Kingdom; the only coastal area in the UK to have a National Park set around it in order to preserve its pristine beauty. This slice of Welsh paradise is rich in variety, boasting calm coves and wild rocky shores, Iron Age hill forts, ancient tombs and medieval castles. You’ll also come across utterly unique wildlife: Pembrokeshire Coast hosts scores of species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Picking up a Cardiff car rental allows you to journey along the southern coast for a little bit before you move on up into Pembrokeshire - it’s not far to go, and believe me you’ll want to spend as much time as you can in this gorgeous country.
 
 
 
Big Sur
 
3. Northern California, United States
 
Depending on how much time you have and what exactly you want to get out of your trip, there’s a few different places you can begin (and end) your northern California road trip. Many people choose to use San Francisco as a base, which is a fantastic opportunity to explore this vibrant city. Personally I’d recommend spending a couple of days in Frisco before heading south toward Big Sur. You’d be hard pressed to find a piece of California coast that isn’t beautiful but the section of Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey known as Big Sur is widely regarded as one of the best scenic routes in the world. As you drive along the seaside where the Santa Lucia Mountains rear up abruptly from the waves, you’ll begin to understand why.
 
 
Paparoa National Park
 
4. Westland, New Zealand
 
New Zealand is really just a few small islands rising up out of the Southern Pacific, so naturally there’s a lot of coast to choose from - but it’s hard to deny that the route along State Highway 6 on the western side of the South Island tops them all. A popular starting point for this journey is Nelson - even though this sunny city isn’t on the coast, it’s close by and one of the best holiday spots in New Zealand to boot. Your kiwi coastal odyssey really begins when you hit Westport though, a little town known for its adventure opportunities (take time to try the caving or jetboating) and native wildlife. If you head down in March you might be able catch the Wild Food Festival in Hokitika, an unparalleled culinary adventure featuring delicious local fare and a host of delicacies you never thought you’d consider as food, although you’ll need book tickets early as this sells out quickly. The majesty of the Southern Alps will accompany you the whole way down, while the wild sea stretches out to your right. Even when the road takes you inland for a bit, you’ll be treated to magnificent sights - Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are truly unforgettable and should you leave the shore behind to continue along the highway, Wanaka and Queenstown are waiting for you.
 
 
 
Peggy's Cove
 
5. Nova Scotia & New Brunswick, Canada
 
There’s a delicate balance here between the gentle rural towns that populate this corner of Canada and the untamed ferocity of the cold Atlantic that crashes against the rocky shores. Most will start their journey in Halifax, before striking out along the southwestern seaside of Nova Scotia. The isolated stretches of rock and water produce an almost poignant feeling - there’s a wild beauty here that will capture your heart and mind. To continue your journey, curve around to follow the Bay of Fundy up into New Brunswick. If you have the time, you can even continue on into Newfoundland to discover the ‘Viking trail’ - how far you go really comes down to when you have to drag yourself away. You won’t want to be leaving this idyllic piece of rural heaven any time soon.
 
 
Do you know of another coastal route that you think should have made the list? Tell us about your experience in the comments below and we could feature your special location in our follow up article!
 
 
 
Feature image: James Lauritz, copyright Tourism Victoria

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