MY WIFE AND I have put 100k miles on our ’98 Protege since we bought it 5+ years ago. We’ve driven it to 48 US states and several Canadian provinces, many of them more than once. Rental cars have been road tripped in East Asia, South America, Great Britain, the Middle East.
Here are some of our favorite spots to stop driving and get out of the car, and some we hope to visit soon. What are yours?
This shot is from Scott Sporleder’s trip to Tasmania last year, where he commented: “The surface of the earth which surrounds Queenstown looks like Mars. Due to a mixture of deforestation from local mining and heavy annual rainfall (which has cleared away any remaining topsoil), the earth now has this other worldly look to it. I remember driving through forests for hours and then out of nowhere winding my way up these barren copper colored hills and thinking to myself, Where the hell am I?”
2. Avenue of the Giants, California
The way to drive through northern California’s redwoods is with windows and moonroof wide open. But sometimes it’s not enough and you’ve gotta get out of the vehicle.
3. Road to Hana, Maui
There are 620 curves, 46 one-lane bridges, and multiple roadside beaches and lava tubes on the 68-mile road between Kahului and Hana, making it at least a 2.5-hour ride. Plenty of excuses to take it slow.
4. Kabul River Gorge, Afghanistan
Between Kabul and Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, the A1 passes through this rugged canyon.
5. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Most of the traffic on the world’s largest salt flat is tourist based and so by nature stops to let people out of the car. The place is so huge, though, there’s usually not another Land Rover in sight.
6. Route 66, USA
A classic American road trip route. Here it passes through Oatman, AZ, which is “known for its resident mules, who come and go and at times cause their own traffic jams in town.”
7. Scottish Highlands
Taking up roughly the northern half of Scotland, the Highlands are a region of mountains made up of some of the oldest extant rocks on the planet.
8. Olympic Peninsula, Washington
From Ocean City, the 109 runs north along the coast, paralleling dark sands and often foggy skies. Keep driving past where the highway turns to local road and you’ll eventually get to Port Angeles, one of our gateways to pristine America.
9. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
This national park sits at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range in southern Colorado, an excellent detour and stopping place off the very straight and somewhat dull Highway 17 between Alamosa and Villa Grove.
10. Col de Tourniol, Rhone Alpes, France
Col de Tourniol is at the western edge of the French Alps, near the town of Vercors and the natural park of the same name.
11. Faroe Islands
The Faroes are an autonomous region of Denmark some 400 miles north of Scotland. There’s not a lot of room for roads, but those that exist are dominated by mountains, bridges, and causeways. Sounds like good driving.
12. Powder Highway, Canada
Matador spent a lot of time on the Powder Highway this past season, shooting photo + video and taking advantage of the snow that was sadly absent for the rest of the continent.
13. Chiloe Island, Chile
Jeff Bartlett brought us 16 reasons to travel Patagonia by bike, but the route he took would work equally well on four wheels.
14. Yosemite Valley, California
Just east of the tunnel on 41 (Wawona Rd) heading into the national park, there’s this turnout that’s pretty much guaranteed to be packed any time of day as people stop for one of the best views of Half Dome and the rest of the glacially carved valley.
15. Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The largest Asian desert begins at the southern slopes of Mongolia’s Altai Mountains and spills down into northern China. Roads are where you make them.
16. Kauai, Hawaii
One of the most remote of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is one of our picks for the 38 of the most surreal beaches and coastlines on the planet and 5 small-town adventure escapes in the US.
17. Road to Mt. Nebo, Jordan
From the Biblical city of Madaba, it’s a short drive to the top of Mount Nebo, the 817m ridge that gives a view over the Holy Land and is said to be the final resting place of Moses.
18. Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
Circling the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, the 300km Cabot Trail includes some stout climbs. Seen above is the road up French Mountain, on the western side of the trail, just north of Cheticamp and the entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Watch for cyclists and moose.
19. Chubut, Argentina
This shot was taken driving south out of Esquel toward Los Alerces National Park. At the northern frontier of Patagonia, this entire region makes you want to park the car and throw on a pack.
20. Edge of the Australian Outback
In southwestern Queensland, the land slowly morphs into flat, dry, big sky country as you approach the continent’s central desert.
21. Ring Road, Iceland
Iceland’s Route 1 circles the island and is pretty much the only major highway in the country. Driving the entire 1,339km is popular with visitors.
22. Sierra Nevada, California
The highest peak in the Lower 48, North America’s largest alpine lake, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, hot springs and snowy mountain passes…all of this is found in the Sierra.
23. Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia
From the photographer: “Just after 1am in the middle of the night (returning from photographing the green sea turtles laying their eggs in the dunes) I noticed some geometrical formation in the sky on Fraser Island. I quickly stopped the car and turned off the light. It was then that I realised I am witnessing the rare event…” — a moonbow.
24. Northern Territory, Australia
In What to do in Australia’s Northern Territory, Scott says: “There are several million wild horses and camels roaming the Northern Territory. They are ancestors of domestic animals brought to Australia over 100 years ago.”
25. Picos de Europa, Spain
My favorite part of Spain is this region of alpine peaks and crazy mountain roads on the north coast between Oviedo and Santander. The shot above is from the AS-264, heading back to flat land.
From the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley to the Glen Canyon Dam to Highway 238 through the Sonoran Desert (pictured above), Arizona has a lot of pulloffs and overlooks.
27. Atlas Mountains, Morocco
This range separates the north of the country from the Saharan south and is crossed all the time by tourists from Marrakech on their way to a camel ride in Zagora.
28. Haleakala, Maui
The massive shield volcano of Haleakala makes up the majority of Maui’s landmass. It’s over 10,000 feet tall and sees a lot of traffic pre-dawn by people who want to catch the sunrise from the summit.
29. Lago Roca, Argentina
Pictured above is one of Karin-Marijke Vis’s 5 killer camping spots in Patagonia.
30. Milford Road, New Zealand
Driving west out of Gore, you take State Highway 94 to get to Milford Sound. I’m sure the fjord is cool, but judging from this picture I’d use up a lot of SD space just getting there.
We drove State Highway 375 (the “Extraterrestrial Highway” across southern Nevada) in July in our black Protege with a busted A/C. Lost about 5 pounds each. Loved it.
32. Southern Mali
Note from the photographer: “After 3 months driving through Africa, approximately, this is how the car looked like. I was more or less proud on her like one can be proud of someone as a person. Pic is taken on the road to the Dogon.”
33. Big Sur, California
There are a lot of places to stop and get out of the car along Highway 1 between Carmel and Morro Bay on the California coast.
34. Ruta 234, Argentina
In Neuquen, between Bariloche to the south, San Martin de los Andes to the north and the Chilean border to the west, is the “Camino de los 7 lagos.”
35. Moab, Utah
Heading out of Moab, Highway 128 traces the Colorado River for a bit, which also forms the border with Arches National Park. A good place to stop the car.
36. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Photog’s note: “As we arrived at the northeast arm of the Isle of Skye we were met by a fantastic storm. I stopped the car on the deserted road and got out to look at the sky and the country all around me. It was alive with beautiful and vibrant colour and light. Several dramatic photos emerged. This is one of my favourites.”
37. Great Ocean Road, Australia
This route runs for 240km between Torquay and Warrnambool in Victoria, on Australia’s southern coast. The Twelve Apostles — limestone towers — rise out of the water just beyond sheer cliffs and the guardrail.
38. Del Monte Forest, California
Mostly Monterey Pine, Del Monte Forest covers 10 square miles of coastal land around Pebble Beach, Monterey County. 17 Mile Dr winds through a lot of trees but can get pretty crowded.
39. Ontario in the fall
The photographer was just outside Toronto when he took this shot: “I stopped at this spot, got out of the car, took a deep breath and smelt autumn!”
40. East Iceland
The two-lane Ring Road, completed in 1974, may see fewer than 100 vehicles / day on the remoter stretches. This shot was taken near the town of Egilsstaðir in the east.
41. Anywhere in the mountains
The photographer didn’t identify the location of this shot, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. Anytime the road I’m on ascends into the mountains, I know it’s gonna be a special trip.