Driving the open road surrounded by breathtaking scenery is one of life’s great pleasures and proof, were it needed, that an adventurous journey can often be more memorable than the intended destination. There’s something to be said for the old-fashioned thrill of the drive in the digital age, where a map, a well-stocked hamper, and agreeable company—not to mention a beautiful car—are all the ingredients you need for a classic road trip.
No visit to California would be complete without a cruise along State Route 1, best-known as the Pacific Coast Highway, which hugs 659 miles (1,061 km) of coastline between the southern suburbs of Los Angeles up to Mendocino County, some 200 miles (321 km) north of San Francisco. From the star-studded beaches of Malibu to Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds, and on up to the surf paradise of Big Sur in Monterey County, with its towering redwoods and dramatic cliffs, this is a journey through Hollywood folklore that also passes over the Golden Gate Bridge. Those traveling this summer might like to attend Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the world’s leading exhibition of show cars, which takes place on August 18 in this Monterey County resort, and of which Christie’s International Real Estate is a sponsor.
2. Route des Grandes Alpes, France
A seasonal excursion that winds its way from the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland through the Alps down to Menton on the French Riviera, the Route des Grandes Alpes typically opens in June once the winter snow has melted and remains open until October. Equally popular with cyclists, the 425-mile (684 km) stretch crosses 18 of the French Alps’s highest passes, including Col de la Bonette at a vertigo-inducing 8,907 ft (2,715 m) and takes in the resorts of Chamonix and Val d’Isère via numerous hairpin bends and sheer mountain drops. One could split the trip and spend the night at one of the many fine hotels along the way, such as the Hotel Chalet Mounier in Les Deux Alpes. As the road weaves through beautiful national parks, you’re reminded of Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney in Two for the Road as they swerve chicly along the Riviera. In Menton—a town known as “the pearl of France”—be sure to visit the Jean Cocteau Museum.
3. Amalfi Coast, Italy
Though ideally avoided in July and August due to holiday congestion, this 25-mile (40 km) stretch of the SS163 offers a picture-perfect slalom along one of Italy’s most prized assets, the Amalfi Coast. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the road wends its way below Sorrento on Via Nastro Azzurro from Positano eastward to Vietri sul Mare, passing through the chocolate-box towns of Praiano, Amalfi, and Ravello clustered beneath the cliffs. Trips to Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, and the island of Capri are easily arranged, and if the locations look familiar that’s because films such as The Talented Mr Ripley and the Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollobrigida classic Beat the Devil were filmed here.
4. Ruta 40, Argentina
Argentina’s Ruta 40 is the perfect challenge for the adventurous driver with time on their hands. The route runs for some 3,107 miles (5,000 km) along the entire spine of the country, making it one of the longest roads in the world and, with the state of the road being fairly poor further south, driving carefully the full length could take a couple of weeks. Running parallel with the Andes mountain range from the northern border with Bolivia south to Río Gallegos, the road passes through extraordinary scenery, including Lago Posadas and the Salinas Grandes salt flats. It covers some very remote parts of Patagonia, traversing 20 national parks and rising to almost 16,400 ft (5,000 m) above sea level at Abra del Acay in Salta. Be sure to rent a sturdy vehicle, stock up on supplies, and fuel up at every garage as there can be around 300 miles (482 km) between towns.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drive on Mars, plan a trip on the spectacular Route 163 deep in the heart of the United States. This 65-mile (104 km) stretch of highway runs from Arizona up into Utah, passing through the Navajo Nation and along the Trail of the Ancients and through the parched red desert of Monument Valley and its ancient sandstone blocks, some rising to 1,000 ft (300 m), whittled away by the winds over millennia. There are a number of Navajo-styled places to stay along the route, and you’ll easily spot the locations used in Forrest Gump, Easy Rider, and Once Upon a Time in the West—all were filmed in the Valley.
6. Great Ocean Road, Australia
You could complete the 150 miles (241 km) of southern Victoria’s Great Ocean Road in around nine hours, but it’s preferable to take your time over three days so that you can savor the astonishing scenery. The landscape ranges from the Great Otway National Park, with its waterfalls and rainforest, to the imposing limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles—view them at sunset or sunrise for a truly cosmic effect. Starting in surf spot Torquay, some 60 miles (97 km) west of Melbourne, and running west to the town of Warrnambool, there are long stretches of pristine sandy beach to picnic on, or you could spend the night in the small town of Kennett River and visit the Koala Walk to see these lovable marsupials in the wild.
Known as “America’s favorite drive” with good reason, this 469-mile (754 km) road runs along the Blue Ridge, part of the Appalachian Mountains, through Virginia and North Carolina, and connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The parkway’s relative tranquility is preserved by the banning of large commercial vehicles and a speed limit set at 45 mph (72 kph). There are many spots to turn off to sample the local arts and craft of the Appalachian and Smoky cultures, or to simply crash out for the night, while hikers can head for Beacon Heights and the Cascades waterfall. If you want to preload your playlist, the region has been celebrated in song by Fleet Foxes and Laurel & Hardy, while Dirty Dancing fans will surely recognize the outdoor scenery.
One of the world’s most laid-back road trips, the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (US Route 1) island-hops along the southern rim of the Everglades and Florida Bay from Key Largo south to Key West. Key Largo heralds the start of the Florida Keys (fuel up on conch fritters at Alabama Jack’s before you set off), before the road heads through the sport fishing paradise of Islamorada, and along the Marathon island chain to the Seven Mile Bridge with its spectacular 360-degree views of the crystalline turquoise and emerald sea.
Once over the bridge, carry on through Big Pine Key before continuing south west to the infamous Key West, loved by war veterans, writers, politicians, and poets—Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S Truman both had houses here. Park up for the night and sip on a mojito as the sun sets over the United States’s southernmost tip.