Hit the road on a self-drive adventure

01 March 2019

‘Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long’ sang Tom Cochrane on his 1991 hit. While the idea of a long-haul holiday usually consists of lots of relaxing and casual sightseeing, Mr Cochrane’s desire to ride the highway into the small hours will resonate with many travellers who fancy the idea of hopping behind the wheel of a car and having the freedom to stop off or divert their route as they like.

Whether it’s a long-overdue bucket list item or you’ve come to the realisation that it’s something you’d like to do, there’s no escaping the fact that a self-drive holiday is a fantastic way to explore a far-off destination. We’ve picked out a few of our favourite routes you can take here.

Pacific Coast Highway, USA

When it comes to driving holidays, the US is where many people’s minds head to. Route 66 – an epic drive from Chicago to California that comes close to 2,500 miles - is one of the most famous driving holidays in the world, but many others can be just as scenic and enjoyable.

California State Route 1 is another great US drive. Running along most of California’s Pacific coastline, this San Francisco to San Diego run clocks in at just over 659 miles, making it the longest route in the state. Some must-stop locations pop up along the way, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Big Sur and Malibu.

Where to stay: Sheraton San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf, The Fairmont San Francisco, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

“What an amazing adventure we had this summer driving down Highway 1 in California with our two girls. We spent nearly three weeks exploring cities, beaches and the countryside – there was something for everyone in our party to enjoy.”

Kate, Travel Counsellor

Garden Route, South Africa

Self-drive holidays afford travellers whimsical and impulsive freedom and that luxury can be hugely rewarding in South Africa, with its kooky towns, vast open spaces, ever-changing landscape and perfect coastlines.

The most famous South African road trip is the Garden Route, which takes in a 124-mile stretch connecting the Western Cape’s Mossel Bay and the Storms River Mouth on the Western fringes of the Eastern Cape. This route is well-loved for its verdant, varied vegetation, as well as its sublime beaches, picturesque lagoons and lakes, and dense mountain forests.

Other self-drive trips you could consider include the less-frequented 350km Waterberg Meander route and the Western Cape’s Route 62, which has gathered a cult following for its beauty, untamed eccentricity and notable lack of traffic.

Where to stay: Cape Grace Hotel, One&Only Cape Town, Fountains Hotel Cape Town

Great Ocean Road, Australia

Long-haul travellers heading down under have a wealth of self-drive tours to choose from and the most famous in Australia is the Great Ocean Road.

One of the best road trips in the world, let alone the country, this 150-mile trek stretches from the town of Torquay to Nelson along the South Australian border. It shouldn’t be tackled in a single day, with several spectacular sights signalling stop-offs, such as Loch Ard Gorge, Triplet Falls and Teddy’s Lookout, as well as picturesque coastal towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay.

For the most hardcore of road-trippers, Australia is home to the world’s longest national highway – the 9,009-mile Highway One, which connects the dots between seven state capitals including Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. It’s named the Big Lap because that’s essentially what it is – a humongous lap of the country. As such, you should set aside a hefty chunk of time to even attempt this jaunt – brave souls who have been there and done that recommend at least six months, with some taking up to 18.

Where to stay: Park Hyatt Sydney, The Langham Sydney, Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, COMO The Treasury

New Zealand

One of the rare benefits of a self-drive holiday in New Zealand is that – because it’s a free camping nation – you can park and pitch up almost anywhere. As such, hiring a campervan is recommended.

The Auckland and Bay of Islands loop is ideal for anyone pressed for time but still wants to tick off New Zealand’s highlights. This route takes in the Northern coastline’s beauty and the hip city vibes of Auckland, as well as some wine tasting on Waiheke Island and even a bit of dolphin-spotting at the Bay of Islands.

Elsewhere, the Auckland to Wellington route explores some of New Zealand’s most interesting volcanic sites such as the Lake Taupo volcanic crater, the geysers and many other geothermal sights along the way.

Where to stay: Cordis Auckland, The Sebel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, Hotel DeBrett

“Rotorua’s amazing volcanic underground activity make it a must-stop on any North Island itinerary. A short drive from the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton film set, the smell of sulphur in the air is slightly overwhelming but the sights are like no other. You will see bubbling mud pools, steam lakes and geysers as well as Maori culture, adventure activities, scenic flights, boating and more.”

Claire, Travel Counsellor


Book your dream long-haul road trip by contacting your Travel Counsellor and taking advantage of exclusive benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.


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